Josh Cotton drives for a bucket between Kake’s Dylan Lee and an unidentified T-Bird. Kake went on to win its second straight region title. Michael Penn, courtesy of Juneau Empire

Panther teams wind up season, look toward a better 2008

By JEFF BRADY

JUNEAU – The Skagway teams made some significant strides toward next season at the annual Southeast 2A Tourney in Juneau March 8-10.
The girls made it to the semifinal round before running into top-ranked Yakutat. The Lady Panthers finished in fourth place, while the boys had a tough draw in the first round, but closed out the campaign with a close game that they could have won.

Girls open with win
In its opening game, the Skagway girls jumped on the Klawock Chieftains early and managed to hold on to win. Behind hot-shooting Paige Hahn and Sierra Moran, the Lady Panthers built a 20-10 halftime lead and were up by 12 going into the final quarter. But the Chieftains would make it interesting, outscoring Skagway 16-7 in the final quarter and holding the Panthers without a field goal. But the Panthers made some big free throws down the stretch, shooting 7-of-11, to escaped with a 35-32 win.
Next up for Skagway was the Yakutat Eagles. The Lady Panthers had played them close in one game in Skagway, but had fallen big to the Eagles’ relentless backcourt pressure in its other meeting. The tourney game was no different. In fact, no team in the region could handle Yakutat’s press. Skagway was humbled in a 59-16 tourney loss but can rest a little easier knowing the Eagles beat Kake by almost the same score in the region title game.
The season finale for Skagway was a tough battle against Hydaburg, which had been embarrassed by Kake in the other semifinal.
After a tight first quarter, took the lead on sweet reverse layup by Paige Hahn midway through the second quarter. The Lady Panthers led by three at one point after a Cierra Hahn free throw, but Hydaburg came back with some big shots to go up by three at the end of the half.
The three-ball fell for the Warriors in the third quarter, but Skagway stayed within six points. In the final quarter, though, Hydaburg was able to extend the lead to double-figures. Despite a gutsy effort, Skagway was unable to get enough shots to fall, or get calls to go its way. Hydaburg shot a lot of free throws down the stretch, prompting a complaint from Skagway coach Lara Labesky.
It was a frustrating loss for a team that really wanted to go out with a win, she said, but overall, the season ended well. Skagway split with most teams in the league. They got to the semifinals, and if they had not been on Yakutat’s side of the bracket, the Lady Panthers could have made it to the championship game.
She said having such a young team – four juniors with little playing experience , and a large freshman class – made for a season that started with “getting over the jitters” to “some glimmers of hope” to some “frustration lulls.”
“But in the end we started to come together really well,” Labesky said. “We just had a huge problem with shooting.”
That’s something the Lady Panthers will need to work on over the summer, she said. Even though she got good point production from junior Sierra Moran and freshman Paige Hahn, and at times from surprising junior C.C. Hahn and freshman Emily Herbig, everyone needs to step up and make shots.
The shooting gaps could be filled by some talented eighth graders coming up next year, she said. Scrimmages between the varsity and those girls were “extremely competitive,” she said, and everyone will be vying for starting spots next year. The Lady Panthers had no seniors and lose no one, so Skagway has some good years ahead.
Moran, playing her first full year of varsity for the girls, was named to the All-Conference team. Good Sports on the team were Teslyn Korsmo and Chisato Yamashia.

Paige Hahn braces for a collision with a Hydaburg defender in front of the Skagway bench. Cierra Hahn is fouled on a shot in the third place game against Hydaburg. Jeff Brady

Boys drop last two
The Skagway boys were eliminated in two games, but had some of its best point production of the season and nearly pulled out a win.
In the opening round, the Panthers lost to eventual champion Kake, 74-36. Skagway wing Jake Henricksen injured his thumb early in the contest, and the Panthers fell into a 20-3 hole, but Mickey Wilson, Josh Cotton and Tom Kirko picked up the slack in the second quarter to make the score 44-17 at the half. A big three-pointer by senior Makeah Twitchell opened the second half for Skagway, but the deep, senior-heavy T-birds were too much for the Panthers. They would go on to surprise top-ranked Yakutat in the finals for their second straight Southeast 2A title.
Skagway fell into the consolation bracket against the only team it had defeated all season, albeit by forfeit. Angoon was able to field a six-member squad for tourney, and two of those players were extremely talented. Skagway’s Nate Herbig hit a shot to give Skagway the early lead, but Angoon came right back and would go up by as many as 10 in the first half behind hot-shooting John Croasman. The Panthers played catch-up the rest of the game. Wilson drove the paint, got some layups to fall, and drew fouls, and backcourt mate Thomas Etue was tough on the defensive end, blocking a shot and getting a steal. An Etue layup cut the lead to 24-21 before Croasman nailed a trey to end the half.
Angoon’s Michael Howard opened the second half the way his teammate had ended the first, and Skagway cooled off in the third quarter to fall behind 39-31. But by the final quarter, Skagway was ready to make a run. The Cotton brothers, Josh and Jacob, made some big shots. But after Josh made a bucket to cut the score to 43-39, he said, “And one!” to the referee and got whistled for a technical, his fifth foul. Not having him in the game opened up the lanes for Howard, but Skagway was not finished. Henricksen finally found his shooting touch, nailing three treys.
The Panthers were down by just five with a minute to go, but had to foul to get the ball back after some costly turnovers.
Coach Chris Wassman said his players weren’t down.
“They felt they had a lot better year this year than last,” he said. “They were competitive in several games, and felt they were a much improved team.”
From a coaching standpoint, he said it took half the year to get the freshman and others on the team used to a new system.
“It took us a while for kids to get used to a new play, and a new coach, but toward end of season we were progressing faster and getting a lot more done,” he said. “It took us half a season to get the teamwork down.”
The season may be over, but many of the kids are still playing, at least twice a week at the rec. center. Working on their off-season games will be a key to next season. With most teams losing large blocks of seniors, Skagway is in a good position to play a factor next year, he noted.
“I feel really good about the experience and amount of playing time everybody got as a good base year for the future,” Wassman said.
The freshmen have developed their skills, and the juniors have developed their hunger, he said. A good recipe to get Skagway back on the winning track next year.
Skagway loses just one senior, Makeah Twitchell. He was named to the region’s Good Sport Team along with Thomas Etue. Twitchell also was named to the senior All Academic Team.
“Makeah was a good, solid guy with a good attitude and a good rapport with all his teammates,” his coach said. “They all respected him and enjoyed having him around.... I will miss him.
In addition to his great attitude and sportsmanship, Twitchell will be remembered for the best shot of the year, a 40-foot rainbow at home early in the season. “He’ll always have that as a memory of his senior season.”

Makeah Twitchell, center, stands on the court with other members of the All-Academic Team. Jeff Brady

FINAL RECORDS & TOURNEY RESULTS

SHS GIRLS (7-12 overall, 7-10 league)
QUARTERFINALS – Skagway 35, Klawock 32: SGY- P. Hahn 18, Moran 10, C. Hahn 4, E. Herbig 3; KLA- Skinna 11, Busse 10, Plumley 7, Ramirez 4.
SEMIFINALS – Yakutat 59, Skagway 16: YAK- Vale 22, R. Fraker 7, H. Esbenshade 6. K. Fraker 6, Wheeler 6, E. Esbenshade 6, Ryman 4, Schumaker 3; SGY- P. Hahn 6, C. Hahn 4, Yamashia 4, K. Henricksen 2.
3RD PLACE: – Hyadburg 46, Skagway 34: Guthrie 13, Grant 11, Cline 9, Carlson 6, Kadake 4, Fawcett 3; SGY- P. Hahn 21, Moran 12, C. Hahn 1.
Other Girls Scores: Quarterfinals- Hydaburg 50, Hoonah 33; Kake 66, Angoon 15; Yakutat (bye); Semifinals- Kake 48, Hydaburg 30; Consolation - Hoonah 55, Angoon 11; Hoonah 37, Klawock 29. Championship- Yakutat 58, Kake 21.

SHS BOYS (2-14 overall, 2-12 league)
QUARTERFINALS – Kake 74, Skagway 36: KAK- Rostad 20, Aceveda 11, Doake 9, D. Lee 9, Cavanaugh 8, J. Lee 7, Dolan 2, Willis 2; SGY- Wilson 12, Jo. Cotton 5, Etue 5, Kirko 4, Ja. Cotton 3, Twitchell 3, Forester 3, N. Herbig 1.
CONSOLATION– Angoon 56, Skagway 49: ANG- Croasmun 30, Howard 19, Jim 4, Jack 3; SGY- Wilson 15, J. Henricksen 13, Etue 6, Jo. Cotton 4, Kirko 4, Ja. Cotton 4, N. Herbig 2.

Other Boys Scores: Quarterfinals: Hoonah 56, Thorne Bay 34; Klawock 68, Angoon 50; Yakutat (bye); Semifinals- Yakutat 63, Hoonah 60; Kake 83, Klawock 69; Consolation- Thorne Bay 60, Angoon 57; Third place- Hoonah 51, Klawock 46; Championship- Kake 60, Yakutat 55.