SITKA -- The Mount Edgecumbe High School girls basketball team will have the homecourt advantage when the Region V-Class 3A tournament opens today in Sitka, and the Braves may need it despite their perfect record in region play this season.
The Braves, who won the last two region titles, posted a 19-3 overall record and went 15-0 against region teams this year. But Mount Edgecumbe coach Paul Johnson said that record doesn't mean a thing once the Braves reach the region tournament. Only two girls and two boys teams from the region will qualify for the Class 3A state tournament, and the Braves have to get past the semifinals to earn another trip to Anchorage for the state tourney.
"We'd prefer to play someone else besides Petersburg or Craig in the second round," Johnson said. "Our wins are there, but we don't have the same margin we've had before. I think Haines will get past Wrangell in the other bracket and whoever wins the Haines-Metlakatla game will be a real sleeper."
Mount Edgecumbe won its second straight region title last year, but only finished sixth in the state tournament after losing to Eielson in the first round of the tournament then losing to Region V-foe Wrangell in the fourth-sixth place game.
The Braves were missing starting center Sara Squartsoff to a sprained knee the past two weekends, but Mount Edgecumbe still managed to sweep a two-game series with Haines and beat Class 4A Sitka without her. Squartsoff, who had her best career showing against Petersburg the weekend before her injury, should be ready to play at the region tournament. If not, Johnson brought a couple players up from his junior varsity squad to help give the Braves a token presence in the post.
"We don't have a super-strong post presence anyway, so anything we can get out them will be a bonus," Johnson said. "We've got some guards who can shoot the ball, so we're OK."
Mount Edgecumbe, which won the northern division region title, is led by Taalak, Warren, Melanie Beans and Squartsoff.
Haines (6-14 overall, 4-10 against region teams) will play Wrangell (3-15 overall, 3-13 region) in today's 4:45 p.m. girls game, while Petersburg (10-9 overall, 9-7 region) will play Craig (7-11 overall, 5-10 region) at 8:15 p.m. today.
Mount Edgecumbe will play the Petersburg-Craig winner at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday in one semifinal, while Metlakatla (10-11 overall, 9-5 region) will play the Haines-Wrangell winner at noon on Thursday in the other semi. The Region V-Class 3A girls championship game is at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
Metlakatla, which won the southern division region title, is led by Aleasha Howard, Ashley Howard and Trudy Horne. Petersburg is led by Amber Beardslee and Tyna McCay, Craig is led by Meggie Haydu and Heather Douville, Haines is led by Lisa Sele and Lori Sele, and Wrangell is led by Kaelene Wilson and Laura McCay.
In the boys Region V-3A tournament, the Craig Panthers won the southern division region title while the Mount Edgecumbe Braves earned the crown from the weaker northern division. The region is split into divisions because travel costs prevent the teams from being able to play a home-and-home series will all of their region foes.
Craig posted a 16-6 overall record and was 13-3 against region opponents, for the best marks in the region. Mount Edgecumbe earned the other first-round bye, despite posting a 9-11 overall record and an 8-8 region mark which ranked behind all three southern division teams.
The boys tournament opens at 6 p.m. tonight as Petersburg (7-11 overall, 6-10 region) plays Metlakatla (11-11 overall, 8-6 region), with defending region champion Wrangell (13-6 overall, 11-5 region) playing winless Haines (0-19, 0-14) at 10 p.m. in tonight's other first-round game.
Craig will play the Petersburg-Metlakatla winner at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday in one semifinal, while Mount Edgecumbe plays the Wrangell-Haines winner at 9 p.m. Thursday in the other semifinal game. The boys Region V-3A championship game is at 5:15 p.m. on Friday night.
Craig is led by a balanced scoring attack that features Raymond Douville, Craig Carter, Ryan Savage and Jordan Savage. But the Panthers have shown their vulnerability in recent weeks as they've suffered losses to Wrangell and Metlakatla, the two teams that represented the region at state last year.
Wrangell is led by the trio of Brad Angerman, Cole Appleman and Tony Marriott, while Metlakatla is led by Apollo Marsden, Chevy Hayward, Amos Hudson and Willie Taylor. Wrangell has been near the top of the standings all season, but Metlakatla struggled early in the year and is only now starting to get hot. Mount Edgecumbe is led by Chris Boskofsky and Eric Alstrom, Petersburg is led by Eric Corl and Nick Boggs, and Haines is led by Jimmy Lampkins and Wes Hoffman.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.