By Jeff Brady

For the News

For the first time since winning two state titles in 2010-2011, the SHS girls are heading back to the ASAA State Basketball Tourney in Anchorage, March 16-19.

The Lady Panthers did it in dramatic fashion at last week’s region tourney in Juneau.

After falling in their opener to Kake 37-32, Skagway had to win every game in the consolation bracket, and then a rematch with the Thunderbirds.

Each game was close, but the team rallied in the fourth quarter to take down Hoonah 45-36, Angoon 39-34, and finally Kake 42-36.

Kake had fallen to Klawock in the championship game Friday, and sometimes it’s hard for the loser of that game to rally for one more win to ensure a state berth. Skagway has found itself in that position a few times over the years and not succeeded in winning the runner-up game, but this Panther team had a lot of drive going into it. And even though they were playing their second game of the day, they still had fresh legs and a focus to finish strong in the Saturday night finale.

Coach Nate Jennings said the team held it together after the loss of the first game to Kake, which they felt they should have won.

“They showed a lot of maturity, insofar as years past and difficult situations,” Jennings said. “Each one of those that we won was a tight game and they showed their maturity by pulling it off, especially the last game with everything on the line, how we hadn’t been to the state tournament in 11 years. That’s what I was most proud of, their maturity level.”

The final game was a classic, with fans loud on both sides. Skagway opened up a 5-0 lead, but Kake quickly tied it, and then it was back-and-forth all the way until the end of the third quarter. That’s when Kake’s shooting went cold, due in part to solid Skagway defense.  Panthers Zoe Whitehead (5 points), Ava Myers (6), Lennon Jennings (6), and Kanadie Cox (7) made key shots to get the lead back by a point going into the final period.

Then it was a matter of challenging Kake shots and getting after rebounds. Skagway did that and stretched the lead to eight points, with senior all-conference leader Tatum Sager (18 points) driving for huge buckets and getting to the free throw line. She made four straight in the final minute to seal the win and start the celebration. 

The Lady Panthers were back in the home gym Monday for a week of practice. They will be working on shooting with an aim to score more points against good teams from around the state that like to run.

“We know that everybody that’s going to be up there will be a tough match-up, so we have to be ready to go,” Jennings said.

Meanwhile the Skagway boys were also itching to get back to State, but fell short. In their opener, the Panther boys knocked off Gustavus easily, 51-24, but then lost to eventual champion Kake 78-49 in the semifinals.

In the consolation round against Hoonah, the Panthers fought back from a 10-point halftime deficit to nearly catch the Braves at the end, falling in a 40-39 heartbreaker for the young team.

“We had a good season but unfortunately didn’t play our best in the end,” said coach Ross Barrett. “Overall I did see a lot of improvement and I’m really proud of what we did accomplish. This off-season we’re looking to build on that and come back ever stronger next year.”

The team’s lone senior, Benjamin Burnham, had a good tournament, and juniors Austin Bricker and Joshua Cochran made the all-conference team. They will be the nucleus of next year’s squad.

The girls move on and will be one of 16 teams vying for a state title starting March 16. ASAA 1A tourney schedule and information can be found at and the school website will have the links for listening to and live streaming games.