Rori Leaverton gets out quick on the break with Anna Korsmo and Jesse Ellis against Yakutat, and JR Madden scores a lay-up against Kake. Photos by Cody Jennings.

Lady Panthers move on to State
Team takes second after OT loss to Yakutat; boys win one at SE


The Lady Panthers will be returning to the ASAA 2A State Tourney for its third straight year, but not as region champions. The girls were upset by Yakutat 31-30 in overtime of the SE 2A championship game, but they rebounded well to win the runner-up game over Klawock, 48-33.
The Panther boys notched one win in Ketchikan. They opened with a loss to Yakuat 67-49, and then easily knocked off undermanned Kake in the consolation round, 47-23. In its final game, Skagway ran into a much-improved Thorne Bay team, which won 60-46.


March 3 Semifinal- Top seed Skagway rolled over Thorne Bay 57-4 in its opening semifinal game in Ketchikan. It was over quickly as the Lady Panthers stole nearly every Wolverine possession in the first quarter and converted easy lay-ups. Skagway was up 20-0 before Thorne Bay scored, and the bench played most of the rest of the game, with the clock running on the 40-point rule in the final quarter. With the win, Skagway advanced to its fourth straight region final.
Skagway 57, Thorne Bay 4 - SGY: K. O’Daniel 18, Leaverton 11, Korsmo 10, Je. Ellis 8, H. O’Daniel 6, Surdyk 4; TB- Cook 4. SGY 22-9-24-2=57, TB 2-0-2-0=4.

March 4 Championship - Yakutat upset the top seed Skagway Lady Panthers with a last second overtime shot to take the region championship, 31-30. The game was close the whole night, with neither team generating much offense until the third quarter. Kaylie O’Daniel hit three 3-pointers to lift the Panthers, and they had as much as an 8-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. But Yakutat climbed right back in it to tie the score in the final minute of regulation. In overtime, the Eagles took the early lead, but Skagway got a big three by Jesse Ellis to go up by one with a minute to play. After each team failed to convert shots, Yakutat then had the ball under its own bucket with 5 seconds on the clock, and Jocelyn Jensen got open near the free throw line for the winning jump shot. Skagway moved to the second place game Sat. against Klawock to earn its third straight trip to State Tourney.
Coach Lara Labesky said her team was just not making shots. There were a couple of questionable traveling calls in the final quarter, but she said they did not determine the outcome.
“We made mental mistakes where we threw the ball to Yakutat which lost us the game,” she said.
Labesky said Yakutat, especially Ellen Esbenshade, played really well and never lost their composure. “Usually if you limit them to 30 points and hold Tina (Esbenshade) scoreless, you beat them,” she said, adding that the difference came down to poor shooting and rebounding by the Panthers. The next game would be different.
Yakutat 31, Skagway 30 OT: YAK- E. Esbenshade 13, Fraker 9, Ivers 7, Jensen 4; SGY- Leaverton 10, K. O’Daniel 9, Je. Ellis 9, Surdyk 2. YAK 7-2-5-13-4=31, SGY 5-4-11-7-3=30.

March 5 Runner-up Game - The Skagway Lady Panthers relied on great free throw shooting down the stretch to knock off Klawock 48-33 in the runner-up game and advance to its third straight State 2A Tournament. The teams were rusty at the start. Klawock led a couple times in the first quarter, but Skagway regained the lead and pushed the margin to 8 at the half, despite seeing its star Jesse Ellis on the bench in foul trouble for much of the game. In the second half, Skagway relied on strong guard play and good defense and rebounding. Rori Leaverton had the hot hand, shaking off a shot to ribs, and nailing outside shots and free throws. She hit three from the stripe at the end of the third quarter to give Skagway a 32-21 advantage, and then made 9-of-10 from the line in the final quarter. Skagway will advanced to play Region 1 champ Tikigaq (Point Hope) in the first round at State Tourney on March 14 in Anchorage.
Skagway usually controls the glass, Labesky said, and that was the difference against Klawock. Although there were challenges, especially losing Ellis to fouls, she said she was most proud of how the kids responded after the disappointment of losing the championship.
“We did not have much time to regroup,” she said. “We did a good job of getting over it. We went over what we did wrong and came to terms with it.”
Skagway 48, Klawock 33: SGY- Leaverton 27, K. O’Daniel 9, Korsmo 6, Je. Ellis 5, H. O’Daniel 2; (KLA scoring unavailable). SGY 11-12-9-16=48, KLA 9-6-6-12=33.

Kaylie O’Daniel pushes the ball up the court against Thorne Bay. CJ


Four girls make all-conference – Labesky said Skagway actually had all five starters make the all-conference team, but a freak technical foul on Jesse Ellis cost her a spot. Ellis, who was all-conference and all-state last year, had picked up her fifth foul early in the fourth qarter and was walking off the court and ran into a Klawock player who crossed her path, Labesky said. Neither player appeared to react to the brief collision. She said only the ref saw it, not the rest of the rules committee, but there is a rule that says a player cannot be placed on the all-conference team if he/she has a flagrant foul during the season or a technical during the tourney. It was odd that it happened to one of the most sportsmanlike players on her team, she noted. But she was happy with the way the rest of the team responded, and for Kaylie O’Daniel, Kaitlyn Surdyk, Anna Korsmo, and Rori Leaverton for making the all-conference team. Ellis did come home with some hardware for winning the free throw contest. The school has appealed the decision.

Early game at State – Skagway will open March Madness Alaska against a quick Tikigaq (Point Hope) team next Monday at 8 a.m. Labesky said the Panthers will have morning practices this week to get ready for defending their state title.
“Tikagaq will be tough but I really think we can beat them,” she said. “It’s better to get it over with in the morning than sitting around all day thinking about the game, but I would have preferred the next game.”
By virtue of beating Skagway, SE region champion Yakutat will play at 9:45 a.m. against Seldovia. View the brackets, webcasts and results at
The Skagway News will be blogging from courtside during the games as well, and updates and photos will be posted on the SHS Basketball Page at

Devin Fairbanks, Danny Moore and Nick Ackerman direct the boys fast break against Thorne Bay. CJ


March 2 Quarterfinals - Fifth seed Skagway opened SE 2A Tourney with a 67-49 loss to Yakutat. The game was close in the first half, and Skagway took the lead briefly at the start of the second half. But the Eagles went on an 18-2 run to close out the third quarter, and coasted from there.
“We played really tough for a whole half,” said coach Chris Wassman, “and they hit that three to go up by three, and then they came out and put a run on us in the third quarter and we could not make up the deficit.”
Yakutat 67, Skagway 49: YAK- Sensmeier 18, Brown 12, Ekis 11, Newlin 11, Taylor 7, Blazina 3, Edwards 2, Wilson 2, Weinrick 1; SGY- Doland 13, Ackerman 10, JR Madden 7, Wassman 6, Fairbanks 5, Moore 3, Mayo 3, Cochran 2. YAK 16-11-19-21=67, SGY 12-12-7-18=49.

March 3 Consolation Round - Skagway rebounded with a strong second quarter to jump all over Kake Thursday morning in the consolation round. Final score was 47-23, with JR Madden leading the charge with 18 points, and the bench seeing a lot of playing time. The Panther boys advanced in the consolation round to play Friday morning against Thorne Bay.
“That was great,” Wassman said. “KC (Mayo) and Sam (Madden) getting out there and showing their stuff with Airk Cochran.”
Skagway 47, Kake 23: SGY- JR Madden 18, Doland 8, Fairbanks 8, Wassman 4, Moore 4, S. Madden ); KAK- Johnson 10, Friday 7, Mills 4, Vanherpst 2. SGY 11-14-13-9=47, KAK 4-8-2-9=23.

March 4 Consolation QuarterfinalsThorne Bay ended the Skagway boys’ season with a 60-46 win. The game was close in the first quarter, but the Wolverines steadily built their lead despite getting in foul trouble. Skagway came out cold in the second half and the Wolverines went up by as many as 21 points. The Panthers made a run in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 11 with about 3 minutes left, but Thorne Bay held on to advance to Saturday’s consolation final, which they lost to Hoonah.
“Thorne Bay shot well and we missed a lot of good shots,” Wassman said. “Their half court press flustered us. It was disappointing to get knocked out by Thorne Bay.”
Thorne Bay 60, Skagway 46: TB- Wagner 21, Minnillo 13, Nyquest 12, Rawding 7, Shedlosky 7; SGY- JR Madden 16, Doland 13, Fairbanks 6, Ackerman 5, Moore 4, Wassman 2, Cochran 2. TB 17-17-14-12=60, SGY 9-12-6-19=46.

Season enders – Skagway finished with an overall record of 8-15, and was 6-11 in conference play. Wassman said it was unfortunate Skagway landed no one on the all-conference team, adding that the seniors had “a great work ethic.” The team loses starters John Doland, Devin Fairbanks, and JR Madden, reserve Sam Madden, and Bryce Jones, who was unable to play most of the season due to a knee injury. He urges the community to support returning players Danny Moore, Nick Ackerman, Zack Wassman, Cochran, and Mayo at fundraisers this spring. The team will welcome three new players next year, including underclassmen Donovan Henson and Trysten Burnham and transfer Blake Fletcher from Vermont. They will be working out all summer with assistant Rick Ackerman. “We’ll be ready,” Wassman said.

See SE tourney photo galleries on the SHS Basketball Page at