With just 50 seconds left before the buzzer, the Haines girls basketball team found itself in an uncomfortable position: down by one point to Wrangell, a team they’d handily beat in the past. 

Ari’el Godinez Long drives to the basket during a game against the Metlakatla Miss Chiefs. The Glacier Bears fell to the top-ranked Chiefs, but Godinez Long said the team played well. “By the end of it, every girl was in the locker room on the ground — couldn’t even hold themselves up because we were running so hard,” said the co-captain. (James Poulson/Sitka Sentinel)

Coach Coleman Stanford called a timeout and drew up a play. 

“Our mindsets were like ‘We played this team before’,” said senior Gracie Stickler, a team co-captain. “That was a very stressful game — I was stressing for most of it.”

As the clock ticked down, Stickler threw an inbound pass to Ari’el Godinez Long at the top of the 3-point line. Godinez Long passed to her left to find sharpshooter Emma Dohrn, who threw a neat bounce to Stickler. The center had cut across the court to find her way to the paint and pushed under her defender for an easy layup. 

The team took a 43-42 lead, which it held onto for the rest of the game. 

“I think we definitely didn’t have the intensity that we should have to secure our expectation,” said Stanford. “We were a little bit slow, a little bit lackluster.”

Co-captain Ari’el Godinez Long was more blunt. 

“We walked in there thinking ‘We got this,’ and then just kind of got punched in the mouth a little bit,” said Godinez Long. 

Still, the early scare was enough to shake out the cobwebs for the second-ranked Glacier Bears after a long day of ferry travel to Sitka. 

The team bounced back with a strong team performance against the top-seeded 2A team in Region V, Metlakatla. The Glacier Bears kept close with the deep-benched Metlakatla before fading in the final quarter. The team lost 48-71. 

“We did exactly what we were told to do, what we wanted to do, and it just wasn’t quite there,” said Godinez Long. 

In their final game of the tournament, the Glacier Bears put on another strong showing to beat Craig, 65-53. While the Bears won handily, the game was far from easy, especially after Stickler fouled out in the last quarter. Freshman Sydney Salmon stepped into the big shoes of co-captain Stickler to defend one of Craig’s top post players. 

Ashlyn Ganey takes a shot during a game against the Metlakatle Miss Chiefs. (James Poulson/Sitka Sentinel)

“That was huge for Syd to come out and do that as a freshman,” said Stanford. 

The team also got a boost from another bench player, Ava Graham, who hit back-to-back threes to control a Craig run. The performance was enough for the team to punch a second-place finish in the regional tournament. 

Along the way, Emma Dohrn, Godinez Long and Raven Hotch were named to the All Conference team, Ashlyn Ganey and Sydney Salmon were awarded good sports awards.

After wrapping up at regionals, the team braced for a whirlwind of travel, beginning with a 2 a.m. ferry ride from Sitka back to Haines on Sunday. By Monday afternoon, the girls had sat through a full day of classes, cramming homework and working out schedules with their teachers before a light practice. 

At 6:30 p.m, the team was hard at work auctioning off power tools, jewelry, quilts and baked goods donated by community members to raise money for plane tickets to Anchorage in order to avoid a longer travel day on the Alcan Highway.  Stanford said along with direct donations, the fundraiser was enough to make up for the additional cost of flights which he called “truly humbling.” 

Ava Graham shows off desserts during a live auction on Monday, March 11 to raise money for the girls basketball team to fly to Anchorage. The team raised more than $6,000 in a day in between travel. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

The team faces a tough opening match on Thursday against Tikigaq, the top-seeded team in the tournament, Tikigaq, the school from the North Slope community of Point Hope. 

“We’ve never played them, and that’s a little intimidating,” said Godinez Long, “But also, we’ve played Albuquerque, New Mexico, so I think we can play Tikigaq.”

The team is hoping to use its tight bond and mixed ages to its advantage. Godinez Long, a junior, said she’s been enjoying stepping into a leadership role for younger teammates after being guided through her early years by her older sister. The team has its own group chat that it uses to share TikToks of plays they hope to run next season. 

The team also keeps Instagram and TikTok accounts and shares goofy videos that include parodies of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (called “Twas the night before regions”) and a their own take on the “Of course” TikTok trend (“We live in Haines of course it takes 2-3 days to travel somewhere to games,” and “We live in Haines of course when we go in the grocery store we get 50 comments of how to do better in our next game.”

“We really like to make each other really just goofy,” said Godinez Long. “I think we work well together and we’re a tight group of people.” 

Glacier Bears take on Tikigaq at 4:45 p.m. on March 14. Games will be broadcast on KHNS and streamed from the ASAA website.