JUNEAU, ALASKA (KINY) - In any other season, Region V basketball coaches would have had their players in more than 20 games, in at least 10 different gyms, against opponents both familiar and dissimilar. COVID-19 proved to be a tough referee, cancelling games and travel across the state. Region V 4A championship coaches Kelly Smith, of tourney host Ketchikan, and opposing coach Andy Lee of Thunder Mountain commented on preparing for Saturday’s final games.
“In this odd year where we haven’t seen a lot of different styles, we are not changing a lot of things. We are just trying to fine tune what we do,” Smith, who coaches Ketchikan's Lady Kings, said. “Make sure we focus on controlling what we can control and not worrying about the other things.”
In a typical year, Smith's team would have played in at least one tournament outside Ketchikan, such as the Dimond High School Lady Lynx Shootout in which they would play four different teams. Smith said that was another exciting part of coaching.
“We get to see four different styles, and we see how we adapt to different things on the fly and we get to prepare differently each day,” he said. “Yeah, there are no secrets between us and Thunder Mountain and what is going to happen. This has definitely been a marathon of the same thing over and over. It is going to come down to kids making shots and getting rebounds.”
The games between Ketchikan (15-1 overall, 7-1 conference) and TMHS (8-8/3-6) have been competitive; neither has had a double-digit win.
“We feel fortunate to be 7-1 and the one seed,” Smith said. “But two possessions in each game and we could have been the three seed.”
Ketchikan faces the Thunder Mountain Lady Falcons, whose eight seniors won their first career region tournament game last week against the Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé and have never attended a state championship.
The Lady Kings have no seniors but have won seven of the past eight region titles.
A normal season would also feature a double-elimination regional tournament that would give a top seed a second chance if upset in their first game.
Lady Falcons coach Lee feels the Southeast Conference is the strongest in Alaska because of Kayhi’s winning history and Juneau being last season’s consensus top team in the state, although the pandemic shut down the 2020 season. He also said travel bonds teams.
“Last season we played in Ketchikan’s tournament. We saw them and others at the Dimond tournament. We saw them multiple times in season and the regions,” Lee said, adding that the girls know each other well, including from playing in other sports. "It comes down to who plays best in the moment" and has a breakout game, quarter or play.
Lee said dealing with jitters at the start will be key. “The routine issue is balancing telling them how important the game is while not getting them over-hyped or overtight. Coaching at this point isn’t so much x’s and o’s as it is calming people and making sure that they are emotionally in control.”
The Region V 4A championship game times on Saturday in Ketchikan’s Clarke Cochrane gymnasium are 2:45 for the Lady Kings versus the Lady Falcons, and 4:30 for the Ketchikan Kings versus the Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears.