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Thursday: Seward boys hold off Houston to make 4th-place game

The Seward boys basketball team defeated Houston 51-43 on Thursday to advance to the fourth-place game of the Class 3A state tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

The No. 6-seeded Seahawks (20-8) withstood a fourth-quarter rally by the No. 7 Hawks to avenge a loss earlier in the season to Houston.

Seward will play No. 4 Barrow at 11 a.m. Friday for fourth place. Seward, which is making its first state appearance since 2013, last finished fourth in 2011. That was also Seward’s last victory at state before Thursday.

Before Thursday, Class 3A boys teams from the peninsula had only won two games since 2011 — Nikiski won a fourth-place semifinal in 2016 and Kenai won a fourth-place semi in 2023.

With Jerick Senecal injured, Seward has four seniors on the team in Nick Ambrosiani, Ben Ambrosiani, Kupono Albino and Bergen Davis.

Those four seniors played a big role in the victory.

Nick Ambrosiani missed a 62-49 loss to the Hawks on Feb. 17 due to illness, but he made his presence felt Thursday with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Ben Ambrosiani had just 4 points, but added 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.

Plan said the Ambrosianis also did a great job of creating opportunities for other players.

“They were all over the place pretty much all game,” Seward head coach Al Plan said. “The rebounding was a big piece.”

The coach said the other big difference in this game against Houston was that Seward played zone after playing that defense very little this season.

“They struggled a little bit with Nome against the zone,” Plan said of the Hawks. “We ran a different zone, but we just thought that they had a bit of a liability against that zone.”

The Hawks finished 16 of 52 from the floor, while the Seahawks were 19 of 46.

Plan said he emphasized his team would have to rebound out of the zone, and Seward had a 40-25 advantage on the boards. Sophomore Emerson Cross had 5 points and 9 boards.

The coach also said Albino had one of his best games of the season. Albino, who finished with 8 points, had a pair of buckets to cap a 10-0 run in the third quarter that put the Seahawks up 34-21.

“He was extremely disruptive on defense,” Plan said. “He was in the right place at the right time.”

Davis had some giant 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, finishing with 13 points.

When Houston went on a 4-0 run to cut it to 38-33 in the fourth, Davis buried a 3.

The Hawks kept coming with a 7-2 run to cut it to 43-41, but Davis again hit a 3. That was the start of an 8-2 run to close the game.

“That created separation big time and we needed that shot badly,” Plan said. “And he’s the guy on our team, if anybody’s going to hit that dagger 3, it’s going to be him.”

Plan also said Mason Elhard, Van Shank and Talon Lemme also had big minutes off the bench. Lemme had 4 points, while Shank added 2.

The coach said he saw Barrow play in the first round Wednesday, but did not scout the game.

“It’ll be a very tough task for us,” Plan said. “They’re going to be a very good team. And I think we’ll have our hands full, but we’ve stepped up and answered the bell several times this year against tough teams and I think we’ll be up for the challenge.”

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