SKAGWAY -- The Skagway Panthers finished the 2001 Small Schools Tournament with a perfect 3-0 record. Skagway went through a big improvement over their tourney last year, in which Skagway only finished 1-2.
Skagway was spearheaded by senior Mitchell Snyder who did not have his best shooting exhibition, but was able to run a full court press that took opponents by surprise. The Panthers' entire offensive scheme was not as potent as usual, but an intensified defensive effort made their opponents look sloppy in key situations.
In Thursday's opener, Snyder scored 21 points as Skagway claimed a 58-57 come-from-behind victory over the Juneau-Douglas JV, the only junior varsity team in the tournament. Thomas Cochran added 11 points for the Panthers, who trailed 41-35 entering the fourth quarter. Bryan Hamey scored 21 points to lead Juneau and Sterling Henderson added 14.
"Near the end of the Skagway game we did not have a lot of discipline offensively," Juneau JV coach Steve Potter said. "That probably cost us the game."
Juneau's only true test in the tourney was against the tournament host Panthers. Each squad approached the game like a chess match, waiting for the exact right moment to strike. Juneau and Skagway ran through their own version of a full-court press along with letting their defense dictate the tempo of the game as seen in the low score for two teams whose offensive prowess usually outguns other teams.
Juneau's amazing speed was able to keep a step ahead of Skagway for three quarters, but the Panthers were able to weather the storm with solid defense that turned an eight-point deficit into a five-point lead. Skagway's stepped-up play took the Bears by surprise along with Juneau's consistent offense turning stagnant.
The Bears were only able to take eight of their players because of their flight to Skagway. Potter indicated that some of his usual players were unable to make the trip because of grades. Had those players been eligible to play Juneau might have swept the tournament, he said.
The Panthers were able to manhandle Haines and Vanier Catholic of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, in the tournament, winning both games by way of a blowout -- 71-44 over Haines on Saturday and 78-28 over Vanier on Friday.
In the victory over Haines, Snyder led Skagway with 23 points and the duo of Cochran and Orion Capasey both had eight for the Panthers. Jim Lampkins led Haines with 27 points.
Against Vanier, Snyder scored 25 points and Cameron Pickett added 11 as the Panthers had all but one player on their roster score points. Ross Thompson and Corey Rich scored seven points each to lead Vanier.
Juneau went 2-1 in the 2001 Skagway Small Schools Tournament to take second place. Juneau was on the giving end of two blowouts in the tournament, beating Vanier Catholic 64-40 and Haines 84-24.
Hamey averaged 26 points per game in the Skagway. Potter was surprised by Hamey's overall performance in the tournament.
"Bryan had a good tournament," Potter said. "Consistency has been a problem for him in the past, but for him to play three good games in a row is great."
The Crimson Bears emitted cockiness about themselves. That and fatigue from an early morning game hindered Juneau from putting away Vanier early in Saturday's game. Hamey scored 27 points to lead Juneau, with Henderson and Craig Kitka each adding 10 points for the Crimson Bears. Rich scored 11 points to lead Vanier.
"We were pretty tired because the game was so early," Hamey said. "Once coach (Potter) got on us though we started to play the way we should."
Hamey scored 30 points to lead Juneau against Haines, with Henderson adding 15 points, Kitka 14 and Josh Laramie 10. Lampkins scored 10 points to lead Haines.
With Juneau's two wins Potter wanted his squad to work on running its offense efficiently.
Also making an appearance at the tournament were the Haines Glacier Bears. In a rebuilding season, Haines went winless in the tournament with a 59-52 loss to Vanier in the game that decided third place. However, head coach Don Nash was able to get a lot of playing time out of his younger players, but it may be a while until the Glacier Bears regain the status that they are accustomed to.
Kyle Lavoie scored 20 points to lead Vanier, with Rich adding 15 and Thompson 10 for the Crusaders. Nik Hura scored 18 points to lead Haines and Lampkins added 17.
Stan Bush is a junior at Skagway High School.