The Haines Glacier Bear girls came within a game of a trip to the state tournament before losing to the Sitka Wolves Saturday afternoon at the Region V basketball tournament in Juneau.
After slipping into an 8-3 hole in the first quarter, the Haines girls battled back, making transition baskets to tie the game by halftime, 20-20. Senior Jolene Lemieux made a basket off a steal, junior Hannah Wing sank a three-pointer and senior Abby Jones added points on the run.
"That was a big boost," said coach Brian Elliott. His girls were undersized against the Wolves and also playing their second game of the day. "We went into the locker room on a positive note and we were confident coming out, but we had a hard time getting rebounds in the second half. They out-physicalled us."
Sitka and Craig earned berths at the state tournament.
Missed foul shots, including ones that would have put the team ahead, also hurt Haines, Elliott said. "We shot poorly at the free-throw line the entire tournament. Those little momentum changes can make a big difference."
The Wolves bunched up on Jones, Haines’ leading scorer, forcing outside shooting. "They were focused on taking away Abby. That made us fall back to outside shooting, and we didn’t have that aspect to keep them honest," Elliott said.
The Bears were outscored by 12 in the third period and couldn’t recover as Sitka played its best quarter of the Region V tournament. The Wolves’ 6’2" junior Sariah Ady was strong in the middle and Haines seldom got a second shot.
Stefenia Potrzuski led the Wolves with 14, followed by Hunter Huddleton, 12, Katina Wathen, 12, Ady, 8, Megan Reid, 4, Karly Fuller, 2 and Richelle Ramil, 2.
Haines was led by Jones with 13, Wing, 11, junior Marnie Rasmussen, 5, junior Anna Jacobson, 3, Lemieux, 2, sophomore Syerra Braaten, 2, junior Amey Messerschmidt, 2, and sophomore AlishaYoung, 2.
The Bears started the tournament Wednesday with a 50-33 win over the Metlakatla Misschiefs. Elliott said he was pleased with the 8:30 a.m. effort and said the team accomplished its three goals – winning the game, not getting hurt and playing everyone.
Team captain Jones led the scoring with 14; Wing and Amey Messerschmidt had 12 each, Rasmussen was six for 10 from the line and finished with six. Junior Ashley Messerschmidt and sophomores Jess Giddings and Braaten added two each.
For the Misschiefs, Shawnee Brendible had 17 and six others chipped in four or fewer for the losing effort.
The winner’s bracket matchup Thursday between the Haines and Craig girls was one of the tournament’s better games. The girls stumbled through the first four minutes, exchanging turnovers with the equally nervous, first-seed Panthers.
Shrugging off flu symptoms, Lemieux’s strong defense provided opportunities for the Bears to score. Fast-paced action caused by the turnovers forced playmaker Wing to the bench after scoring five of the first period’s seven points, as she struggled for breath.
Both teams settled down and put in fine performances.
Jones and Wing led all scorers with 21 points, but the team lacked a knockout punch needed to put away the Panthers, who were undefeated in conference play this year. Five Craig players combined for 20 points in the final period to overcome the Bears, who never gave up in the 55-51 loss.
Other Haines scorers were Rasmussen, 4, Braaten, 3, and Amey Messerschmidt, 2. Craig’s Melissa Castle had 16, Alex Owen, 14, Liz Isaacs, 11, Grace Beckman, 8, Maggie Dinon, 5, and Katie Dinon, 1.
The girls got off to a lethargic start Friday against Wrangell, when coach Elliott called a timeout to remind his players they couldn’t win just by walking onto the court. By game’s end, the Bears were clicking on all cylinders and cruised to a 53-38 victory. Wing led all scorers with 18 including three, three-pointers. Jones followed with 17, Amey Messerschmidt, 7, Rasmussen, 6, sophomores Giddings, 3, and Young, 2.
Staying alive in the losers’ bracket is how the Mount Edgecumbe girls won the state championship last year. The Lady Bears stayed alive by beating the Petersburg Vikings 8 a.m. Saturday.
Wing swished her first two three-point attempts and the Bears turned a 6-0 lead into a halftime score of 37-18. Haines won 49-44.
Fans rooting for the home team got a little nervous when the Vikings got back into the game in the closing minutes. With two minutes remaining, Wing and most of the starters re-entered the contest. Ball control and composure put down the Viking uprising as time expired and moms and dads started breathing again.
Jones poured in 28, Wing, 11, and Jacobson, Braaten, Amey Messerschmidt, Ashley Messerschmidt and Young, 2 each. Rasmussen played outstanding interior defense and helped control the boards.
Except for the absence of sophomore Riley Erekson recovering from a concussion, the team came to Juneau in good shape, albeit with some cold and flu bugs.
The Glacier Bears boys’ season ended after three tournament games.
Petersburg’s Vikings took the axe to the boys early Wednesday, racking up a 12-2, first-quarter lead. Coach Steve Fossman showed maturity by calmly focusing his team on a second-quarter comeback that ended with a roar from the crowd when junior Austin Badger awkwardly threw the ball at the rim and hit a three-point buzzer beater.
Haines took the lead in the third period but soon lost control when junior scoring leader Tyler Swinton was whistled for his fourth foul and confined to the bench. Fellow juniors Devin Braaten and Parker Schnabel fouled out in the fourth.
With a six-point Viking lead and only 1:47 on the clock, it looked like the fouling end-game strategy might work, until a Haines player was called for an intentional foul, giving the Vikings two shots and the ball back.
That led to a four-point swing and 70-57 Haines defeat. The Bears scored 13 points from the free-throw line in the fourth but managed only one field goal. Swinton had 25, Braaten, 10, Badger, 7, sophomore Caullen Taylor, 6, senior Eric Klinger, 3, senior Nathan Piper, 2, sophomore Chris Olsen, 2, and freshman Devin Light, 2.
Guy Birchell put in a banner performance for the Vikings with 25, Sam Volk, 16, Taylor Pullar, 14, Cory Volk, 6, Tony Craig, 4, Hugh Fleming, 3 and Bill Jensen, 2.
The Glacier Bear boys sailed to an easy victory over the Metlakatla Chiefs, 79-51, Thursday to stay in the tournament. Swinton used his height to lead all scorers with 25. Freshman brother Justin Swinton started the game and chipped in 12. Braaten showed strong play, putting the ball on the floor, driving to the hoop, and scoring 13.
Badger tried a new behind-the-back dribble, adding 12. Junior Logan Simpson broke his scoring slump with six. Taylor was solid with five. Piper, junior Brandon Haxton and Klinger added two each.
Haines committed few turnovers and had an obvious rebounding advantage.
In their final game, the Bears boys made little runs at the lead but never overcame a 17-6 hole they found themselves in at the end of the first quarter against the Craig Panthers.
Craig’s Ryan Baxter showed poise as he led his team’s balanced scoring attack with 18. Tyler Swinton again led all Haines scorers with 23. Other Haines scorers: Braaten, 11, Badger, 9, Taylor, 5, Justin Swinton, 2, and Klinger, 1.
Mount Edgecumbe and Sitka will represent Southeast 3A boys at the state tournament in Anchorage.
Coach Steve Fossman said his players earned valuable experience in the tournament. Many of his top players will be seniors next year.
"The two games we lost we had a chance at making a little push toward winning. Now that they’ve got more time under their belts, they’ve got a better idea of how to approach the game next year," Fossman said.
Fossman said Haines could have a "pretty good team next year, unless the coach fouls it up." He said his goal was to direct players to summer basketball to hone their individual skills.
"At any level of basketball now, you’ve got the gym rats who stay on the courts for the whole off-season. That’s a big part of the game," he said.
No one should be disappointed with the Haines Glacier Bears this year. They played hard, never gave up, and were good sports. Wait until next year!