Hoops squads top Eagles, look forward to regionals
Both Haines High School varsity basketball teams picked up wins over Yakutat on Monday in their final games before next week’s Region V tournament.
The boys secured a long-anticipated victory in an overtime thriller against the speedy Eagles, 54-51. Yakutat made the trip to Haines after drubbing Skagway in two contests.
The tallest player for Class 1A Yakutat was listed at 6’1’’, but the efficient Eagles jumped out to a 20-11 lead after the first quarter, with their final three points coming on a shot at the buzzer.
Haines still trailed, 37-32, heading into the fourth quarter. The Glacier Bears, though, had the momentum, much of it due to tremendous defensive pressure that prevented Yakutat from even taking a shot during their last possession of the third. Coach Steve Fossman said junior John Gross “put a spectacular defensive performance on,” harassing Yakutat’s players well past the 3-point line.
“John’s not necessarily known for his perimeter defense, but if you set your mind to it, you can make it happen,” Fossman said.
Haines took the lead, 44-42, in the fourth, and the Eagles responded with a 5-0 run that seemed to get the game back in their control. That’s when junior Isaac Wing buried a 3-pointer to tie the score at 47. The Glacier Bears then had the last shot of regulation. Senior Caullen Taylor had a good look off an out-of-bounds play, but failed to convert, and the game went to overtime.
Taylor was clutch in the extra frame, hitting a three for a 51-49 lead and then breaking a 51-all tie with another bucket. Junior Justin Swinton’s free throw provided for the final, three-point margin.
“They were pretty happy to win,” Fossman said. “They know Yakutat is a pretty good team, and it could have gone either way.”
Junior Kai Sato-Franks scored 16 points to lead Haines. Taylor added a dozen; Swinton, 11; Wing and sophomore Keanu Lynch, 6; Gross, 2; and junior Chevy Fowler, 1.
The girls’ game was a 41-12 rout. Senior Riley Erekson snatched several steals off the full-court pressure and drained four 3-pointers on her way to 18 points. Other scorers for Haines were senior Alisha Young, 8; sophomore Celia Bower, 5; junior Libby Jacobson, 4; senior Karlie Spud, 3; freshman Autumn Gross, 2; and senior Jess Giddings, 1.
“We didn’t really know what we were facing coming in, and I liked the way we came out with a lot of energy,” said coach Brian Elliott.
Both teams are set to face Metlakatla on Thursday, March 7, at Mount Edgecumbe High School in the regional tournament that runs through March 9. The boys, seeded fourth, are scheduled to play at 4:45 p.m. The third-seeded girls follow at 6:30 p.m. The conference’s four teams will battle for two berths to the Class 2A state tournament.
The Glacier Bear girls last played Metlakatla on Feb. 16-17 during a lengthy trip to end the conference season. Metlakatla tallied two double-digit wins against Haines, 49-28 and 41-21. Scoring in the first game were Young, 9; Erekson, 6; Bower, 5; freshman Kayley Swinton, 5; and Jacobson, 3. The second game’s totals were Erekson, 7; Young and Swinton, 4; Spud, 3; and junior Jamie Messerschmidt, 3.
Haines then continued its exhausting trip, dropping the opener to Craig on Feb. 18, 56-31. Erekson scored 12 points; Young, 6; Messerschmidt, 4; Jacobson and Bower, 3; freshman Destinee Cowart, 2; and Gross, 1.
Haines had a stronger start in the next day’s contest, trailing 22-17 at the half, but Craig went on to win, 44-37. Young was the leading scorer, with 9 points, followed by Jacobson and Bower, 7; Erekson, 6; and Messerschmidt and Swinton, 4.
The Glacier Bears have topped Wrangell in three of four games this season, but an invite to state will require getting past Metlakatla or Craig. Haines took Craig into overtime at home, and lost to Metlakatla by only four points back in January.
“We haven’t won a lot, but this is a team that really likes each other and plays together well,” Elliott said. “You don’t know who can get hot at the right time.”
The boys have shown they can challenge Metlakatla in spurts, and the Glacier Bears took a 23-20 lead into halftime on Feb. 15. That was the final home series for seniors Taylor, Chris Olsen and Russell Clark.
“They’re playing well,” Fossman said. “They’ve been in the program and I hope they can have a strong finish down at regionals.”
The strong showings of 2A squads, including two state championships by the Glacier Bears in recent years, contributed to the conference netting two slots at the tournament, he said.