BACK COACHING GIRLS – Lara Labesky (right) instructs the girls on defending against a fast break. Photos by Jeff Brady

SHS hoop teams prepare for quick start
Girls team back after one year absence; boys have new leader

By JEFF BRADY
The Skagway High basketball season will be off to a fast and furious start in the new year. The girls team is back after a one year absence, and the boys will be led by a new coach.
First look at the boys will actually be this Friday, Dec. 22, as the Panthers face an alumni team at 7 p.m. There will be not be a girls alumni game because too many team members will be away on vacation.
The full teams then have their actual season openers Jan. 3-4 versus Hoonah, and roll right into the Don Hather Tourney Jan. 5-7. Skagway teams will play five straight nights, and then wrap up this early season jump-start with league games the morning of Jan. 8 versus Klawock.
Both girls coach Lara Labesky and Chris Wassman feel their teams have a good chance at competing this year with teams in the Southeast region.
“It’s really good to have my team back,” Labesky said.
After winning two straight Southeast 2A titles, it was a letdown to not have enough girls for a squad last year. Two ended up playing well for the boys team, which she co-coached. But this year she started practice with 12 girls out for the team. “It’s twice as many as I thought I would have,” she said.
The Lady Panthers will have three returning lettermen, juniors Allie Doland, Teslyn Korsmo, and Sierra Moran. Labesky said they are stepping up to be floor leaders for the newcomers on the team: juniors C.C. Hahn, Kristin Moore, and Chisato “Yama” Yamashita, and freshmen Paige Hahn, Kayla Henricksen, Emily Herbig, and Amanda Jensen.
After 10 days of practice with the entire team after volleyball season, Labesky said attitudes are good and “even the girls with limited experience are learning fast.”
She said the team “looks promising, though I wouldn’t mind a 5’11” girl. We’ll be small, but quick.”
Labesky sees Yakutat as the team to beat in the region, but feels “they are not out of reach,” and Skagway can compete with the other teams in the league.

Just getting back to a level where it can compete will be a huge goal for the boys team this year. After two tough seasons with only a handful of wins, the boys are looking to turn things around.
New coach Chris Wassman said that after Mark Jennings stepped down last spring, he was approached by several boys and a couple parents about possibly coaching the team.
“That kind of went to heart,” he said, so he applied this fall and landed the job.
Wassman came from a town in Oregon that was a little smaller than Skagway, and went to state three of his four years in basketball. He played another year at the community college level, and still plays at 40, so a move into coaching seemed logical for a man who loves the game.
After his first two weeks with the team, he said those kids who have stuck around “truly love this game, they listen, and they’re doing what it takes to get it done, and enjoy it.”

SENIOR STROKE – Makeah Twitchell, the only senior on either team, works on his jump shot as Tom Littlefield gets in position to rebound.

Back are five lettermen – the team’s only senior, Makeah Twitchell, juniors Josh Cotton, Lachlan Dennis, and Tom Littlefield, and sophomore Tylor Forester. Joining them are juniors Jake Henricksen and Nate Herbig, and freshmen Thomas Etue and Mickey Wilson.
“I think we are going to have a decent team,” Wassman said.
He said he has been on teams that were heavy in skill and lost nine of 10 games. “A good team has more chemistry than raw talent,” he said. “They learn to work together to make their own openings. They have to get good at the fundamentals, and we are working on that.”
He said the team is still young, but will have some speed and “guys with heart.”
Wassman urges everyone to come out and see the boys play against the alumni team on Friday night. They also will be raising money over the next couple months for a trip to the Tok Tourney in February, which was not in the travel budget this year.

J-High girls unbeaten
The Skagway junior high teams weren’t able to travel to Juneau for the Fast Break Tourney but were able to make a rescheduled Paul Potter Tourney in Haines. The girls finished 3-0 to go undefeated through the season, while the boys went 1-3. In their closest challenge, the girls got two free throws from Nikita Ford in the closing seconds to win the game. They won easily in their other games. The boys drubbed the Haines C team by 22, but fell in two close games with Haines B and a tough Hoonah team.

Etue picks up a win at State wrestling meet

Skagway wrestler Thomas Etue picked up a win at the ASAA 1A-2A-3A State Wrestling Tournament in Wasilla.
After a tough opening draw in the 112-pound class against eventual state champ Kevin Hansen of Kotzebue, the Skagway freshman bounced back to score a 5-2 win in the consolation round over Houston’s Rachael Shannon.
Etue then lost to the Southeast champ from Mt. Edgecumbe, but was able to go the distance in the match without being pinned, said coach Josh Coughran.
She said all team members should be back next season, and the addition of three good junior high players should help. – JB