Bears' hoops squads gear up
Haines High School basketball squads are revving up their fast-break offenses in anticipation of conference play starting this weekend.
The Glacier Bears will face Metlakatla Friday and Saturday, with the boys at home and the girls away.
The girls competed at a Petersburg tournament in December, and each squad hosted an alumni game over the holiday break.
Boys’ coach Steve Fossman said the Glacier Bears are aiming to “balance control with the fast break” and “to learn, if you don’t have it, to go back into a disciplined, half-court offense.”
“We’ve been working hard on getting our defense locked in – our team defense – and making an effort to run the ball,” he said.
Justin Swinton, who was an All-Conference honoree last season, and Kai Sato-Franks are the top two returning scorers for Haines. They’re part of a senior class that includes Chevy Fowler, James Morgan, Chris Turner and Isaac Wing.
“Chris was injured pretty much all of last year,” Fossman said. “It’s good to have him back.”
He noted Wing was one of the team’s top performers at the Region V Tournament in 2013, and Fowler has “gotten a lot stronger.”
The Glacier Bears didn’t pick up their first win until February, when they edged Yakutat in overtime. The team built on that momentum at regionals and notched its first conference win, 48-42 against Wrangell.
Haines needed one more victory to reach the Class 2A state tournament, but lost to Craig by a dozen points. That Glacier Bear squad had three seniors - Russell Clark, Chris Olsen and Caullen Taylor, the team’s top outside shooting threat.
Fossman said he expects Metlakatla, last year’s state runner-up, to again be at the top of the conference. “They’re returning some of their key players.”
The Glacier Bears return juniors Jordan Badger, Keanu Lynch and Keegan Sundberg and sophomore Matthew Green. They’ve also added junior Kyle Klinger, exchange student Marvin Steinmeister, and freshmen Charlie Bower, Ketch Jacobson, Dylan Palmieri and Jacob Stigen.
“I’m hoping a lot of people come out and enjoy the games and support the team,” Fossman said.
Residents will have to wait another week to see the girls compete at home, Jan. 17-18 against defending state champion Craig. First, the Glacier Bears have the trek to Metlakatla, which is “always a tough place to play,” said coach Brian Elliott. Haines will try to outrun Metlakatla, he said.
“We can pound it inside and get easy baskets down low, we can run a perimeter game and, definitely, in transition we’re fast,” Elliott said. “With our guards pushing the tempo, we should get some easy, transition baskets out of it.”
At the 2013 Region V Tournament, the Glacier Bears edged Metlakatla, 54-47, in overtime. Haines then narrowly fell to Craig, setting up a rematch with Metlakatla to go to state, but the Glacier Bears couldn’t duplicate their earlier success and closed the season with a loss.
This year, Haines will be without the services of graduates Riley Erekson, Jess Giddings, Karlie Spud and Alisha Young. Erekson and Young were All-Conference selections.
The Glacier Bears figure to be strong at the guard positions, with senior Libby Jacobson and junior Celia Bower returning. Bower was an All-Tournament performer last month in Petersburg.
“We’re still working with our guards on shot selection and the difference between pushing in transition and running a disciplined, half-court offense,” Elliott said. “That’s a big contrast that is sometimes a hard thing to learn.”
Haines also welcomes back senior Grace Jones, who was with family in Washington last season.
Sophomore Kayley Swinton showed her versatility at the alumni game, handling point guard responsibilities when several girls were out of town, and she can fill every position on the court, Elliott said.
Fellow sophomores Destinee Cowart and Autumn Gross also have played post for the Glacier Bear varsity. The Haines squad in Petersburg also included senior Serena Badgley, junior Natalia Taylor and sophomore Jenae Larson. Elliott noted senior Jamie Messerschmidt will be back for conference competition.
“This is definitely going to be a pressing team,” he said. “We’re going to press most of the game, every game, and really just try to use our speed. I think we’re going to be right there, in the mix, with our league.”
Christine Hansen, a Haines High alumna, is the team’s new assistant coach this season, stepping in for Stuart DeWitt.