Cory “Hightower” Thole of Skagway attempts to block a shot by Stuart Dewitt of the Haines Merchants in the championship game of the Dick Hotch Tourhament in Haines Feb. 3, as Chris Wassman (42) and Scott Lesh (21) wait look for a deflection. The Skagway team lost by about 15 in the championship game and finished with a 5-3 record. With just five players in the early round, Skagway dropped a couple of games, but then others arrived Friday and Saturday, and the team tore through two Whitehorse teams to advance to the championship. Nate Jennings had a big 30-plus point game in the semifinal, and Lesh had the highest total points, 161, of all players for the entire tourney. Wassman and Kyle Ellis made the all-tourney team. Photo by Matt Davis

SHS boys notch first league wins
Girls roll toward big series at Yakutat

After three fairly dismal seasons where league victories were rare, the Skagway Panther boys are back where they want to be – in the win column. Meanwhile, the Skagway girls have just one league defeat and are rolling toward a showdown with Yakutat for first place in the conference standings.
The boys team finished off the long road trip to Prince of Wales island with two tough wins at Hydaburg, and then followed those up with a pair of surprisingly easy victories, at home against defending boys league champ Kake, 62-38 and 54-46. And they did it without the services of star guard Mickey Wilson, who had sprained an ankle on the island against the Craig JVs.
Guard Thomas Etue also sat out the Hydaburg series with a tight hamstring, and boys coach Chris Wassman said that is when the team really came together, and then carried it over to the Kake series. Seniors Lachlan Dennis and Tom Kirko stepped up with valuable minutes, he said.
“That was terrific,” he said. “The team started playing as a whole at Hydaburg. Basketball is speed and patience. You have to know when to go with it. We’re a more controlled team.”
Wilson remained out of the lineup when the team faced first place Angoon last week, and his quickness was missed in that series, said Wassman. The undefeated Eagles, led by senior forward John Crossman’s 38 points in the first game, were too much for the Panthers, as they fell, 78-54. Skagway double-teamed Crossman in the second game, holding him to 9 points, but this left others open for three-pointers on the wings. Skagway trimmed the lead to nine a couple of times, getting a big 24-point night from Jake Henricksen, but the Eagles marched on, 68-52.
Wassman said the focus right now is getting healthy for a key series at Yakutat Feb. 21-22 and then regionals in early March. Nate Herbig, who has been a steady point producer on the blocks with Josh Cotton, is out for a week with a twisted ankle. Both Herbig and Wilson probably will sit out this week’s series with Whitehorse Vanier, and scrimmages over in Haines.
The Panther girls will be staying home this weekend, preparing for its showdown against defending state champ Yakutat. After its one league loss to Klawock, the Lady Panthers rolled up wins over Thorne Bay, Hydaburg, Kake and Angoon (see scores below) to lock up second place in the league standings. Unbeaten Yakutat is a game ahead of Skagway, so the Panthers would have to beat them twice to take over first place.
But Skagway coach Lara Labesky said that’s not the team’s focus.
“We are not going in looking at it as a game for first – more so we have been preparing for it as the last series of games before regionals,” she said. “Yakutat is going to be very tough on their court. We’ll see if we are able to break their press and keep their scoring low.”
Skagway has been getting fairly steady point production from its starting five, especially sophomores Paige Hahn, and freshmen Kaylie O’Daniel and Jessie Ellis. But in one of the Angoon games, everyone on the team scored.
Labesky said the key against Yakutat is defense and rebounding, but feels her young team has “as good a chance as anyone in the last two years to compete with them.”

UPDATE: The Panther teams lost all four games in Yakutat. The Skagway girls played the Eagles close the first night until the final minute, when the Eagles drained some 3-pointers to push their lead up to 15 points. On Friday night, Yakutat broke open a close game with a string of 3-pointers in the third quarter, and won easily, 61-39. The Skagway boys nearly came back against the Eagles the first night. After being down by 20, they got it down to five at the end of the game. The Panther boys played tough in a tight second game but never could get closer than four points, as the Eagles prevailed, 69-59. Region tourney begins on March 5 in Ketchikan.

Kaitlyn Surdyk hounds Angoon's Ladonna Johnson. - JB

GIRLS (13-2, 11-1 conf.)
Jan. 22-23: defeated Thorne Bay (scores unavailable)
Jan. 24-25: defeated Hydaburg, 63-28 and 47-41 (boxscores unavailable)
Jan. 31 - at Skagway 40, Kake 32: O’Daniel 13, P. Hahn 11, Ellis 9, C. Hahn 4, Herbig 2, Surdyk 1; KAK- Wooten 11, Alsup 11, Aceveda 6, Howard 6.
Feb. 1 - Skagway 37, Kake 26: SGY- Ellis 11, O’Daniel 10, P. Hahn 6, Herbig 6, Surdyk 2; KAK- Aceveda 6, Wooten 5, Howard 5, Alsup 4, James 4, Friday 2, Johnson 2.
Feb. 4- at Skagway 48, Angoon 26: O’Daniel 22, Ellis 6, Herbig 5, P. Hahn 4, Surdyk 2, C. Hahn 2, Doland 2, Henricksen 2, Korsmo 1; ANG- S. Braley 14, Johnson 6, R. Braley 5.
Feb. 5 - Skagway 66, Angoon 27: SGY- P. Hahn 22, O’Daniel 15, Ellis 14, Herbig 5, Surdyk 5, Korsmo 2, Henricksen 2, Doland 1; ANG- Johnson 8, S. Braley 7, Frank 6, R. Braley 6.

Josh Cotton puts up a shot against Angoon's John Crossman. - JB

BOYS (7-8, 4-6 conf.)
Jan. 22-23: lost to Craig JV (scores unavailable)
Jan. 24-25: defeated Hydaburg 66-56 and again (second score unavailable)
Jan. 31 - at Skagway 62, Kake 38: SGY- Henricksen 17, Cotton 13, Herbig 12, Beckner 6, Dennis 5, Jones 4, Etue 2, Doland 2; KAK- Aceveda 12, Dolan 12, Day 11, Revey 3.
Feb. 1 - Skagway 54, Kake 46: SGY- Henricksen 14, Cotton 12, Herbig 11, Beckner 10, Jones 7; KAK- Dolan 22, Aceveda 20, Day 2, Adams 2.
Feb. 4 - Angoon 78, at Skagway 54: ANG- J. Crossman 38, Derrick 11, Howard 9, Silva 8, M. Crossman 8, Jack 4; SGY- Henricksen 13, Herbig 11, Etue 11, Beckner 9, Cotton 8.
Feb. 5 - Angoon 68, Skagway 52: ANG- Howard 18, M. Crossman 15, Silva 10, J. Crossman 9, Joseph 3, Jack 2, Jim 2; SGY- Henricksen 24, Cotton 11, Etue 6, Beckner 4, Herbig 4, Kirko 2.