By Craig Giammona
Sentinel Staff Writer
The Mt. Edgecumbe High Lady Braves took care of business Jan. 28-29 at B.J. McGillis Gymnasium, sweeping a pair of conference games against Wrangell.
The two easy victories improved the Lady Braves to 2-2 in conference play and ended a long drought for coach Carl Blackhurst.
The Lady Braves, now 3-8 overall on the season, beat Nikiski back in December, but hadn’t won a game since. The streak ended with a 57-23 win Jan. 28, and the Lady Braves made it two in a row Jan.29, winning 58-34.
“The girls did a nice job running their offense and finding each other and getting open looks,” Blackhurst said. “We talked a lot about executing and doing what we had to do and not worrying about the other team.”
Wrangell fell to 0-6 in conference play with the two losses. Prior to the Jan. 28 game against Wrangell the Lady Braves had last played Jan. 15, when they lost to Petersburg.
After a weekend off, the Lady Braves came out hot Friday night and surged to a 28-11 halftime lead. Brandi Hale, a junior from Hooper Bay, led the first-half offensive onslaught, going 4-4 from behind the three-point arc. Hale ended up with 14 points, all in the first half.
Hoonah senior Kristin Johanson added 14 points of her own and had 9 rebounds, as the Lady Braves controlled the glass against Wrangell. Brenna Johanson, a Hoonah junior, had 4 points and 9 boards and Scarlett Beaver, a freshman from Kotzebue, added 8 points.
Saturday’s game got off to a sluggish start Ð MEHS led 9-6 after the first quarter Ð but the Lady Braves put the game away in the third quarter and once again won by more than 20 points.
Leading 25-18 at the half, the Lady Braves, led by Kristin Johanson, poured it on in the third as the Wrangell offense ran out of steam.
Loni Bunness had 15 points and 12 boards for Wrangell in the loss, but the Lady Braves were too much for the Lady Wolves for the second straight night.
Mariah Martin, a sophomore from Hoonah, had 14 for MEHS, while Kristin Johanson had 8 points and 7 boards. Blackhurst said the Lady Braves’ rebounding advantage was a big part of the two victories. They controlled the offensive glass and started their fast break off Wrangell misses.
Blackhurst said the bye week helped the Lady Braves. Coming off a state title in 2010, Blackhurst is trying to mold a roster of inexperienced varsity players into a team that can compete in March and qualify for the state tournament.
Blackhurst said he expects to get a tougher challenge when the Craig Lady Panthers will visit B.J. McGillis. Craig, sitting at 6-0 in the conference, is coming off two wins over Haines, including a game in which they scored 70 points.
“We have to contain some folks this weekend,” Blackhurst said. “I’ve felt the last few years that Craig was very dangerous. (They have) a lot of athletic kids, size and speed. They’re all in great shape. When you have a team that has been playing together for five or six years, that’s a combo for a pretty tough team.”
He added: “I’m curious to see how we do this weekend. It’ll be our barometer.”
Craig is undefeated in conference play, but has yet to face Petersburg, Sitka High or Mt. Edgecumbe. Petersburg is sitting atop the conference standings at 7-1.
The Lady Braves will play this Friday and Saturday at B.J. McGillis, the only games on the local calendar for this weekend. Both Sitka High teams have the weekend off, in deference to the Sitka High Jazz Festival. The Edgecumbe boys will play in Craig.The Region V tournament tips off in Juneau a month from now and the Lady Braves have eight conference games remaining. After hosting Craig, they’ll travel to Metlakatla and Haines for games, before playing a home-and-away series with Sitka High Feb. 25 and 26. The 3A Region V tournament opens March 2.