By Jeff Brady

The 2019-2020 Skagway High School hoops season is underway. Both varsity basketball teams have already played in a preseason tourney and hosted a home series.

The women made it to championship game of the Jamie Shaw Classic in Whitehorse on Dec. 14. After a close loss to Haines, they dispatched two Yukon teams but could not get by champion F.H. Collins of Whitehorse.

At home last weekend against league rival Angoon, they lost a close game but made up for it big time in the second game of the series with a huge win, 62-39.

Meanwhile, the men’s team, after going winless at the Whitehorse tourney, found their rhythm at home, with two convincing wins over the Angoon Eagles.

The busy front end of the schedule continues with the Don Hather Tourney in Skagway and two more league series at home, then a longroad trip to Yakutat and Prince of Wales Island — and that’s all in January.

After that, there’s only one homeseries for the Panthers in February before the region tourney in early March.

In interviews before the Angoon series, Skagway’s coaches said they like what they’ve seen from their players.

Nate Jennings is back for his second year coaching the women’s team, and he will be assisted by Skagway alum Kaylie O’Daniel Smith. Last year’s team finished third in the region and just missed qualifying for state tourney. Jennings lost a couple key players, but he has several experienced players returning.

“I don’t see a big drop-off in how our team is going to do,” Jennings said. “All of us are a little more confident now because we have been in every situation, except for our ultimate goal, which is state.”

Jennings’ lineup is deep and he plans an eight-player rotation.

Starting are seniors Eliza Myers, who made all-conference last season, and Jessica Whitehead; juniors Iraida Hisman and Peyton Rodig; and sophomore Tatum Sager. Coming off the bench are junior Maisha Rahmen, sophomore Zoe Whitehead, and eighth-graders Ava Myers and Athena Smith.

Playing in Whitehorse, especially in the championship before a big crowd, helped prepare them for noisy road games this season, Jennings said. But he won’t have to worry about hearing more cowbells. The Yukon allows teams to have the traditional noisemakers on the bench, though there is a ban on electronic versions.

He said they would have defeated Haines if not for poor shooting that first night in Whitehorse, but he was happy with how they improved in wins over Porter Creek and Vanier, when the shots started to fall. F.H. Collins was much tougher, and those losses taught the Panthers that they need to do a better job getting back on defense to shut down fast breaks. Watch for a more aggressive defense from the Panthers this season.

First-year men’s coach Ross Barrett has a younger team that will be engaged in more of a building year. They had some lopsided losses in Whitehorse but showed a lot of improvement.

Barrett, who was a high school star in Minnesota before moving to Skagway a few years ago, is implementing a new strategy and philosophy. It was a challenge hitting the Whitehorse tourney after just a week of trying to learn new offensive and defensive schemes.

“They’re just picking it up, so I kind of treated (the tourney) weekend as it would be a practice almost,” Barrett said. “It was a good learning experience for us. I think we figured out a lot of what we need to do to get where we need to go.”

He was pleased with the team’s progression, from scoring 30 points in early games to 63 in its last tourney outing.

There are no seniors, but the Panther men are led by two talented juniors who made all-conference last year, guard Gavin Goebel and forward Silas Myers. Freshman Austin Bricker is the only other returning starter. Also starting are sophomore Benjamin Turnham and freshman Nathan Ozuzun.

Coming off the bench are junior Devon Garduque and eighth-graders Jake Sager and Charlie Deach. Sophomore returnee Conner Lawrence will have enough practices under his belt to be eligible for the Don Hather Tourney.

Barrett said he will rely on his leaders, who have improved, but also wants everyone to know they are part of a team. He sees the younger players pushing just as hard and learning a lot, and he is telling them that anyone can step up and be a leader.

“I’m really excited because thisis a young team and I see a lot of potential in every single one of them, from our juniors all the way down to our eighth-graders,” Barrett noted.

Learning a new system while building team chemistry will take time, he said. “I’m telling them to be patient and stick with the program and we’ll have success.”

NET RESULTS (through Dec. 21)

SHS WOMEN (1-1 league, 3-4 overall)

Dec. 12-14 – at Jamie Shaw Tourney, Whitehorse
Haines 29, Skagway 24; Skag-way 38, Porter Creek 29; F.H. Collins 44, Skagway 26; Skagway 45, Vanier 31; Championship – F.H. Collins 54, Skagway 30 (individual scoring unavailable).

Dec. 20-21- Angoon 47, at Skagway 42: ANG – George 18, C. Koolesh 14. Fayer 8, S. Kookesh 5, Johnson 2; SGY – Sager 14, J. Whitehead 12, E. Myers 8, Hisman 4, Rodig 3, A. Myers 2. ANG 11- 5-15-16=47, SGY 12-7-9-14=42. Skagway 62, Angoon 39: SGY-Sager 21, Rodig 20, J. Whitehead 8, A. Myers 7, Hisman 4, E. My-ers 2; ANG- C. Kookesh 18, Fay-er 7, S. Kookesh 4, B. Johnson 4, George 3, T. Kookesh 3. SGY 17- 14-20-11=62, ANG 8-15-5-11=39.

SHS MEN (2-0 league, 2-4 over- all)

Dec. 12-14 – at Jamie Shaw Tourney, Whitehorse Haines 73, Skagway 50; Porter Creek 70, Skagway 36; Vanier 68, Skagway 30; F.H. Collins 88, Skagway 63 (individual scoring unavailable).

Dec. 20-21 – at Skagway 54, An-goon 34: SGY – Goebel 23, Myers 20, Sager 6, Bricker 2, Ozuzun 2; ANG – L. Johnson 15, Riley 9, Duncan 6, K. Johnson 4. SGY 9-14-19- 11=53, ANG 6-5-8-15=34. Skag-way 67, Angoon 50: SGY – Goebel 38, Myers 23, Sager 2, Bricker 2, Burnham 2; ANG – K. Johnson 15, Riley 14, L. Johnson 12, George 5, Duncan 2, Kookesh 2. SGY 9-22-18-18=67, ANG 17-6- 13-14=50.

Upcoming schedule: Jan. 2-5, Don Hather Tourney; Jan 6-7 Hoonah; Jan. 10-11 Gustavus; Jan. 13- 14 at Yakutat; Jan. 17-18 at Thorne Bay; Jan.20-21 at Hydaburg; Jan. 22-23 at Klawock; Feb. 22-23 Kake (final home games); March 4-7 Southeast 1A tournament at Ketchikan.