The Homer boys basketball squad dropped their Class 3A state fourth-place semifinal game 55-46 against Barrow at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage on Thursday afternoon, ending their season by tying for seventh place at state.
Zach Kudla, the assistant coach for the Mariners, said after the game Thursday that Homer’s showing in the state tournament was a great learning experience.
“I feel like this was a great opportunity for our seniors going out, and our young guys,” he said. “We got a really nice young group coming up next year, and it was a great opportunity for them to see what state life looks like.”
Homer, making its first state trip since 2000, hadn’t faced off against its opponent before Thursday’s fourth-place semifinal game, but Kudla said they always expect Barrow to be tough competition. Whalers spectators filled nearly every seat in the auxiliary gym at the Alaska Airlines Center during the fourth-place semifinal game, and the crowd maintained its intensity until the final buzzer.
“We played Barrow in the football state championship, we played Barrow in the girls state championship a few years back in ‘16,” Kudla said. “You know they’re always big, you know they’re physical, and to really create some of that atmosphere with their fans — I think they got some of the best fans in the state — it’s hard.”
No. 6 seed Homer and No. 7 seed Barrow played evenly early on, with Homer ahead 11-8 at the end of the first quarter and then Barrow swiping the lead 26-22 at the half. The Mariners were still down 39-35 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth, Homer started to come back with a few key points to bring the game within just one basket with six minutes left. The Mariners started to lose some of their grip after committing a few too many fouls, including one technical, and allowing Barrow to capitalize on some fast breaks.
The Mariners switched to a full-court press with just over a minute left, when they were down by eight points, but couldn’t come back in time. Barrow finished ahead, 55-46, knocking Homer out of the state tournament.
Kudla said the team has had to endure a lot this year, including scheduling conflicts because of COVID-19 restrictions and multiple player injuries. Even so, he said the Mariners have learned how to overcome some of the setbacks.
“We’re proud of the camaraderie, the kids coming together, learning how to be teammates, learning how to be young men,” Kudla said. “(We’re) super proud of the perseverance and the adversity they face and that they’re able to get through that.”
He said some of the season standouts for the Mariners were seniors Noah Irons, Ryan Carroll and Braden Huffman.
“I just want to give them a huge, huge shoutout and great send-off because they grew a lot this year,” Kudla said.
In particular, he said Carroll was one of Homer’s driving forces.
“He’s kind of like that kid that makes that engine go,” Kudla said. “Without No. 14 it’s going to be real tough next year.”
Irons led the Mariners with 12 points on Thursday. He was also awarded player of the game.
Also on the board for Homer were Peyton Edens with 10 points, Carter Tennison with eight, Kian Smith and Carroll with five each, Morgen Techie with four and Nathan Overson with two points.
Uata Tuifua led Barrow with 16 points. Jeremiah Goodwin had 14, Loia Dias had 10, Sika Unutoa had six, Aaron Stackhouse had five, and both Dominick Reyes and Aaron Brower-Leavitt had two points. Unutoa was Barrow’s player of the game.
The Homer Mariners finished 14-14 overall.