Daily Sitka Sentinel
They’ve made two trips to state, and have seen a bit of everything in tournament play since joining the 3A Southeast Conference before the 2008-09 season.
In 2010, the Wolves fell on a buzzer-beater by Metlakatla. Last year, the Wolves rebounded from a loss in the Region V championship game to beat a scrappy Wrangell team and earn a trip to state.
That first year, at the 2009 tournament, the Wolves were upset in the first-round by seventh-seeded Mt. Edgecumbe. It was the first year of the new double elimination format, and the Wolves gave the consolation bracket a test drive. They won four straight games, including two in one day, to make state.
Since then, SHS coach Andy Lee has preached the importance of winning the regular season title and getting a first-round bye at regionals.
“I never wanted to do it again,” Lee said this week, recalling the Wolves’ 2009 run.
The Wolves are right where they want to be in 2012. With a 19-3 overall record, including an 11-1 mark in the conference, the Wolves are the top seed at the 3A Region V tournament. They earned a first-round bye and will play either Craig or Metlakatla Thursday at 4:45 p.m. in Ketchikan.
Lee said he wasn’t too worried about his players getting stale while they wait for their first game. The Wolves and Lady Wolves left town shortly before noon today on Alaska Airlines Flight 62 and both will wait until Thursday afternoon to take the court.
For Lee, it’s a good problem. After three years of battling on the backside of the bracket, he’s hoping the Wolves can win two straight and take the easy road to a regional title.
“You worry about different things,” Lee said. “It’s nice to worry about beating a team three times in a row...We’re not putting in any new plays. It’s about tweaking what works.”
Lee was referring to the old adage that it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season. The phrase is most popular in the NFL, where division rivals meet twice in the regular season, and sometimes in the playoffs.
There are seven teams in the 3A Southeast boys conference, and the Wolves beat five of them twice this season. Their lone blemish came to Craig at the end of a four-game road trip.
Lee said the Wolves were mostly focused on taking care of their business. As the top seed, the SHS boys enter the tournament knowing they can win the school’s first regional title since 2002 by executing their game plan, regardless of who they face. Lee pointed to the Wolves’ grueling February schedule, which included a road trip to Barrow and a stretch of four conference road games in four nights, as evidence that the Wolves are battle-tested.
“We’ve played in front of hostile crowds,” Lee said. “We’ve overcome a lot of obstacles to get where we are and we’re going to keep overcoming.”
The Wolves have been a dynamic offensive team this season, with starters Bae Widmier, Mik Potrzuski, Hunter Lee, Jon De La Cruz and Devan Romine each taking a turn leading the team in scoring. Potrzuski led the way offensively in the early part of the season but as teams have focused their defensive energies on him, Romine has stepped up with the hot hand in recent weeks. Widmier seems to get a double-double most nights and gives Sitka an athletic post presence.
The Wolves, favored to win their first 3A Southeast title in school history, are the biggest team in the conference and probably the most athletic.
Lee admitted that he expects to see Mt. Edgecumbe in the Region V championship game in what would be a rematch of last year’s final.
The championship game is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Friday.
The Braves will play Petersburg in the first-round at 4:45 p.m. tomorrow, with a potential second-round game against Haines or Wrangell.
The Braves were 13-8 overall on the season and 8-4 in the conference. But their resume includes a win over Juneau-Douglas and two close losses to Sitka High, including a 59-56 defeat last week at SHS. The Braves had fourth quarter leads in both regular season games against Sitka and there’s a sense that the Braves might have the best chance to knock off Sitka this week.
Mt. Edgecumbe always seems to play Sitka tough, particularly at the Southeast tournament.
MEHS has been a touch inconsistent this season and the health of starter Dominique Hall remains a question. Hall hurt his ankle in the game last week against Sitka High and is listed as “day-to-day.” Edgecumbe has gotten by with a thin rotation in 2012, but if Hall can’t go, the Braves will need Kacy Green, Cody Sherman, Jaylin Prince and Leo Ford to step up.
Green has blossomed into a leader for the Braves this season. With his fearless attacks on the rim, the junior point guard from Hooper Bay, who got limited varsity minutes last season, has taken over as the Braves’ leading scorer of late. Prince is a strong post presence for coach Archie Young’s team and both Ford and Sherman have had 20 point games this season.
The Braves are disciplined, play a tough match-up zone and move the ball well offensively. They’ve had lulls in some games this season, but are tough to beat when they’re focused and playing well.
In addition to dropping two games to Sitka, the Braves lost conference games to Haines and Metlakatla this season.
The Region V games will be broadcast locally on KIFW, 1230 AM. The games will be also be streamed live at kayhibasketball.com.