Brent Beckner fakes out two FHC Warriors, and freshman Jessie Ellis has her ankle taped by Alaska High School Hall of Famer Don Hather. See many more photos and compete tourney stats at Don Hather Tourney. Jeff Brady

High hopes for hoop teams in 2008
Boys sweep Hather foes, girls rock Hoonah

The Skagway High basketball season started with some big wins against Yukon teams at the Don Hather Tourney, but the Panthers have found the road in the Southeast 2A league a bit tougher.
Through Monday of this week, the girls posted a 5-2 overall record, and the boys were 3-4 after road series in Hoonah and Klawock. They had four more games each this week on Prince of Wales island after this issue’s deadline.
Coaches addressed their teams’ outlook earlier this month after the Hoonah trip. Both teams figure to be in the hunt for a league title this year. The girls had swept the Braves, while the boys lost both in Hoonah but just missed winning the finale.
The girls are co-coached this year by Lara Labesky and Mark Jennings. Labesky, the head coach, is unable to travel early in the season due to work commitments, so former boys coach Jennings is assisting.
Labesky said the team is anchored by two seniors, Cierra Hahn and Teslyn Korsmo, who are aggressive on both defense and offense, but the emerging stars on the team are younger players.
“They are playing good team basketball,” Labesky said. “No one is selfish with the ball. It’s definitely about the team, which is nice.”
Sophomore guard Paige Hahn is a scoring threat and Kaitlyn Surdyk is a “rebounding machine,” Labesky said. And Emily Herbig “can shut down just about any point guard.”
Add to that mix freshman fireball Kaylie O’Daniel at the point, and classmate Jessie Ellis scoring underneath, and the Panthers are looking like a team bound for state.
Kayla Henricksen and Elise Doland also are contributing, learning how to play the help lanes and learning how to talk on defense, she added.
Labesky, a ferry terminal worker, said it has been strange watching the team get on the ferries for trips without her, but “I’ve felt good about who was going.” She said Jennings and former standout Savannah Ames have been a great help.
Defending state 2A champ Yakutat appears to be the team to beat again, but Skagway should be able to challenge them. The girls throttled Hoonah 43-25 and 54-25, and then opened the POW trip with a 49-36 win over Klawock. However, they stumbled in the next game with the Chieftains, giving up a 10-point half-time lead and losing 39-35.
The boys are already ahead of where they were last year. Their three wins in the Hather tourney, including a big one over Yukon power F.H. Collins, were a big leap ahead after three years of frustration. Now they are after that first big league win, and they’ve come close twice.
“We are in the hunt of it,” said coach Chris Wassman. “They are working really hard. I’ve been running them pretty good.”
After falling to Hoonah 58-39, the Panthers roared back from a nine-point deficit in their second game and tied the game with about a minute to play. However, some calls went the home team’s way and the Braves converted free throws in the final minute to win, 61-58.
Coach Chris Wassman said the team is doing great and getting stronger. After the first game against Hoonah, they made an adjustment for playing against a zone, and the results were positive.
“The guys felt they won the second game, we felt some calls did not go our way.... it should have been 8-10 point win,” he said.
A welcome addition to the team this year is Brent Beckner, back in Skagway for his senior season. He’s a big point guard and “solid as a rock,” Wassman said. “Josh Cotton is playing real tough, Mickey Wilson is all over the court making things happen, and Nate Herbig is having some good rebounding games as our big man. Jake Henricksen is a key player, and when consistent, really rounds out our team.”
Wassman said Henricksen sliced behind the Hoonah zone in the second game and got some huge buckets. He also credited sophomore guard Thomas Etue for his defense, breaking the press, and making some great passes. Others seeing action this season are senior Lachlan Dennis and freshmen Bryce Jones and John Doland.
“We’ve got a team,” Wassman added. “I encourage people to come down to regionals (March 5-8 in Ketchikan). The girls will do well too. There are lots of reasons to go.”
Southeast 2A boys appears to be wide open. Hoonah has already split with perennial league power Yakutat. Defending champ Kake lost some key players, the other teams figure to be better. Against the Klawock Chieftains, the Panthers erased an 11-point half-time deficit and had a chance to win the game at the end, but a lay-up fell short with just 3 seconds left. Final score was 47-46. The following night, Klawock took charge for a 80-63 win, as the three-balls for Skagway went down too late.
The teams finished up on POW with the girls taking on Thorne Bay, the boys playing the Craig JVs, and then both teams visiting Hydaburg. Results will be posted at www.skagwaynews.com
The Skagway teams have their final two home series coming up soon, Jan. 31-Feb. 1 against Kake, and Feb. 4-5 against Angoon.

UPDATE: The Panther girls swept both Thorne Bay and Hydaburg to finish off their road trip, while the boys fell to the Craig JVs but rebounded to knock off Hydaburg for their first league wins of the year. The girls maintained their streak with easy wins at home over Kake and Angoon, while the boys knocked off Kake twice but fell to a strong Angoon team. Details and photos in the Feb. 15 issue.