Co-captain Ari’el Godinez Long, a junior, practices dribbling at the beginning of a practice. Coach Coleman Stanford (far right) said the team is focused on mastering basic skills this year. The Glacier Bears are traveling to Whitehorse this weekend for a scrimmage tournament to get their first taste of competition before a conference tournament in Juneau on Dec. 15. Photos by Lex Treinen.

Girls basketball coach Coleman Stanford said he’s keeping things simple this year after the Glacier Bears’ successful 14-6 record and run to the state tournament last year, the first time they’d qualified for the tournament in more than 20 years.

Their goal this year? Winning.

“We’re not trying to complicate things,” he said. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Stanford, in his fifth year as head coach, is leading a team of mixed ages. Seniors Gracie Stickler and Raven Hotch are returning and will co-captain, along with junior Ari’el Godinez Long. The small team has

only nine players. Stanford said he’s been trying to recruit more athletes this year after a few players from last year decided to focus their energy on other activities.

Practices run two grueling hours every weekday evening from 6-8 p.m. Trips can last as long as 11 days.

“It’s a big ask,” he said.

But, being on a small team comes with benefits.

“It honestly makes it easier when you’re trying to navigate through who gets playing time,” he said.

Stanford, who grew up playing basketball in Haines, said he’s taking his focus-on-the-basics philosophy to training, too. Practices include lots of time spent on basic skill sets: dribbling, ball handling, shooting and conditioning.