Daily Sitka Sentinel
It was the first conference loss of the season for the Wolves and just their second defeat at the hands of a 3A team.
Still, a loss by Mt. Edgecumbe at Haines Saturday, meant the Wolves had clinched the 3A Southeast regular season title and earned a first-round bye at the Region V tournament, which opens Feb. 29 in Ketchikan.
SHS coach Andy Lee said the Wolves were aware of Edgecumbe’s defeat and took a few moments to celebrate their regular season title Saturday, despite their loss.
The Wolves beat Craig 89-75 Friday and are now 18-3 overall and 10-1 in the Southeast Conference. The Wolves will host Mt. Edgecumbe Wednesday to close out the regular season. The game is technically meaningless for the Wolves, but Lee said his players want to beat their crosstown rivals and head into the postseason with some momentum.
“Our seniors are focused,” Lee said. “They’re not going to let the rest of the team lose focus at this point.”
The Wolves left town last Tuesday, heading south for a grueling four-game stretch against Wrangell and Craig. And with those schools set to drop down to 2A next season, it’s not clear when, or if, the Wolves will visit those towns again.
The SHS boys headed south with an undefeated conference record, and Lee said Wrangell and Craig played the games with urgency as they sought an upset on the eve of the postseason.
The Wolves beat Wrangell twice, then knocked off Craig in a track meet Friday night on Prince of Wales. Fatigue finally caught up the Wolves Saturday. Lee said the Wolves were down 3 without a minute to go in the game but couldn’t get a shot to fall.
“We got a couple of looks, they just didn’t go,” Lee said.
D.J. Almenzor led Craig with a game-high 19 points, while Karl Benloken had 17 for the Panthers.
Sitka got 12 points from Mik Potrzuski, 11 from Bae Widmier and 10 from Brian Way.
In Friday’s game, Sitka had six scorers in double figures. Devan Romine led the way with 22 points and Widmier dropped 20. Jon De La Cruz and Way had 17 each, Potrzuski scored 13 and Kendrick Payton had 10.
Coach Lee said Way scored 11 of his 17 in the fourth quarter as Sitka iced the game.
Almenzor led all scorers Friday with 38. Lee said the Craig forward shot 15 free throws, compared to 12 for Sitka as a team.
After Wednesday’s game against Mt. Edgecumbe, the Wolves will have a few days to get ready for the Region V tournament.
“We’re ready,” Lee said. “It’s a matter now of getting fresh legs. I think we know everything we need to know, we just have to fine tune it.”
The Wolves are seeking their first Region V title since dropping down to the 3A conference. Petersburg, Haines and Mt. Edgecumbe have won the last three titles. The Wolves finished second in the conference in 2009 and 2011, earning trips to state in both years. Sitka’s last Southeast crown came in 2001, as a 4A schools.
The Wolves, with their regular season title, have earned a first-round bye at Region V and will await the winner of a game Feb. 29 between the fourth and fifth seeds in the conference. That game will feature Craig and Metlakatla, meaning the Wolves could see the Panthers in the second round.
Mt. Edgecumbe, meanwhile, comes into Wednesday’s game at 13-7 overall and 8-3 in the conference after splitting two games in Haines.
The Glacier Bears finished the season 8-4 in Southeast play and hold the tiebreaker over the Braves by virtue of a 54-42 win Saturday night. Edgecumbe will finish second in the conference with a win over Sitka, or third with a loss. The difference? A first-round game at Region V against Petersburg or Wrangell.
Sitka High (10-1)
Games remaining: Craig vs. Metlakatla and Sitka vs. MEHS