By DAN FOX
Standing a little over the halfway point in the season, the Skagway Lady Panthers are still going strong, with two losses to Kake being the team’s only recent setbacks.
“I was a little surprised in this last series of games, kind of hoping for the big W’s,” said coach Paul Myers. “They [Kake] had good ball pressure, good defense, which now we know what else we’ve got to work on.”
Since the season’s start, Myers said the girls’ defensive game has seen a great deal of improvement. The Lady Panthers have gone to a man-to-man defense, something fairly rare in the zone defense-heavy Southeast Alaska region.
“We’ve stuck with this year trying to surprise teams by playing a man defense…and the girls have done phenomenal picking it up and really learning the spots and how to run it effectively,” Myers said.
There have been challenges the girls have had to overcome in adopting a man-to-man defense, Myers said, like knowing when to chase down their target, and knowing when to back off. Communicating well is also of key importance.
This weekend the team will be facing Hydaburg, as the girls travel to Prince of Wales for a gauntlet of six games. The first two, versus Hydaburg, are on Feb. 11 and 12, with games against Thorne Bay on Feb. 13 and 14 and finally Klawock on Feb. 15 and 16.
The regional tournament follows at the end of the month from Feb. 28-March 3 in Sitka.
Myers said the girls are “pumped,” and ready to go to Prince of Wales “and get the wins.” Looking to regionals and beyond, Myers thinks the team has a good shot at making the State Tournament in Anchorage.
First and second place at regionals go to state, and Skagway was sitting in first place in the region before its games with Kake. The boys team will be joining the Lady Panthers in Prince of Wales, and boys coach Scott Lesh said his team has been making strides with cohesion and understanding their teammates’ tendencies and skills, and have continued to learn as the season goes along.
In the boys’ Jan. 22 game against Angoon, the team started strong with a decent lead going into halftime, but Angoon rallied in the second half.
“But, it’s all about improving each game, and I talk to them a lot about making some improvements in specific things – better communication, better boxing out and rebounding better,” Lesh said.
From the first game of the season to the most recent matches against Kake, Lesh said there has been some great progression with his players, but a case of bad luck did strike one of the freshmen starters. Gavin Goebel broke his foot against Angoon, and losing a starting player on an 8-person team will hurt, Lesh said.
However, the team has been using the accident to get some of the younger players a lot more playing time, and Lesh spoke highly of the boys’ hustle, and their ability to grow together as a team.
“I’m really happy with everyone’s effort…they have all the heart and effort, and they play hard,” Lesh said. “They do a lot of the stuff you can’t coach, and I really appreciate it.”
SHS GIRLS (5-3 league, 8-4 overall)
Jan. 27 – Skagway 41, Yakutat 18 (scoring unavailable)
Jan. 28 – Skagway 59, Yakutat 22 (scoring unavailable)
Feb. 2 – Kake 34, at Skagway 30: KAK- W. Jackson 14, James 10, Beer 4, Rose 2, Copsey 2, Ross-Shaquanie 2; SGY- Cox 20, Myers 6, K. Whitehead 2, Rodig 2. Kake 14-6-8-6=34, Skagway 3-8-11-8=30.
Feb. 3 – Kake 41, at Skagway 36: KAK- W. Jackson 11, James 10, Beer 6, Vantrease 4, Copsey 4, Ross-Shaquanie 4, D. Jackson 2; SGY- Cox 15, Myers 9, K. Whitehead 5, J. Whitehead 4, Sager 3. Kake 6-10-14-11=41, Skagway 6-10-12-8=36.
SHS BOYS (2-6 league, 4-8 overall)
Jan. 27 – Skagway 52, Yakutat 23 (scoring unavailable)
Jan. 28 – Yakutat 51, Skagway 42 (scoring unavailable)
Feb. 2 – Kake 63, Skagway 29: KAK- Knudsen 24, Davis 15, Merry 14, Hanson 8, Crookes 4; SGY- Brady 11, Myers 11, McKnight 6, Belisle 1. Kake 25-14-19-5=63, Skagway 7-10-2-10=29.
Feb. 3 – Kake 57, Skagway 33: KAK- Knudsen 25, Merry 13, Davis 11, Hanson 3, Ashenfelter 3, Crookes 2; SGY- Brady 14, Myers 12, McKnight 3, Belisle 2. Kake 24-18-8-7=57, Skagway 9-7-6-11=33.