Young Panthers shake things up in their blue and gold at the start of Spirit Week. Jeff Brady

Skagway sweeps Yukon field in DHT, still looking for first conference win

By JEFF BRADY

The Skagway High School Panthers started off the new year right with three victories over Whitehorse schools in the Don Hather Tournament, but they were unable to get a win in their first two league series at home.
As of Jan. 22, the Panthers had a 5-6 overall record near the midpoint of their season and will take to the road this weekend against Hoonah.
Just before Christmas they went 1-2 at a Juneau tournament, beating a Sitka JV team 34-26 and falling to Thunder Mountain JV 48-33 and Juneau-Douglas JV 62-48.
Center Nick Ackerman sprained an ankle and was unavailable for the Don Hather Tournament Jan. 11-13 in Skagway, but the Panthers prevailed with a balanced attack against varsity teams from Vanier 42-31, Porter Creek 38-37 and FH Collins 54-44 in an Alaskan sweep of Yukon schools.
In that last game, Trevor Cox and Airk Cochran posted season high point totals of 24 and 19 respectively. Cochran was named the tourney MVP and was joined on the all-tourney team by Zack Wassman, who averaged about 11 points per game. Hannah O’Daniel and Polly Brown also had strong games on both ends of the floor.
The high point total in the tourney finale showed what Skagway is capable of doing when clicking on offense, making sharp passes and rebounding strong to prevent second-chance points by the opposition.
Unfortunately, those qualities weren’t there nearly enough in their first league games at home against Klawock and Thorne Bay, two of the stronger teams in the Southeast 1A division this year.
Klawock, with five sharpshooters, took it to Skagway Jan. 14-15, winning by large margins, 74-36 and 62-26. Ackerman was back for this series but not at full speed, and Skagway was plagued with turnovers and fouls against the Chieftains.

Airk Cochran threads the Klawock defense to get off a shot in the lane. JB

They improved against Thorne Bay Jan. 21-22, but the guards had trouble breaking through the Wolverines’ first line of defense in the opening game, forcing many turnovers that led to a 20-point Thorne Bay lead in the third quarter. Skagway stepped up its own pressure on the ball and cut into the deficit, but it came too late, as the Panthers fell 49-40.
In the second game, Skagway started off much better by getting the ball up the floor quickly, but they had trouble scoring. Still, they were able to keep the game close and made a run at the Wolverines in the fourth quarter, getting the deficit down to two points in the final minute.
A great feed to a hot Ackerman just missed going in, which would have tied the score, but then the Skagway center went over the back of a Thorne Bay player on the rebound for his fifth foul. He joined Cochran on the bench who also fouled out, and Skagway gave up some inside points in the final seconds to lose 44-38.
After the game, coach Kent Fielding was pleased with the way his team battled back.
“It was a game we thought we had,” he said.
When asked what the team needed to improve in order to notch its first league win, he responded: “It will come. We played two of the hardest teams in the conference. We just need to keep our composure and keep our energy up the entire game, not just at the end of the game.”
Klawock and Thorne Bay were both undefeated in league play after leaving here. The Chieftains won on the road at Yakutat and the Wolverines swept Hydaburg.
He added that the team has come together and gelled as a unit, and that their goal now is to capture the number 4 seed at regionals.
“For a rebuilding year it's turned out to be decent,” he said. “I mean two months ago most people would have told you that we couldn't play against Thorne Bay, and we had them (Tuesday). They beat us in a few areas on Monday night and we made some adjustment and did better in those areas, but our shots just didn't fall and our post players fouled out.”
After the Hoonah series this weekend, the Panthers return home on Feb. 4-5 to face Hydaburg. By then, they should have Donovan Henson back on the roster, who returned to Skagway School recently after being away last semester.

See Don Hather Tourney Gallery

UPDATE: The games in Hoonah were postponed to Feb. 8-9, so the next scheduled games are at home against Hydaburg Feb. 4-5. Get up-to-date scores and stats, when available, at the: 2012-13 SHS Basketball Page.