Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Basketball fans may want to head to the Thunder Mountain High School gym on Thursday at 6 p.m. if they hope to catch a glimpse of the Falcons boys team in action as the next chance won’t be available until February.
The Falcons schedule is such that they are on the road until Juneau-Douglas brings their sneakers over on Feb. 4-5. TMHS (1-2) has lost to Chugiak 52-49, defeated Cordova 65-28, and lost to Nome 61-52, all at the Service Cougar Tip-Off Classic in mid-December, but their doors are always open and the Petersburg Vikings will be welcomed in on Thursday as they pass through town toward Haines.
“They are always one of the top 2A teams in the state every year,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “It is fun to play against another southeast school and one we have a ton of respect for. Coach (Rick) Brock always puts together a really strong program.”
Petersburg is 2-6 on the year but played in Ketchikan’s Clarke Cochrane Classic last week which featured 5A Oregon power Wilsonville, 4A Anchorage power South, 3A state contender Valdez, 2A state power Unalakleet, 3A Metlakatla, 2A Hydaburg and 4A host Ketchikan.
The Vikings only had six games last season (four conference and two tournament) and have graduated some top players including 2A Player of the Year Brennan Skeek. Petersburg coach Rick Brock was voted the 2A Coach of the Year last season.
“We don’t have a ton of experience,” Brock said. “But it is kind of the Viking pride thing. We always try and work hard and play well on the defensive end and leave everything on the court.”
At the Ketchikan tournament Petersburg lost to South 66-23, lost to Wilsonville 59-13, lost to Unalakleet 68-57 and defeated 3A Hutchison 50-30. Playing another 2A power was helpful as the Vikings look to reach state again. They have also defeated Glennallen 48-39 and lost to Sitka 53-43.
“Unalakleet has a couple kids that have started for four years,” Brock said. “They really play well on the defensive end and they shoot the ball well. We played pretty well, we were tied at the half and had the lead in the third quarter. It was great for us to see one of the quality teams in the state at the 2A level. We have had the chance to play some really good competition to start the season. We hope to show up and play well as always.”
The Vikings get a lot of their punch from senior leading scorer Michael Durkin and classmate Lathum Johnson, the only two players with floor experience as there was also no junior varsity season for the Vikings last year.
“But one of our strengths, I believe, is going to be our balance,” Brock said. “Hopefully get contributions from a lot of different players and also be able to play eight or nine guys in a game and not lose much. I’m hoping that pans out. That’s the way it looks in practice so far and in games guys are starting to get more comfortable on the floor and hopefully as they get more experience they start to play better. You can see them getting confidence as they get on the floor more and more.”
Thunder Mountain will travel to Ketchikan for games on Friday and Saturday.
“I wish we had more games under us before we go down there for two pretty important conference games,” Falcons coach Blasco said. “We are excited to get down there and get back on the court because it has been almost a month. The guy are itching to be playing.”
Blasco said Ketchikan runs a variety of offensive strategies and are well coached.
“There is no way to get settled in an easy defense against them,” he said. “And they disrupt a lot of what you are doing with how they defend. And the way they filter you it makes it hard to run your sets properly. They are a very challenging team. They can put up the ball and shoot at a high percentage very quickly on you. In one game we watched they had five starters all with two 3’s, which is pretty impressive.”
Blasco noted the Falcons are impressing him in practice.
“Just the attention to detail,” he said. “They guys are working hard. We’re putting in new stuff and they are focused and taking it all in. Just hopeful that it translates onto the court and we can execute and see how things go.”
The Kings (5-2) just finished hosting their annual Clarke Cochrane Classic tournament and went 3-1, defeating Unalakleet 81-70 and Hydaburg 59-13 but losing to South 59-49 before defeating Valdez 55-47 for third place. Wilsonville defeated South 56-42 for the championship.
“We played some really good teams,” Ketchikan coach Eric Stockhausen said. “Unalakleet is really good 2A, they will have a chance at that state title. Valdez is top three in 3A and South is, arguably, one of the top two or three Anchorage teams. I wasn’t upset with it because the effort was there but there’s a reason you practice every single day and when you don’t you don’t shoot the ball well, you don’t handle the ball well. You’re just not sharp. The effort was great. The execution will improve with more time on the court at practice.”
The Kings hadn’t had a full practice since Dec. 12 due to COVID mitigations after attending the Wasilla Doc Larson Roundball Classic where they lost to Colony 71-66, but defeated Bartlett 73-48 and Wasilla 71-48.
Stockhausen said they will be prepared for TMHS.
“We know Thomas (Baxter) is one of the best players in the state,” he said. “Sam (Lockhart) the shooting guard is playing very well at a high level. Thunder Mountain is playing very hard and playing with some pace, some tempo. And they always compete. Coach Blasco does a good job of getting those kids to play hard and by all accounts this group is too. They spread the floor well and they get out and run so we’ll have to play well to be successful.”
Ketchikan is deep. According to Stockhausen nine players traveled and played and had success at the Doc Larson. Each of them had state tournament experience from last year as well.
Stockhausen said junior JJ Parker is “at another level,” junior Clayton Olstad “has added quite a bit to his repertoire,” and junior Joeben Lorenzo “has been really solid for us. By the time I’m done I will have named all my kids. They may not hear it from me but we have made a lot of strides.”
Stockhausen noted sophomore post Jared Rhoads is improving on a daily basis and compliments the roster filled with senior post Josh Rhoads, senior Zach Hanchey, junior Archie Dundas and sophomore Andrew Kleinschmidt-Guthrie among others.
Stockhausen said the Kings have shot 43 % from beyond the arch at the Doc Larson and held teams to 30 % but at the Clarke Cochrane “We shot 30 %. It’s a long process but I think our guys are putting forth the mental work it takes to improve. Now we just need to catch back up physically and keep progressing.”
At the Clarke Cochrane the Kings had five players in double figures against Unalakleet and a sixth with nine points. They hit 11 and 12 shots from past the arch in back-to-back games. In the two games lost they hit five and eight from the arch.
“Before those last two games we were hitting 10 three’s a game coming from five different guys,” Stockhausen said.