- By RICHARD LARSON
- Daily News Sports Editor
- The 3A boys and girls basketball tournaments tip off Wednesday at the Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium, but the Sitka teams don’t need to be ready to play until Thursday.
Both Sitka teams earned No. 1 seeds and first-round byes in the seven-team, double-elimination tournament that will send a pair of teams on to state.
The Sitka girls went unbeaten in conference play, posting a 12-0 mark, including a pair of wins over crosstown rival Mt. Edgecumbe this past weekend.
The losses by Mt. Edgecumbe allowed the Craig girls to jump up and snare the No. 2 seed in the region. Both Craig and Mt. Edgecumbe finished with 8-4 conference records, and they split their head-to-head series, but Craig won its game by a score of 61-36, while Mt. Edgecumbe’s victory was by a 47-40 score.
Craig earned a first-round matchup against Petersburg, but the Panthers aren’t taking anything for granted against a Vikings squad that managed just one conference win. That win happened to come against Mt. Edgecumbe.
Mt. Edgecumbe plays Metlakatla (4-8), and Haines (5-7) meets Wrangell (4-8) in other first-round girls games.
“Really the region is pretty even. Everybody’s had good games,” Craig coach Vanessa James said. “I think every team is beatable. It just depends on the mindset of the kids playing in the game. Every kid just has to go out with the intentions of playing hard, playing good basketball, and let the winning take care of itself.”
The Panthers most recent games came against Metlakatla, where they pulled out a pair of close wins by scored of 57-52 and 60-53. Six of Metlakatla’s eight conference losses have come by 10 points or less, influding four by five points or less.
“They matched up really well with us. Both games came right down to the end of the game,” James said. “They hit timely shots.”
Craig has been led by senior Melissa Castle, who has signed to play at the University of Alaska Anchorage next year, but James said her team needs rely on other players beside Castle.
“We’re going to be small. We match up differently with different teams,” James said. “The girls have been playing great. I like for all five of my players on the court to be a threat, to be looking for shots. It takes all of us to win. All five girls need to be aggressive.”
On the boys side, Sitka went 11-1 during the conference season with the only blemish a 55-48 loss to Craig. The Wolves have had some other close calls, including wins over Mt. Edgecumbe by score of 46-42 and 66-63.
Haines and Mt. Edgecumbe each finished the regular-season with 8-4 records, and they split their two-game series, but Haines grabbed the No. 2 seed in the tournament by virtue of beating the Braves by 12 points, while losing by only nine.
Haines opens tournament play against Wrangell, which went 0-12 in conference play, but lost two games by a point, including a 48-47 loss to Haines. Wrangell even gave the top-seeded Sitka Wolves a scare in one game before falling 62-56.
Mt. Edgecumbe meets Petersburg (2-10) in the opening round. Metlakatla (7-5) and Craig (6-6) meet in the other opening game. Metlakatla and Craig met last week with the Chiefs sweeping by scores of 73-42 and 76-63 to jump ahead of the Panthers in the standings.