By Jeff Brady

For The Skagway News

Skagway High School’s basketball season ended at region tourney last weekend in Sitka with early success, but some missed opportunities down the stretch kept both teams from advancing to state tourney.

SHS boys go 2-2 to finish third

The SHS boys entered the tournament with a 7-6 record as the third seed in a balanced field. Their hopes for moving on to state tournament were high.

And it started out well for the Panthers. In the quarterfinal round on Wednesday, Skagway faced Hydaburg. The Panthers had split with the Warriors a couple weeks ago in Hydaburg, but Skagway had Austin Bricker back this time (he had sprained an ankle in a loss to Klawock on that Prince of Wales road trip).  His 6’5” presence in the paint is huge, especially on defense. 

The lead changed hands five times early as Hydaburg took a 10-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. A nice inside feed from Bricker to fellow senior Josh Cochran started off the second quarter, and Skagway never gave up the lead again. Hydaburg tied it up early in the third quarter, but the Panthers then cut loose on a 20-point quarter, despite losing starters Jake Sager and Landon Rodig to fouls. Bench play by Camden Lawson and Liam Ticcaro was key as the Panthers increased their lead and won easily, 60-42.

In Thursday’s semifinal, Skagway would face second seed Klawock, a team they had taken to double overtime a couple weeks prior. It was a battle throughout the game, as Bricker and freshman Royce Borst knocked down treys for Skagway, but were countered with big shots by a well-balanced Klawock team. After being down 25-21 at the half, Skagway opened the third quarter with a Bricker three-pointer and a Sager-to-Cochran connection to take a 26-25 lead. But after a Chieftains time-out, Klawock scored a three-pointer and never gave up the lead again. Skagway just couldn’t make the crucial shots to give them a chance and fell, 56-48.

This sent Skagway to the consolation round, where they had little trouble with Angoon and Yakutat. Borst and Sager were solid in the backcourt against Angoon in a 60-45 win on Friday. Yakutat was big down low, but didn’t have great guard play. The Skagway defense was solid Saturday morning with Rodig disrupting the passing lanes and knocking the ball ahead to Sager for easy lay-ups. Skagway won 62-41 and the starters got to rest much of the fourth quarter. Senior fan favorite Paul Cooper got into the scoring column to the delight of the Skagway fans. A rematch with Klawock awaited.

In the tourney finale, Skagway faced Klawock, who had lost big to Kake Friday night in the championship game. Before a packed house at the Mount Edgecumbe gym, the teams fought evenly at the start of the game. Borst remained hot and knocked down a trey to send Skagway up 9-8 early. But Klawock’s Marley Kness was even hotter, and the Panthers couldn’t stop him.  He and Lawson traded treys to end the half with Klawock holding a 35-31 edge. 

Skagway would get the deficit down to 42-40 early in the second half with big shots by Sager and Borst, but Klawock would not surrender the lead. The Chieftains went up by seven at the end of the third quarter, and kicked the lead up to 10 in the final period, eventually winning, 72-63.

Senior forwards Bricker and Cochran closed out their careers by being named to the all-conference team, along with junior point guard Sager. Bricker and Cochran also made the Academic Team, an award for seniors with a 3.0 or higher GPA. 

With a solid group coming back next year, the Panther boys should be a contender again under coach Ross Barrett.

Lady Panthers exit after quarterfinal win.

The SHS girls entered the tourney with a 2-6  record (4-10 overall) and the last seed in a five-team field. However, that made them even hungrier.

In probably their best game of the year, they soared past Kake in the opening round. Down 11-3 early, the Lady Panthers lit it up with an 18-4 run over the next 10 minutes to take a 24-17 halftime lead. Abby Myers was connecting on three-pointers and there was good ball movement. With a scrappy defense in the second half, they held off a late Kake rally to win, 38-30. Unfortunately, they lost point guard Lennon Jennings to an ankle injury, which would hurt their chances moving forward.

The young team with no seniors then faced top seed Angoon. A similar scenario played out with Skagway falling behind 17-6 in the first quarter and then mounting a run to start the second quarter. Some big shots by Athena Smith snagged the lead at 21-20. However, Skagway was not able to hold down Angoon the rest of the way. The Eagles went on their own scoring run to go up by 15 at the half, and then held Skagway to just two points in the second half. Final score was 59-34.

The Lady Panthers would face Kake again in the consolation round Saturday morning. Jennings was back in the line-up, but her play was limited. Kenadie Cox got things going for Skagway to take an early lead, and the game was close through the first half as Kake went up 18-12. The shots just weren’t falling for Skagway again in the second half, and Kake took the rematch, 39-23, to end the Lady Panthers’ season. 

The Kake girls moved on to upset Angoon for second place and a state berth, along with region champion Klawock.

Myers and Smith made the all-conference team for Skagway, and Smith amazingly won both the free throw and three-point shooting contests. They will be back next year to lead a more experienced team for coach Nate Jennings.