Haines Glacier Bear boys and girls lost four straight games against the Metlakatla Chiefs and Misschiefs over the weekend, but coaches say both squads showed bright spots. 

“If we would have made 25% more free throws on Saturday, we woulda won,” said girls’ coach Coleman Stanford. The team lost by five points on Saturday. 

For the boys, the problems both nights came in the first quarter. On Saturday, they were behind 14-0 after one quarter on a night they lost by 16 points, 33-51.

“They’re beatable,” said coach James Hart. “I think every team in the conference that we’ve faced, we know we could beat them, we’re just figuring out how to put it all together.”

The girls lost their Friday and Saturday night games by 30-56 and 46-51, respectively. Saturday’s game was tight until the end, with the Bears pulling back from a deficit to within just two points with 30 seconds to go. An unfortunate turnover in the final seconds cost them their chance at a win against the Misschiefs, who have had one of the strongest teams in the conference for the past few years. 

Gracie Stickler and Ari’el Godinez Long defend during
Gracie Stickler and Ari’el Godinez Long defend during Saturday’s game. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

Stanford said the team sunk about 50% of their free throws on Saturday, which he hoped to improve on for the next games. He said the team started out the season shooting 30 free throws every practice and recently bumped that up to 50 per practice. Still, he said, shooting 50% was a big improvement from last year when free throw makes were sometimes in the single digits. 

“They are improving, but it’s hard to replicate that live game moment when you’re tired and trying to stay out of your head,” Stanford said. 

Stanford singled out the grittiness of Gracie Stickler, who was playing with an injured back. 

“She [has] really just been a warrior,” said Stanford.

The Metlakatla boys were undefeated in conference play last season, and largely towered over the Glacier Bears, who started a young team made up of four sophomores and a junior. 

Hart said despite the height disadvantage of the Bears, the biggest difference was experience. 

“Really, it just comes down to confidence and who wants to win the game, and for Metlakatla, they’ve had years to build that up inside them,” said Hart. 

Hart said that his team was focused on getting his big players — Kruze Nettleton and James Stickler — closer to the basket, which opens up more space for the shooters: Colton Combs, Alex Weersinghe and Phoenix Swanner, who was out of the weekend games with a sprained ankle. 

The teams head to Wrangell this weekend, where Hart said he expects a strong zone defense and a full court press in at least one of the games. 

“They try to get teams out of their regular rhythms, create chaos and then get quick passes and quick shots. If we can trust one another and remain calm, we’ll do fine,” said Hart.