Hoops fans will get their first look at the Glacier Bear basketball squads at a home opener series against Metlakatla starting Jan. 15.

Last weekend, the Haines High School boys’ basketball team made quick work of the Craig Panthers in a division-play opener series, showing promise for an exciting season. The girls’ squad lost two games, but displayed teamwork and aptitude for new skills that bodes well for the young squad.

The boys beat Craig 93-55 Friday and 69-61 Saturday with a broad scoring attack. Five Haines players netted between 15 and 25 points each. And the team played without sophomore Kirby Faverty, also an offensive threat.

“There’s some great shooters and an element of ball-handling we haven’t had in a long, long time,” said coach Steve Fossman “The balance of scoring is pretty exciting. We have four guys any one of which might be the top scorer in a game.”

That kind of offense is hard to defend against and fun to watch, Fossman said.

Two freshmen – Carson Crager and Mark Davis – were key in Friday’s game. Crager led Glacier Bear scoring with 25 points, using a range of shots. Point guard Davis, with 15 points, played a critical role, guarding Drew Marker, Craig’s leading scorer, and dishing the ball to teammates.

With a great view of the court, Davis’ passing played a big role in last weekend’s victories. “He’s cagey and he can get a pass through. He’s a very skilled freshman,” Fossman said.

The squad also can move, Fossman said. “They do a fast break well and people love to watch that. It’s a competitive team. They play hard. It will be very entertaining.”

Hudson Sage, a senior who has played hoops for years for the school, said it’s difficult to compare this team to others he has played on.

“We’re a young team, but we’re smart, with two freshmen who can handle the ball well and shoot. It’s opening up our team to where our post player doesn’t have to be point guard, and we can utilize more of our team,” Sage said.

“I think it’s going to be a good, fun year. Hopefully we’ll get a better seed at (the division championship),” Sage said.

The boys led Craig at the end of all eight quarters last weekend, though Craig came a little closer Saturday. “(The Panthers) had a better scoring night Saturday and they out-rebounded us late in the game, which let them hang in there. They were getting second and third attempts,” coach Fossman said.

The team’s mettle likely will be tested in the home opener against Metlakatla. The Chiefs beat the Petersburg Vikings twice last weekend, by margins of five and nine points. Although the Vikings lost a couple key players to graduation, their teams are always pretty strong, Fossman said.

Before the home series, the boys will play in the “Rally of the Regions” tournament in Anchorage during the holiday break. Playing in the tournament against teams like Cordova, Unalaska should sharpen the squad, Fossman said. With a total of nine players in practices to date, the team isn’t big enough to run five-on-five drills.

“By January 15, these guys should be playing really good ball. I think it will be a bright spot in winter for people to see these guys play,” Fossman said.

The boys’ squad includes freshman Wesley Verhamme, freshman Jayden Hotch, junior Gilbert Slawson and junior Kamakana Kanahele.

Haines scoring Friday included Crager, 25, senior Hudson Sage, 21, senior Dylan Swinton, 19, freshman Davis, 15, sophomore Cade Clay, 15 and freshman Hotch, 2. Saturday’s scorers were Sage, 22, Crager, 19, Swinton, 13, Davis, 11 and Clay, 4.

Craig’s Marker, a senior, scored 36 points Friday and 30 points Saturday.

“Despicable Me III,” an animated Disney comedy released in July, will be shown twice Friday at the Chilkat Center theater as a fundraiser for the boys’ team, including travel, said assistant coach Ann Marie Fossman. The show plays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The price is $10.

This season’s girls squad is almost two teams in one. Six of its 12 players haven’t played high school hoops. The team lost three seniors from last year – Jordan Stigen, Bozhi Sebens and Tulsi Zahnow.

Newcomers this year include freshmen Claire Waldo, Miranda Haddock, Haley Boron, and Atlin Zahnow, junior exchange student Debby Cheng, and sophomore Meghan Whitermore. Returning players include seniors Brittney Bradford and Makayla Crager, junior Marissa Haddock, and sophomores Marirose Evenden, Becca Wheeler and Raine Winge.

The girls lost 43-21 to Craig Friday night and 49-12 Saturday, but the newcomers stepped up. Boron notched five points in her first game, including three free throws. Cheng made some important stops and picked up a man-to-man defense without any practice.

After Craig initially shut down Haines ball-handlers, the girls responded well by learning to set screens, said coach Greg Brittenham. “Our team made the adjustments to counter that. That’s really encouraging for a coach to see that they have that level of understanding.”

In addition, upperclassmen Bradford and Marissa Haddock helped younger players keep cool under the pressure of their first varsity game, Brittenham said.

“It’s great. One of the things I see – especially with the seniors – they’ve stepped up to show leadership and help younger players learn the game. One reason Haley made her shots is the seniors told her to calm down and have fun,” Brittenham said.

Brittenham said there’s unity on the team that should help performance through the season. “These girls get along together. They’re keeping the drama down and having a good experience. I want them to love basketball when they’re done high school. I don’t want it to be a drudgery thing.”

“There are other lessons to be learned, and still win games along the way. I want them to believe in themselves and be leaders and have confidence and self-esteem,” Brittenham said.

Players this week seemed to be picking up on that message. Bradford, who led Haines with a total of 14 points in the games, said her goals for the season include improving her post play and helping younger players. “I want to be a good leader. It’s about helping other players get their shots and points in front of a hometown crowd.”

Sophomore Evenden said a team spirit is evident. “I think everyone is going to work really hard to work together. I think we can do good things as a team. We have a lot of new players, but they’re learning quickly.”

Haines scoring Friday included Bradford, 8, Haley Boron, 5, and 2 points each by Marissa Haddock, Evenden, Crager and Miranda Haddock. On Saturday, Bradford scored 6, Boron, 2, and Miranda Haddock, 2.

High scorers for Craig were Mary Bolling on Friday and Aspen Hansen on Saturday.

Haines squads finished last in 2A last season. The division includes Craig, Wrangell, Petersburg and Metlakatla.