The 2011-12 Mt. Edgecumbe Braves gather for a photo during a recent practice. Pictured, back row, from left: Cody Sherman, Jaylin Prince, Dominique Hall, Theodore Cantrell and Kacy Green. Picture front row, from left: Calvin Frankson, Vance Gregory, Bryan Nick, Justin Miller, Leo Ford and Kenny Jackson. (Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)
Courtesy Daily Sitka Sentinel
The 2011-12 Mt. Edgecumbe Braves are 3-3 as they prepare to play their first games of the season at home. The Braves will host Thunder Mountain at B.J. McGillis Gymnasium Jan. 20-21, their final games before diving head-first in the conference schedule. The Braves were 2-1 during a December tournament in Soldotna and went 1-2 during a recent tournament at Thunder Mountain in Juneau.
The Braves opened the Thunder Mountain tourney with a loss 56-26 to Palmer, then beat Thunder Mountain 40-32 before falling to West Valley 47-32.
Pointing to the low scoring total, MEHS coach Archie said the team struggled offensively. "The only thing that saved was we played very hard defensively," Young said. "We started off playing harder than when we started but we have to be a heck of a lot smarter."
Dominique Hall led the Braves with 10 points in the loss to Palmer, while Kacy Green and Jaylin Prince had 8 each. Hall had 13 in the win over Thunder Mountain, with Green scoring 13 and Leo Ford and Bryan Nick adding 5 apiece. Hall finished out the tournament with 13 points in the loss to West Valley.
Hall, a junior from Nome, is the lone returning starter for the Braves this season. Seniors Jaylin Prince and Cody Sherman were also key rotation players on a team that went undefeated in conference play, won the 3A Region V title and beat Juneau-Douglas in the crossover game, but otherwise, coach Young's varsity squad is new.
“Right now, we’re trying to learn to mesh,” Young said recently. “I feel like our starting five is very solid. We just have to work on those second-tier guys."
After the games against Thunder Mountain Jan. 20-21, the Braves will play a string of seven conference games in 12 nights. Six of those games will be at home, with Petersburg, Wrangell and Craig visiting Japonski Island for two games each. Those teams will enter a B.J. McGillis Gymnasium that got a long awaited facelift during the Christmas break. New lights were installed at the notoriously dim fieldhouse, and new backboards and gyms also went up. The floors are freshly polished. The Braves will cross the bridge to play undefeated Sitka during their seven-game stretch, which comprises more than half of the Braves’ conference schedule. In February, the Braves will visit Metlakatla and Haines before wrapping up the regular season at SHS Feb. 22.
Last year’s squad had a state title on its mind, but with leading scorer Travante Williams out and four-year senior Sean Melovidov under the weather, the Braves ran into a tough Anchorage Christian School team in the first round and slipped into the consolation bracket. ACS went on to upset Monroe Catholic in the state championship game. This time around, the Braves are hoping to get back to the state tournament. And they might draw inspiration from the 2010 Braves. That team lost its best player late in the season but rallied for a shocking run through the Region V brackets. After an overtime loss in the Region V title game to a Haines team that went on to win state, the Braves beat Metlakatla in the state play-in game and earned the trip to Anchorage for more March basketball. Both Hall and Green, a junior guard from Hooper Bay who has stepped into the starting lineup after seeing limited varsity time a year ago, said the Braves were focused “on the conference and regions.” hey expressed confidence that players on the current roster could step up and fill the voids left by the departure of the top four players from a year ago.
“We kind of have a new slate,” said Green.
And when asked how they would compete in a tough region with a re-made roster, they answered in unison: “Hustle more.”
Young echoed that message. “We have to play smarter and harder than our opponents every night,” he said.
Leo Ford, a sophomore from Hooper Bay, has been starting for Edgecumbe, and the lefty guard scored 18 points in one of the tournament games at SoHi. Calvin Frankson, a senior from Point Hope, also figures prominently in Young’s plans this season, and is slotted as the team’s sixth man. Theodore Cantrell, Vance Gregory, Bryan Nick and Kenny Jackson round out the varsity roster for MEHS.
Last season, it was clear in the early going that the Braves were the team to beat in Southeast. And they didn’t disappoint. A 9-point loss to Sitka was the team’s closest conference game and they won two out of three against regional power JDHS. This year promises to be different, with the early attention in the conference falling on teams other than MEHS. That was the case in 2010 too.