Bear boys capture berth at state
The Haines High School boys’ basketball team is returning to the state tournament for the first time since its 2010 championship season.
The Glacier Bears finished as runners-up at last week’s Region V tournament in Juneau, topping Craig, 56-40, on Saturday to clinch a Class 2A state tournament berth.
“We worked all four years to get up to this,” said senior Chevy Fowler.
The team includes six other seniors: Devin Light, James Morgan, Kai Sato-Franks, Justin Swinton, Chris Turner and Isaac Wing.
“None of these guys have been to state before, so they’re really looking forward to it,” said coach Steve Fossman.
Sato-Franks led the Glacier Bears in Saturday’s game against Craig, tallying 15 points. Light added 14 points; Swinton, 11; Wing, 10; junior Keegan Sundberg, 5; and Turner, 1.
Next up for Haines is an 8 a.m. match-up with Glennallen at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Monday, March 17. Play runs through Wednesday, March 19, and the bracket can be downloaded at http://www.asaa.org.
Glennallen is the top-seeded Interior team, while the Glacier Bears are the second seed from Southeast, behind Metlakatla.
Both the Haines boys’ and girls’ squads were seeded fourth at the Region V tournament, and opened with losses to Metlakatla on March 5th. The boys fell by a 49-32 margin.
Light had 11 points; Swinton, 9; Sato-Franks and Wing, 5; and junior Keanu Lynch, 2.
The boys then edged Wrangell, 53-49, the following day. Light poured in 21 points; Swinton, 17; Sundberg, 8; Wing, 5; and Sato-Franks, 2.
Fossman said Sundberg was a spark late in the game. “He had a big steal and hit a couple of big free throws.”
Swinton, the team’s lone all-conference honoree, said the Glacier Bears always had the goal of making state this season.
Haines opened its conference slate with eight consecutive losses, but Fowler said the team recognized its potential. “We had it; we just had to put it all together.”
The late additions of Lynch, Sundberg and transfer student Light led to a speedier, more balanced offense. Light, who played for Haines as a freshman and sophomore, returned in a series against Craig, when the Glacier Bears topped the Panthers by nearly 20 points in the opener.
“It felt great,” Light said. “I was surprised to get as much playing time as I did.”
The team reeled off a six-game winning streak heading into Region V.
“I didn’t count us out,” Fossman said of the early-season struggles. “You’re always looking to peak at the end.”
The Haines girls nearly joined their counterparts at state, settling for a third-place regional finish after a disappointing loss to Craig on Saturday, 39-26.
The Glacier Bears “understood the significance of the game,” but “showed up flat,” said coach Brian Elliott.
Senior Libby Jacobson and sophomore Autumn Gross were the top scorers against the defending state champions, with 7 points each. Sophomore Kayley Swinton had 4 points; junior Celia Bower, 3; seniors Grace Jones and Jamie Messerschmidt, 2; and sophomore Destinee Cowart, 1.
The girls picked up one win at the tournament, a 36-34 thriller over Wrangell that included a break in the third quarter due to a fire alarm going off.
“That was obviously bizarre,” Elliott said.
Jacobson tossed in 15 points; Bower, 11; Messerschmidt, 4; and junior Natalia Taylor, Gross and Swinton, 2.
Elliott said Gross energized the team off the bench, with “her impact on the game well beyond” the points she scored.
The Glacier Bears’ tournament opener on March 5th featured an impressive comeback that came up just short, as Metlakatla held on for a 29-27 win after leading 21-3 at intermission.
“Everybody asked me, ‘What did you tell them at halftime?’” Elliott said, and added that he stressed to the girls that “basketball is about taking risks.” Haines held Metlakatla scoreless in the third quarter.
For the game, Jones scored 10 points; Swinton, 6; Bower, 4; Jacobson, 3; and senior Serena Badgley and Messerschmidt, 2.
Jacobson and Jones made the all-conference team, and Elliott said Bower “was an all-conference worthy player” who narrowly missed out in the voting.
He said this year’s Glacier Bears were “a very up-and-down team” with four seniors who “gave a lot to the program.” The team graduates Badgley, Jacobson, Jones and Messerschmidt.