For the 5th straight season, the Kayhi Lady Kings claimed the Region V championship. It took the Lady Kings five games in five days last season, but the road to the title was much more efficient this time around as the the Lady Kings beat Juneau Wednesday and again Friday. The boys were not as fortunate and suffered a repeat of last season – back to back losses to Juneau-Douglas. The Kings had two players qualify for All-State: Marcus Lee qualified for First Team, and Chris Lee qualified for Third Team. Brittany Slick was named to the Third Team. The Lady Kings finished No. 6 in the last WPI rankings but switched with Chugiak so that Chugiak would not have to play a conference foe in the first round of the state tournament. That means Kayhi will take on No. 2 East Anchorage rather than 2-time defending champion Wasilla in the opening round. East was No. 2 in 2015 when Kayhi upset the T-birds on a buzzer-beater by Eliah Anderson in double-overtime to open the state tournament.
Throughout the Region V Tournament, you’ve seen some mixing of the various pep bands. Don’t let the sight of a Juneau-Douglas band mercenary playing with Kayhi set you into a frenzy. It’s perfectly alright for the students to play with other bands — even the rivals. In fact, the band students enjoy it and look forward to it. Four-year Kayhi Pep Band member, Sarah Kuharich, believes that the inter-band cooperation transcends the rivalry that’s associated with the basketball teams. “The rivalries don’t really exist with-in Pep Band, ” said Kuharich. “We aren’t competing with each other. It’s just really fun for all of us to get to play with our friends from southeast.” Kayhi Band Director Thomas Brooks attributes the comradery to the various music events held in Southeast Alaska. “We all see each other a lot. We all do Sitka Jazz Fest or Music Fest,” said Brooks. “We are basically one big band family.” These mercenaries for hire also help make Region Tournaments more lively and enjoyable for the smaller schools who don’t have the massive number of band students that Kayhi does. “Trevor (Holt) and I played with a band that had 11 students and Thunder Mountain today. It was crazy,” said Kuharich. “They were wild, and it was just fun to play with and support other teams.” Not only do the students enjoy it, but the addition of these band mercs “creates a positive vibe” in the entire gym and tournament, according to Brooks. “We hype up the party,” said Brooks. “If we can do that and help smaller teams, especially ones that have smaller bands and hype them up, it’s really awesome.”
The Kings defeated the Falcons last night 49-47 in the semi-final game and will play for the Region V championship Friday night. With leadering scorer Marcus Lee in foul trouble, the supporting cast had to step up. “We played all nine guys on our bench and they got some valuable minutes,” said Lee, who was held to 7 points. “I came out of the game and the younger guys really stepped it up.” The win will give the Kings day off and await the winner of Juneau Douglas and Thunder Mountain. “Getting the day off is really important it gives us time and rest. It also gives us the opportunity to scout and watch the games.”
The Kayhi Lady Kings beat the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears 59-50 last night. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Lady Kings led by 2 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Bears took the lead then Kayhi went on a 13-0 run to take control and advance to the Championship Game Friday. Kayhi will play the winner of the Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas game that will take place today at 11:30.
Kayhi Top Scorers: Ashley Huffine: 12, Nadire Zhuta: 12 Juneau-Douglas Top Scorers: Caitlin Pusich: 19, Cassie Dzinch: 17
When watching a Kayhi basketball game, it’s easy to get caught up in the players shooting the ball or the coaches calling the play, but there is a third member of most benches that usually goes unnoticed. The team manager. The face of the team revolves around the actual players, but the backbone of a good team is always the manager. What challenges and what benefits do these kids face from being a team manager? Sophomore, AJ Malouf, is experiencing his first season as the Kayhi boys basketball manager. Malouf played on the team as a freshman but then made the transition to manager his sophomore year. “It’s awesome being a part of the team without actually having to do any playing,” Malouf said. “I used to be a player on the team, and while it was fun, basketball just really isn’t my sport and it’s fun to still be able to on the team without being a real player.” Malouf has one disadvantage when it comes to managing, “It just takes up a lot of time,” Malouf said. “It’s right in the middle of football and baseball and I’d like to have that time off, but other than that I really don’t have a lot to complain about.” On the girls’ side of basketball, freshmen Erin Shea said she is also enjoying her first year as the team manager. “It’s really fun and I get to do a lot of cool things,” said Shea. “A Lot of my friends are on the team so that makes being the manager enjoyable as well.” When asked on her least favorite part of managing, Shea was quick to answer. “Laundry. Definity the laundry, “Shea said. “It’s really the only work I have to do but its smelly and just a pain to do every time.” Shea and Malouf both had the same answer when asked what their favorite part of managing was. “Just being at the games and witnessing first hand the atmosphere at those games is amazing,” Shea said. “To be a part of something that’s so important to our community is exciting and cool to be apart of,” said Malouf.
The numbers speak for themselves, while the Kayhi boys basketball team gets more clout in the community, the Lady Kings have been far more dominant in Region V play. The girls have dominated the region for the past five years (44-10) and are going for their fifth consecutive region championship, a Kayhi record. While the Lady Kings have been undoubtedly exceptional in Region V play, seven of their ten losses have come at the hands of Juneau-Douglas in the past two years. At one point last year, the Lady Kings were 1-5 against JD before winning two games in a row against them to claim their fourth consecutive region championship. The Lady Kings will have to put their longtime rival away in order to complete their record setting streak. Senior and three-time region champion Brittany Slick compared her first region tournament to what’s about to be her last. “Going from only playing four or five minutes to never coming out of the game, I’ve experienced both sides of the floor and I’m really excited to compete in the tournament one last time,” said Slick. “In my first region tournament, I remember being so nervous for my starting five players and now I’m nervous for myself.” Slick knows what’s at stake for the Lady Kings, and wants to bring the championship to Kayhi for a fifth time. A championship this year would also mean a career sweep of the Region V tourney for Slick. “I really want to go out with one last region title and complete my four years as a region champion,” said Slick. “That puts a lot of pressure on me, but also excites me. I believe in my team and can’t wait to go for this last title.” Slick is more experienced than any other player in the region tournament, and offered some advice to her younger teammates. “Don’t let the crowd and the pressure affect your play,” said Slick. “There are thousands of people that show up and pep clubs boo you and people talk smack saying you shouldn’t win or the refs are unfair. You just need to block all of that out and focus on your goal. Leave it all out on the floor, this is what you’ve been working towards the whole season and this is the last time to give it all you’ve got. No excuses, no regrets, just enjoy the heck out of it.” Slick knows what the historic streak would mean for the Lady Kings, but only lets the pressure motivate her. “Of course, it’s a lot of pressure to be expected to finish out a regions streak but it’s also a really exciting opportunity,” said Slick. “If anything, it makes me work harder and want it more than anyone else on the floor.”