2A Tourney Notebooks

Coaches Lara Labesky, Mark Jennings and the bench players rush the court to hug their teammates as the buzzer sounds a region championship for the Lady Panthers. Jeff Brady

Thomas Etue drives in for a layup in the SHS boy's team's huge semifinal win over Hydaburg. Klas Stolpe

Good fortunes for Panther dancers

Team survives scare from Kake, beats rival Yakutat for region title


By JEFF BRADY

Girls Intro
Ellis Fortune Cookies

The tourney for the Skagway girls might be summed up on a pair of fortune cookies.
At a Chinese restaurant in Juneau the night before the tourney started, Lady Panther Jayce Ellis opened up her fortune cookie, which read: “Your sports team will have a prosperous season.”
The fortune was instantly photographed on a cell phone and sent off to Facebook and was the talk of the tournament.
After winning the championship, the family returned to the same table in the same restaurant. Jayce even sat in the same chair, but this time sister Jesse’s fortune was the keeper.
It read: “An airplane ride is soon in your future sending you to fun.”

Determination - Anna Korsmo and Kaylie O'Daniel battle Yakutat's Jocelyn Jensen for the ball in the championship game. Klas Stolpe

SE Semifinals
Skagway 39, Kake 31

Some would say the Panthers, who were undefeated through the regular season, were due to have a bad game. All teams do, and this was it. Short-rimmed shots (even a few air balls) and uncharacteristic turnovers plagued the Skagway girls during their tourney opener. Kake, which had been Skagway’s nemesis in previous tournaments, played with a lot of heart, but in the end the Panthers grinded out a difficult win, hoping that bad game was now behind them.
It all started with Skagway star Jesse Ellis picking up two quick fouls, and then Kake’s Nicole Wooten banking in a three-pointer. After the Lady Panthers missed their first eight shots, senior Emily Herbig came in for Ellis and fed Kaitlyn Surdyk for a bucket to finally get Skagway on the board with 3:45 left in the first quarter. Those two players would be key to Skagway pulling out the win. Herbig scored on an inbounds play to give Skagway a 6-3 lead at the end of the quarter.
Ellis was back for the second period and promptly hit a turnaround jumper in the lane. Kake answered, but Kaylie O’Daniel got a trey to fall and received a nice pass from Ellis to put Skagway up 13-7. It looked like Skagway was ready to pounce, but back came Wooten and Kake, thanks to more Skagway fouls that put the Thunderbirds in the double bonus. The Panther lead was just 16-15 at halftime.
Good teams know what they need to do to win, even when the shots aren’t falling. In this game, there was no lack of hustle on defense, and Skagway rebounded strong. So when Kake took the lead briefly at the start of the second half, Skagway responded immediately with full-court pressure. Ellis got free in the lane, Rori Leaverton knocked down a trey, and Herbig, who had just thrown down her headband after losing a ball out of bounds, forced a backcourt steal and got a feed from Ellis for a quick bucket to give Skagway an 8-point lead. After Wooten came back with another three-pointer for Kake, Surdyk drove strong to the hoop to put Skagway up 29-22 at the end of the third.
Kake cut the Skagway lead down to four points midway through the final quarter, but Surdyk and Ellis connected again. Skagway had many chances to put the game away, snagging rebounds after Kake misses but the Lady Panthers turned the ball over on four straight possessions. It wasn’t until Kake was forced to foul in the final minute, that Skagway secured the win at the free throw line with O’Daniel and Leaverton going 3-for-4.
Wooten led all scorers with 21 points, while Ellis led Skagway with 12.
It was Skagway’s 25th win, and they finally had that bad game out of the way.

Jesse Ellis, with her trademark red pony tail sticking straight out at the height of her jumper, hits a shot. Klas Stolpe

SE Championship
Skagway 46, Yakutat 37

“I’ve been waiting for this moment since my freshman year,” said Jesse Ellis, proudly holding a string of a championship net that her team had just cut down. It was the net they had been after for the past three years.
Always, always, Yakutat stood in the way of that goal. And there they were again this year. But Skagway went into this year, this tourney, and this game as the favorite to win back the championship. It would take some hard work, but the Lady Panthers learned something from their poor semifinal outing against Kake.
“Honestly, tonight we were just looser,” said coach Lara Labesky. “We got the jitters out last night.
“And (senior) Elise Doland came up to me and suggested I yell at them before the game, not at halftime,” she laughed. “Then we had a little dance session. It might be on video.”
Skagway might have been a little too loose at the start, as Yakutat hung with them. Not as stout as the past three years (which resulted in region and state titles), the Eagles have a lot of young talent and are well-coached. But after every Eagle bucket in the first quarter, Skagway responded with its own brand of up-tempo, team basketball. Kaitlyn Surdyk fed Anna Korsmo, Kaylie O’Daniel fed Ellis, and then Rori Leaverton scored on a drive and O’Daniel hit a big trey to put Skagway up 9-6.
Yakutat came back with a pair of buckets by Kaitlyn Ivers and Katrina Fraker to go up 10-9 at the end of the first quarter, and then Tina and Ellen Esbenshade connected to open Q2 to give the Eagles a 14-9 lead. Again, Skagway roared back, with Ellis and Leaverton getting hot. Skagway retook the lead with about two minutes to go in the half, and finished it off on a long, arcing trey by Leaverton at the buzzer for a 22-16 lead.
A bucket by Ellis opened Q3, but Yakutat would not give up, as Tina Esbenshade and Jocelyn Jensen scored to cut the Skagway lead to 24-22. From that point on, Skagway really started to click. Ellis, O’Daniel and Emily Herbig notched assists, feeding eachother and Leaverton, to put Skagway up by 9 until another bucket by Esbenshade cut it to 31-24 at the end of the quarter.
Esbenshade hit another shot to open the final quarter, but Leaverton answered with another big trey for Skagway. Skagway’s Surdyk and Korsmo allowed nothing inside for the Eagles, grabbed some huge rebounds, and made some key shots from the floor and the free throw line. After Ellis hit a couple more shots in the lane to push the lead back out to nine points, Skagway started slowing the ball down for the final two and half minutes. Yakutat was forced to foul, but the Panthers had trouble converting the front ends of bonus opportunities. However Yakutat managed just a couple more buckets against Skagway’s defense, and O’Daniel sealed it at the line with six seconds to go.
The players rushed the court, and there were a lot of hugs and happy tears. One parent passed out flowers, and the players held them as they watched the championship net go down.
Even cutting down the net was a team effort, as the players ascended the ladder two or three at a time to snip their little string of glory.
Ellis led all scorers with 21 points, and Leaverton added 12 for Skagway. Tina Esbenshade led the Eagles with 17.
“We just came out and played our game,” Labesky said. “No one got in foul trouble, we had clutch shooting, and our defense was outstanding. Yakutat was one and done every time.”
“The kids played with a lot of heart,” said co-coach Mark Jennings.
Ellis said they knew Yakutat would give the Panthers a fight, but her team stayed in their game and never got rattled.
“Your girls deserved it, they played hard,” said Yakutat coach Charlie Russell. Then, he joked, “It’s only regionals, we still have state.”
Yakutat has been at state the last eight years, four in a row as region champion after Skagway beat them for Southeast 2A titles in 2004 and 2005. Now Skagway is back on top, and who knows how many region titles the Lady Panthers can win.
And then there’s that State thing next week.
Unlike last year, the Skagway girls will be favored in Anchorage. A year ago they were young unknowns outside the region, and shocked some quality teams to advance to the state championship game. This year, especially with that amazing 27-0 record, they will be the team everyone wants to beat. Now it’s this team’s time to rally the hearts of champions for an even bigger run to cut down the nets.
It might just start with a little dance.
Skagway will play Chevak in the opening quarterfinal round at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 18. Games will be broadcast on KHNS and webcast at www.asaa.org. The Skagway News will also be there.

Link to stats and more photos from the SHS Basketball Page

Just Short

Boys fall to Klawock in title contest, lose second place rematch to Hydaburg

By JEFF BRADY

Boys Intro
Senior Hustle, Senior Class

The Skagway boys reached the championship game of the SE 2A Tourney in Juneau, but fell to a talented Klawock team and then could not hit enough shots in the second place game against Hydaburg – a team the Panthers had routed by 20 in the semifinals.
“We had a shot at it,” said Coach Chris Wassman. “Yeah, we got third at region, but we are number one as far as the men we are producing at Skagway School.”
He was especially pleased that three of the four seniors on the team made All-Conference: Thomas Etue, Mickey Wilson, and Quinn Weber. They also were on the All-Academic team. He said the team had character, especially the seniors.
Wassman had coached Etue and Wilson since their freshman year.
“Etue and I talked long after the last game, and we couldn’t believe what had just happened,” Wassman said, but he told his senior leader that the community loved him and he believes he has a future in basketball at some level.
Wassman said he told Wilson right after the final game (a 5-point loss) that “his career does not come down to one ball game. With all of the sports he has succeeded in, he walks out of here with unlimited opportunity. He played his heart out, he is an inspired human being.”
The coach said Weber joined the team this year and was an instant defensive stand-out whose play was not lost on the other coaches in the league, but he also had some big offensive nights. “Quinn is fast and tenacious and had a way of finding the right spot at the right time,” he said.
The other senior on the team, JR Madden, was praised by his coach for coming off the bench for valuable minutes as the back-up point guard. He stepped up especially at tourney when Wilson got whistled for some quick fouls.
“They all gave me so many hours of hustle and hard work and are one of strongest athletic classes to go through this high school in a long time.” Wassman said.

Quinn Weber scores a layup after a steal against Kake. Jeff Brady

SE Quarterfinals
Skagway 64, Kake 39

On the first day of the tourney, the SHS boys drew an opponent they had seen during their regular season finale. And the results were the same. Except for a sporadic first quarter, the Panthers were in control from the tip.
Defense was the key. Ian Klupar and Logan Weber opened the game with steals that led to the Panthers’ first points. And the team did a good job containing Kake star Adam Dolan. It took a while for the boys to warm up offensively, as they committed some turnovers and missed some shots. But after coming up short on his first two shots, Thomas Etue canned a three-pointer to give Skagway an 11-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Mickey Wilson then opened the second period with a pair of slashing hoops, and Bryce Jones came off the bench for a nice feed from Logan to push the lead into double figures. After a pair of steals and conversions from Quinn Weber and Jones, Skagway was in command. A nifty baseline spin move by Etue gave the Panthers a 30-18 halftime lead.
Skagway then roared out of the locker room in the third quarter, with Etue scoring 14 of his game-high 23 points. He hit a long trey to end the quarter, letting out a big “YEAH!” as he came to the bench. But when he and Wilson tried a low-five, Etue’s hand missed and landed right in Wilson’s gut, dropping his teammate to the ground. But Wilson has bounced back up from worse blows and got right back up, albeit a bit stunned.
Tylor Forester, who graduated last year and is becoming a firefighter-EMT through a UAS program was in the stands, but did not need to assist. He yelled down at his former teammates: “It was only love!”
With a 53-23 lead going into the final quarter, nothing could go wrong. The bench saw a lot of action with John Doland, Nick Ackeman and J.R. Madden getting in the scorebook. Madden even hit a long trey to cinch the final score: 64-39.
Wilson finished with 18, and Kake was led by Dolan with 17.
“We’re playing our best basketball all year,” said Coach Wassman. “Our bench gave us a bunch of help. Now we just need to get a good night’s rest and be ready for Hydaburg. It will be a tough game, a run-and-gun shootout.”
But the Skagway boys then watched in awe with the rest of the crowd as seventh seed Angoon almost took out second seed Hydaburg, missing a shot at the buzzer that would have scored a huge upset. Skagway was hoping Hydaburg would be just as vulnerable against the Panthers.

Mickey Wilson pulls down a big rebound against Hydaburg. Klas Stolpe

SE Semifinals
Skagway 74, Hydaburg 54

The Skagway boys played probably their best game of the year to advance to their first region championship game in nearly a decade. Despite having its two top scorers in foul trouble for much of the game, the Panthers showed how deep a team they have, and rallied for a convincing win over a highly charged opponent.
It started with Logan Weber and Ian Klupar getting steals in the first minute. Each scored on strong drives to the bucket, and Skagway was up by six before Hydaburg’s Cayden Carle got his team on the board at the 5:20 mark of the first quarter. Skagway scored five points in two seconds to end the quarter. After Thomas Etue hit a three-pointer, Mickey Wilson stole the inbounds pass and hit a layup at the buzzer to give Skagway a 17-6 lead.
Wilson was in Carle’s face much of the first half, denying the Warrior sophomore star’s favorite fade-away move in the key. But it cost Wilson some fouls. The two intense players had to be brought together by the Juneau referees at one juncture, so the play was hard and clean the rest of the way. When Wilson had to sit, it was Etue’s turn to apply the pressure. In the meantime, both Logan and Quinn Weber were hitting shots, and Bryce Jones and J.R. Madden came off the bench for some huge rebounds and a couple of key buckets. The half ended with Etue nailing another trey to put the Panthers up 36-19. The Skagway crowd, about 50 strong, gave the team a standing ovation going into the locker room.
Hydaburg was not out of it yet, especially when Wilson and Etue picked up their fourth fouls midway through the third quarter. But every time Hydaburg scored, Skagway answered with buckets from its front line of Weber x 2, Klupar and Jones. Unfortunately, Etue fouled out on a chippy call with 9 seconds to go in the quarter and Skagway’s 45-32 lead looked vulnerable.
So one would think. Wilson took charge at this point, and with capable ball handling and even a three-pointer from reserve guard JR Madden, the Panthers began to score in bunches. Another trey by Logan Weber, combined with a steal and a bucket by Jones pushed the Skagway lead to 20 at the six minute mark. The game was up-and-down the rest of the way, but Skagway scored an amazing 29 points in the quarter to keep their big lead till the end. In that stretch, they got 9 points from Wilson and 8 from Quinn Weber, who seemed to be in the right place every time an opportunity presented itself.
Logan Weber would finish with 16 to lead four Panthers in double figures. Wilson finished with 15, Quinn Weber 14, and Etue 10. Carle led all scorers with 17, and Allen Dilts added 12 to lead Hydaburg.
The win secured two SE championship night bookings for Skagway, the first in school history.

Coach Chris Wassman urges his team to "toughen up" during a time out in the first quarter against Klawock. Jeff Brady

SE Championship
Klawock 70, Skagway 50

The Panthers dug themselves a big hole in the first quarter against a hot-shooting Klawock team that was determined to capture its second straight boys’ title.
Dante Huffine hit two three-pointers in the opening two minutes as the Chieftains went up 10-0. Skagway coach Chris Wassman called a time out and told his team to “toughen up,” but the shots just would not fall for Skagway. Klawock led 18-0 before Skagway finally got on the board with 3:05 to go in the quarter on a shot by Quinn Weber. Skagway was able to contain Klawock center Dion Jackson and get him in foul trouble, but they let quick guard Kyle Packer slip in underneath for some easy baskets. Klawock led 20-6 at the end of Q1.
“Klawock came out and hit several of their first shots and we were having issues getting a lot of traveling calls,” said Wassman. “That was really stopping out momentum, plus we had some fist quarter turnovers.”
The deficit was already huge, but Skagway had come back from 17 down against Yakutat earlier in the season.
However, it took Skagway until midway through the second quarter to get on the board again, and Klawock pushed the lead to 25 points before Thomas Etue got a couple shots to fall for Skagway. But the Chieftains answered with two more buckets by Packer and a long trey by Rick Carle. Klawock led 41-16 at the half.
For much of the second half, Skagway would make little runs and Klawock would always answer them. Carle, usually a scorer, was the feeder, notching five assists in the third quarter. Quinn Weber had a strong quarter at both ends of the floor for Skagway as the Panthers trailed 54-29.
Skagway never quit. Using backcourt pressure to force steals, and managed to chip away at the lead in the fourth quarter. But Klawock never let the lead drop below 20 to give Skagway any chance at a run. Mickey Wilson was diving on the floor for loose balls until he fouled out with just over a minute to go. In a great show of sportsmanship, the entire Klawock team ran over and shook his hand for a great effort.
After the game, Wilson said the Panthers finally “came on” during the fourth quarter, but it was too late. Wilson felt the team would be hungry and ready to play hard to go after second place. “We’ll get them tomorrow.”
Huffine led all scorers with 23, while Carle had 15 and Packer 13 for Klawock. Skagway was led by Etue with 15 and Wilson with 13.

Bryce Jones steadies for a free throw in the championship game. Jeff Brady

Runner-up Game
Hydaburg 41, Skagway 36

For the past three years, the team that loses the championship game has to play the winner of the consolation bracket for the region’s second berth at state tournament.
The Panthers boys knew they would be in a battle, no matter who they played. Hydaburg beat Angoon by three in a Saturday morning thriller to advance to play a rematch with Skagway.
Even though he was upset with some early calls on Wilson, Wassman said he had to “give it to Hydaburg. They played a game earlier that day. They slowed it down and we couldn’t figure out how to speed it up.”
Hydaburg didn’t show any sign of fatigue, and battled Skagway from the get-go. As in the championship game, Skagway was having trouble getting shots to fall. But their defense was having the same effect on the Warriors, except they were beating Skagway on some breaks. Hydaburg led 10-4 after the first quarter.
Skagway broke the huddle with a loud “Intensity!” Mickey Wilson fed Bryce Jones for a bucket underneath but Hydaburg came right back with two buckets, and got the foul on Skagway players. The Warriors were in the bonus at the 5:40 mark as they pushed the lead to nine. With Wilson picking up his third foul, Wassman switched Quinn Weber over to guard Cayden Carle. He was able to contain the sophomore shooter, but Allen Dilts was able to slip away for some buckets on the break. Skagway had a nice run to end the half as Logan Weber and Etue hit jumpers and the senior captain sunk a pair of free throws to cut the Hydaburg lead to 19-16.
Skagway opened up the second half with good shots by Quinn and Wilson to tie it up. After Etue held his ground for a hard charge by Carle, his third foul, the Panthers rushed down the court and Logan scored off an offensive rebound to give Skagway a 22-20 lead. It would turn out to be the only Panther lead of the game. The score was tied twice more in the third, but tiny freshman William Carle sunk a three-pointer from the corner to give the Warriors a 27-24 lead going into the final period.
The Panthers were getting the shots, but too many bounced away in the final quarter. Dilts put in some clutch shots, and the younger Carle hit another back-breaking trey to put the Warriors up by nine midway through the quarter. Skagway did not give up, stepping up the full-court pressure. Wilson was wall-to-wall, scoring nine points to get the lead down to 36-33 with 1:26 to go. But seconds later, he was whistled with his fifth foul. In a good show of sportsmanship, the senior went over to the Hydaburg players and shook their hands.
His teammates were still in it, and the opportunities were there. But more missed shots – some from the free throw line – gave the ball right back to Hydaburg, who converted a couple more times, and that’s all they needed to hold onto to win.
“We had answers for all their guys, but we just couldn’t get the ball close to the bucket,” Wassman said later.
William Carle led all scorers with 13, and Cayden Carle had 11 to pace the Warriors. Wilson was the only Panther in double figures with 11.

Next Year

Wassman said his team is looking “fairly strong for next year.” He expects 11 or 12 guys out for a team led by seniors John Doland, Bryce Jones, Devin Fairbanks, and Logan Weber.
“They are hard-working guys who in the next nine months will show they can be leaders for the team next year.
He also expects lots of playing time from juniors Ian Klupar and Danny Moore, as well as rising sophomores Nick Ackerman, Airk Cochran and Sam Madden. Two quality freshmen, Zack Wassman and Donovan Henson, also should be a big help.
In closing, Wassman thanks Stuart Brown for buyng the team three new sets of uniforms for the team, and getting them up to them in time for tournament.
“He had them all printed up and FedEx’d to Juneau and ready for our first game,” Wassman said.

Link to stats and more photos from the SHS Basketball Page

Jayce Ellis gets her turn at cutting down the net, and the team gathers with their prize. Jeff Brady

Labesky is 2A Girls Coach of the Year; All-State honors for four SHS players

The Alaska Newspapers Inc./Alaska Coaches All-State Basketball Teams were due to be released Thursday morning, and the Panthers were all over it.
Skagway girls Coach Lara Labesky was named the Class 2A Girls Coach of the Year, and three girls and one boy earned All-State honors for Skagway.
For the Lady Panthers, Jesse Elllis was named to the First Team, Kaylie O’Daniel to the Second Team, and Rori Leaverton received Honorable Mention.
For the Skagway boys, Thomas Etue was named Third Team All-State.
Hydaburg boys coach John Carle was the 2A Boys Coach of the Year.
Players of the Year were Jessica Williams of Noorvik and Adam Sage of Point Hope.
Other Southeast players represented on the teams were: Katrina Fraker, Ellen Esbenshade and Tina Esbenshade of Yakutat for the girls, and Clint Ivers of Yakutat, Rick Carle and Dion Jackson of Klawock, Adam Dolan of Kake, and Cayden Carle of Hydaburg.

SE 2A Tourney Awards
The Skagway teams were well-represented in the awards ceremony. Skagway landed four girls (a record) and three boys on the coaches’ All-Conference teams, and had the largest representation on the senior All-Academic team.
The girls All-Conference team included: Jesse Ellis, Kaylie O’Daniel, Rori Leaverton, and Kaitlyn Surdyk - Skagway; Ellen Esbenshade Katrina Fraker and Tina Esbenshade - Yakutat; Cassie Williams, Tori Carle and Tonya Busse – Klawock; Nicole Wooten – Kake; Melissa Fisher – Hoonah.
The boys All-Conference team included: Thomas Etue, Mickey Wilson and Quinn Weber – Skagway; Rick Carle, Kyle Packer and Dion Jackson – Klawock; Allen Dilts and William Carle – Hydaburg; Kristian Geise and Kole Skaflestad – Hoonah; Clint Ivers and Rex Newlun – Yakutat.
The criteria for the All-Conference team were leadership, skills and sportsmanship. Surdyk and Weber, while not big scorers for Skagway, were selected for their outstanding defense and rebounding, as well as their effort and sportsmanship, one coach confided. A couple of the region’s better players did not make the team.
Making the All-Academic team for Skagway were Etue, Wilson, and Weber along with Amanda Jensen, Elise Doland, Emily Herbig, and Kayla Henricksen.
Skagway’s members of the Good Sports team were J.R. Madden and Logan Weber for the boys, and Jensen and Doland for the girls. Yakutat won the school sportsmanship award from tourney officials for the best behavior by players, coaches and fans. Skagway was reportedly in the running until an unfortunate confrontation between a parent and a referee following the final boys game. – JB

Link to more SE Tourney photos from the SHS Basketball Page