Coach Lara Labesky draws up a play for the team. Jeff Brady

SHS girls take fourth at State
Rebound with two wins after loss to Ninilchik

By JEFF BRADY
ANCHORAGE – Skagway’s dream of a state championship was snagged by a familiar foe, the five-time defending champion Ninilchik Wolverines, in the first round of the First National Bank Alaska / ASAA 2A state tournament last weekend.
But the Lady Panthers responded well with two victories over Unalakleet and Yakutat to take fourth place at the tournament, an improvement over last year’s fifth place finish.
Add to that a second straight Southeast 2A title (see adjacent story) and a final record of 23-2, and this season can be chalked up as the best by a Skagway girl’s team in school history.

Ninilchik 42, Skagway 21
In the quarterfinals, Skagway got beat pretty handily by Ninilchik, which had beaten Skagway in the semifinals a year ago.
The Lady Panthers never got on track with their shooting, and Ninilchik ran patient sets, working the ball inside to Mindy Dawson and Kendra Moerlein who muscled in for scores. Nilnilchik led 10-5 after one, and 17-10 at the half.
Savannah Ames made just one three-pointer in the game, right before halftime. Skagway picked up intensity to start the second half as Tiffanie Potter scored on an inbound feed from Ames, but that was as close as the Panthers would get. The Wolverines went on a 15-4 run to close out the third quarter, leading 32-16. The Wolverines protected the ball much of the fourth quarter. Skagway forced some turnovers but rarely was able to convert. A frustrated Skagway coach Lara Labesky was upset with a lack of calls under the basket, and did not want to comment about the game, just Skagway’s second loss of the season.
Potter led the Skagway scoring with 8 points, and Ames added 7. Moerlein led Ninilchik with 14.
Skagway players were disappointed, especially after having outplayed Ninilchik in an earlier meeting, winning by 15 at the Tok Tourney. The Wolverines went on to defeat Galena on Friday in their quest for a sixth straight 2A state title, but fell in the championship to a very strong Bristol Bay squad.
Skagway moved into the consolation round Friday at 9:40 a.m. to face Unalakleet.


Audrey Neitzer and Michelle Harris fight for a loose ball. Jeff Brady

Skagway 44, Unalakleet 43 OT
Skagway jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, only to see Unalakleet roar back and force the Panthers to play catch-up in the second half.
Down six with five minutes to go in regulation, Skagway’s Savannah Ames took over, scoring a field goal, an assist, and a three-pointer to give her team the lead. After Unalakleet’s Barbara Towarek made a bucket to get the lead back for the Wolfpack, Skagway senior Crystal Ketterman got a steal and then drove the middle for a bucket with 1:30 left. Skagway got a defensive stop, and Tiffanie Potter made two free throws with 34 seconds left. Unalakleet then missed two shots before Kelsi Ivanoff grabbed a long rebound and hit a shot from the top of the key with 2 seconds left to send the game into overtime at 38-38. Skagway scored the first five points of the overtime, held the ball, and drew fouls, making four of six free throws in the extra period. The Wolfpack’s Barbara Towarak hit a three-pointer with four seconds left to get her team within a point with four seconds left. But Skagway coach Lara Labesky drew up an inbound play that fooled Unalakleet. Ames threw the ball to Potter at the other end of the base line who threw it in to a cutting Ames who streaked down the floor and ran out the clock.
Ames led all scorers with 20, and Ketterman added 7 for Skagway. Towarak finished with 17 and Ivanoff 12 for the Wolfpack.
Ketterman commented that the team worked really hard, in spite of some bad calls from the referees.
“We can communicate without even talking,” she said. “We always pull each other up, win or lose.”


Cheerleaders Florence Schlageter and Hillery Lesh raise their arms for a free throw. Jeff Brady

Skagway 19, Yakutat 13
Before their fourth meeting of the season, coaches Joe Klushkan of Yakutat and Lara Labesky of Skagway met and commented how they wished they were seeing each other later in the day (in the championship round) instead of at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
After the 19-16 win, Labesky commented, “This game had 8 a.m. written all over it.”
Neither team scored in the first five and a half minutes. Skagway led 4-2 at the end of the first quarter, and pushed it to 8-2 midway through the second period on a pair of buckets by reserve Audrey Neitzer. Yakutat cut it to 8-4 at half and then got shots from seniors Magen James and Jacquoi James to tie the score at 8-8 with 6:40 left in the third quarter. Jacquoi James was not at full speed in the second half, nursing a sore ankle, and Skagway’s defense was relentless in the second half, forcing 27 Yakutat turnovers.
The Eagles were able to stop all-state Skagway guard Savannah Ames, who was held scoreless, but Ames had seven of her team’s 15 steals. Tiffanie Potter and Candi Ketterman picked up the offense for Skagway, who led 14-11 after three quarters.
Ketterman had two driving lay-ups midway through the final quarter for a 19-13 lead, and that was enough. Skagway spread the court and neither team scored in the final three minutes of the game.
Candi Ketterman led all scorers with 10 points, and the Eagles were led by Magen James with 6.
“At least we won,” Labesky said. “I’m glad we beat them again.” Skagway won three of the four meetings between the Southeast rivals.
Klushkan said his team played good defense but it was not enough. They needed to shoot the ball better. He was happy Yakutat got a win at State over Tri-Valley, calling it something to build on for next year.
Both Southeast teams anticipate returning to State next season. Yakutat loses the James girls and Skagway loses Ames and Crystal Ketterman, but each team returns a solid core.
Ames was not happy with her final tourney performance but reflected on her stellar high school career.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Ames said. “I’m going to miss playing in the little Southeast towns and seeing everyone.”
Ames has been recruited by several small colleges and has narrowed her choice down to Albertson College, a NCAA Division 3 school in Idaho.
“I hope to make it at the next level, become a better player, and play college ball, she said.”


AWARDS
• Savannah Ames of Skagway and Jacquoi James of Yakutat represented Southeast on the girls all-tourney team.
• Candi Ketterman of Skagway was the “Queen of the Court”, making 24 points during the three-point shooting contest finals at half-time of the boys championship game, just one more than Courtney Talerico of Tri-Valley. Skagway’s Ames won that title last year.
• The Hoonah boys went all the way to the championship game before losing to undefeated Cook Inlet Academy, 45-33.
• Hoonah’s David Lindstrom and Dustin Bowen were named to the boys all-tourney team, along with Derek Knudsen of Kake, which finished in sixth place.

Second straight region title for Skagway
By ANDREW KRUEGER
Juneau Empire
SITKA - Savannah Ames helped the Skagway girls build a 15-point lead over Yakutat in the first half of the Southeast Conference-Class 2A Tournament championship game on March 12.
Then Ames started hitting again just in time as the Panthers held on for a 40-37 win to claim their second straight region title. The tournament was held in B.J. McGillis Gymnasium - a former aircraft hangar - on the campus of Mount Edgecumbe High School.
Ames, a senior, finished with 25 points, including three 3-pointers in the first half and a pair of key free-throws down the stretch.
“She’s clutch,” Skagway coach Lara Labesky said. “Every team would love to have a player like that. We can count on her. Anytime things are close, she can bring us right back to where we’re supposed to be.”
Both teams advanced to the state tournament, to be held at Service High School in Anchorage (see adjacent story).
“It’s a great way to end my high school career - but it’s not ended yet,” Ames said of winning the region title and looking ahead to state.
Saturday’s game was a rematch of last year’s region final, when Ames scored 20 points as Skagway rallied to beat Yakutat 39-34.
This year, Skagway jumped ahead early, and took a commanding 19-4 lead when Ames swished a long 3-pointer - from about six feet beyond the arc - with 5:12 left in the second quarter.
Yakutat managed to chip away at their deficit. With 42 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles’ Sylvia Schumacher was fouled by Ames. Schumacher hit one of her two free-throw attempts to make the score 25-15 Skagway at the half.
“We got into early foul trouble,” Ames said. “In the beginning, we ran our offense like it was our game. But we came out in the second quarter, and we weren’t prepared.”
Yakutat closed to within four points - 31-27 - after three quarters, and drew within two - 31-29 - when Magen James made a basket with 7:03 left in the fourth. Jacquoi James converted a three-point play with 5:27 left in the game to cut Skagway’s lead to one, 35-34.
Then Ames took control. She hit a jumper with 5:10 to play to increase Skagway’s lead to three - 37-34. With 27 seconds left and Skagway up by just two - 38-36 - Ames sank two free throws for a four-point lead.
Yakutat’s Rose Porter hit the first of two free throws with 10 seconds left to cut Skagway’s lead to three, and Yakutat retained possession when the ball went out of bounds after Porter’s missed second attempt. The Eagles got off two final shots - one 3-pointer from the right side, a 2-pointer from the left - that bounced off the rim.
Jacquoi James scored 17 points and Heidi Esbenshade added six for Yakutat.
“The girls showed so much courage to come back - I’m really proud of them,” Yakutat coach Joe Klushkan said. “We got a good look at the bucket (for the final shot), and it just didn’t go in.”
Crystal Ketterman, Candi Ketterman and Audrey Neitzer each added four points for Skagway.
“We pulled it out,” Labesky said. “It didn’t go exactly as I wanted it to go, but do they ever? ... We lost our composure a little early, but everyone stayed in the game.”
Skagway reached Saturday’s final with a 50-27 win over Hoonah in Friday’s semifinal round, while Yakutat posted a 46-29 semifinal win over Klawock.
Ames scored 25 points to lead the Skagway girls over Hoonah, securing the Panthers their second straight state tournament berth.
Skagway led 12-2 after the first quarter and 31-15 at halftime, and continued to build its lead. Ames hit three 3-pointers in the game, and Michelle Harris added nine points for the top-seeded Panthers. Cassandra Peters and Kristi Skaflestad scored six points apiece to lead Hoonah.

Skagway senior John McCluskey attempts a 3-pointer. Andrew Krueger, Juneau Empire

Boys play hard, fall to Thorne Bay, Angoon

The Panther boys finished their season with two losses at the Southeast 2A Tournament in Sitka. The Panthers put up a fight against Thorne Bay in the quarterfinals, but could not get the win.
They had a bye to the fourth-sixth place game on Saturday and lost to Angoon, completing their season with a 4-18 record.

Wolverines 45, Panthers 35
Jesse Grant scored 14 points, including 7-for-8 free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter, as the Thorne Bay boys basketball team held off Skagway 45-35 on March 10 at the Southeast-Class 2A tournament in Sitka.
Gerald Carl added 11 points and Casey McDougal scored 10 for Thorne Bay (6-10 overall), which led 30-23 at halftime. The Wolverines’ advantage was trimmed to three - 34-31 - after three quarters after Skagway’s Trevor Cochran hit a 3-pointer late in the period.
But the Panthers were unable to draw closer. Cochran, who scored a game-high 16 points for Skagway (4-17 overall), fouled out and the Panthers missed some key free throws. John McCluskey added eight points for Skagway, while Jacob Henrickson added seven.
Thorne Bay advanced to play top-seeded Kake. Kake went on to defeat the Wolverines easily but then lost the title game to Hoonah, 71-53.

Eagles 62, Panthers 19
Chris Kookesh scored 20 points, including three 3-pointers, as the Angoon boys beat Skagway 62-19 on Saturday to take fourth place at the region tournament.
John Croasmun hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points for Angoon (7-12 overall), while Adam Johnson added 15 points. The Eagles took a 30-10 lead at halftime.
Jacob Henricksen scored seven points to lead Skagway, while the team’s only senior, John McCluskey, led a trio of Panthers with three points apiece. – JUNEAU EMPIRE

Three Skagway girls are all-conference

Trevor Cochran on boys team

All-Conference Team
Girls -
Jessica Williams, Angoon; Cassandra Peters, Hoonah; Kristi Skaflestad, Hoonah; Stasha Guthrie, Hydaburg; Megan Gregory, Kake; Sharon Webb, Klawock; Kaleigh Ryno, Klawock; Savannah Ames, Skagway; Candi Ketterman, Skagway; Tiffanie Potter, Skagway; Heidi Esbenshade, Yakutat; Jacquoi James, Yakutat.
Boys - John Croasmun, Angoon; Dustin Bowen, Hoonah; D.J. Lindstrom, Hoonah; Devin Moritz, Hoonah; Tim Demmert, Kake; Derek Knudsen, Kake; Shawn Jackson, Kake; Roberto Medina, Klawock; Trevor Cochran, Skagway; Ryan Gray, Thorne Bay; Kyle Dierick, Yakutat; Ben Dunbar, Yakutat.
Great Sport Team
Girls - Donella Frank, Angoon; Kristi Skaflestad, Hoonah; Jessie Dybdahl, Hoonah; Valesha Patterson, Hydaburg; Lydia Fawcett, Hydaburg; Megan Gregory, Kake; Savannah Jackson, Kake; Melissa Steward, Klawock; Cathia Demmert, Klawock; Crystal Ketterman, Skagway; Sharnel Vale, Yakutat; Heidi Esbenshade, Yakutat.
Boys - Konrad Frank, Angoon; John Croasmun, Angoon; Michael Koenig, Hoonah; Lloyd Lewin, Hoonah; Shawn Jackson, Kake; Dean Cavanaugh, Kake; Devin Nelson, Klawock; Christopher Stockton, Klawock; John McCluskey, Skagway; Alin Vale, Yakutat; Keith Ivers, Yakutat. – Juneau Empire