By Craig Giammona
Courtesy Daily Sitka Sentinel
The Mt. Edgecumbe Braves are off to fast start in the 2010-11 season, compiling a 7-2 record that includes two conference victories and wins over four 4A teams.
The Braves, sporting a roster with some new faces, are attracting attention in the local basketball community, in large part because of a recent win over Juneau-Douglas. The Braves also have a victory over Soldotna, a perennially tough Kenai peninsula team.
But MEHS coach Archie Young said the Braves still have a lot of work to do in 2011.
“We haven’t really played that well,” Young said, before the Braves left town for a three-game road trip. He said the main issues for the Braves are teamwork and chemistry.
“It’s early. We’re definitely talented. If we can become a team, I think we could be really good,” Young said.
The Braves opened their conference schedule with two road wins over Petersburg. The Braves beat Thunder Mountain during the trip south, then topped the vikings twice, including a 59-58 overtime win Jan. 15 The win came a night after the Braves cruised past Petersburg 74-55.
The Braves are coming off a roller coaster season. In their final conference game of 2010, they lost their best player Daniel Peters to a serious leg injury. After three games in Kotzebue, the team surged through the Region V tournament with a fast-paced style of play and nearly knocked off undefeated Haines in the Southeast championship game. The Braves regrouped, beat Metlakatla in a state play-in game a day later and ended up fifth in the 3A state tournament.
Coach Young lost his promising point guard John Peterson, who didn’t return to MEHS after spending his freshman year on Japonski Island, but has added two transfers from Anchorage to a roster that includes a pair of four-year seniors, Sean Melovidov and Zach Ivanoff. Ivanoff missed the end of the wrestling season after having an appendectomy and returned to practice this week.
Both Ivanoff and Cody Sherman, a junior from Nome who got some minutes last year, missed a January tournament in Kodiak, and Young said it was encouraging to have those players back in the fold.
“It was pleasing to get those results without Zach and Cody,” Young said.
Melovidov, the team’s captain, was the Braves’ leading scorer after Peters went down this last season. A wing player who can shoot from the outside and slash to the basket, Melovidov is expected to play an important role for the Braves in 2011.
Asked about how the Braves managed to get better after losing Peters last year, Melovidov replied: “The failure to quit.”
“We just had the attitude that we had nothing to lose,” the senior from St. Paul Island said.
Melovidov and Ivanoff have been around Edgecumbe’s Japonski Island campus for a few years and have been tasked with helping Anchorage transfers Savion Waters and Travante Williams adapt to Southeast basketball.
Williams and Waters have been Edgecumbe’s leading scorers thus far, with Melovidov not far behind. All three have been averaging in double figures, according to statistics available to the Sentinel.
Williams led all scorers with 20 points in a recent win over Thunder Mountain.
“We have some options offensively,” Young said, perhaps with a touch of understatement.
Coach Young said he also is expecting to get good minutes out of Dominique Hall, a sophomore from Nome, who brings some size to the floor.
Kacy Green, a sophomore guard from Hooper Bay, should also see some time for the Braves.
Young said the Braves have established five team goals, though he was only willing to name four. The first goal could be a good indication of how Young feels about his team: do not underestimate opponents. The next three goals were related: play their best basketball in March, win the conference and win the Southeast tournament.
Young, in his 12th year leading the Braves, said the final goal “depends on the others” and left it at that. But Melovidov wasn’t shy about setting the bar high for Edgecumbe.
In 2010, Melovidov went to the state tournament for the first time. He wants to go back this year, and he wants to leave with a trophy.
“I would like to win state,” Melovidov said with a smile, adding that the Braves are “still coming together.”
Mt. Edgecumbe doesn’t have much size, and Young said they would “play to their strengths,” which probably means they’ll push the ball and play pressure defense. After the Braves’ 47-42 win over the Crimson Bears in Kodiak, JDHS coach Steve Potter told the Juneau Empire his team struggled against Edgecumbe’s 2-3 zone.
Young said he expects the 3A Southeast conference to be tough. He pointed out that Sitka has size inside and said the Wolves “could be a lot to handle.”
Craig, Wrangell, Haines, Petersburg and Metlakatla should all be solid, with parity seemingly the rule for 3A Southeast in 2011.
The Braves will be in Wrangell for conference games Jan. 28-29. The Braves will stop in Juneau for a rematch against the Crimson Bears on their way south. They’ll make a trip to Craig before finally playing their home opener Feb. 11 against Metlakatla. Edgecumbe will also host Haines before heading to Juneau for the Region V tournament.
The Mt. Edgecumbe Braves 2011 basketball team takes a quick break from practice earlier this month to pose for a photograph. (Photo by James Poulson, Daily Sitka Sentinel)