When HoopTime's Southeast Shootout basketball tournament opened last week at the Marie Drake gym, the members of the Red Storm team needed some of those "Hello, My Name Is ..." stickers.
The team brought together players from four communities - five from Wrangell, three from Haines, one from Petersburg and one from Skagway - and most of them didn't know the names of their teammates.
But, even as the players were just getting to know each other, Red Storm went and won the title in the boys A Bracket - for players in grades 7-8 - with a 48-29 victory in Saturday's championship game over Sitka 1, which also had players from four communities.
In Saturday's other championship games, Sitka beat HoopTime 7/8 23-10 to claim the girls A Bracket title, HoopTime 6th knocked off Sitka 39-10 to win the boys B Bracket (grades 4-6) championship and HoopTime 6th beat HoopTime 5th 34-7.
The Red Storm players may have been from different communities, but it didn't take long for them to mesh.
"The first time we came together was when we got to our first game," said Ken Wilson of Wrangell, who scored eight of his 12 points in the first quarter to help kick-start Red Storm's offense. "It was awesome."
"I wasn't really surprised," added Kyle Fossman of Haines, who scored four points. "I knew everyone except Cameron (Severson of Petersburg). We just played tough defense."
Severson scored 19 points and he teamed up with Wilson to help Red Storm dominate the boards. Both Severson and Wilson are at least 6 feet tall, and they helped give Red Storm a decided height advantage. Eric Gile of Wrangell also is a 6-footer, but his only points Saturday came off a 3-pointer.
"I knew Kyle, Ryan (Olson) and Jason (Albecker)," said Skagway's Brent Beckner, who scored five points and was referring to the three players from Haines. "It was our fast break."
"It was super, and so was Eric's 3-point shooting," Severson said.
While the Sitka 1 squad had one town's name, its players also were from different communities. The core group was from Sitka, but it picked up players from Petersburg, Metlakatla and Ketchikan.
"We pretty much practiced for an hour, and hour-and-a-half before our first game," said Jon Mazzella of Petersburg, who led Sitka with nine points, all on 3-pointers. "I've always played on the same team as Cameron. Our coach did a pretty good job."
Caleb McGraw added seven points for Sitka, while Jace Scudero of Ketchikan added four.
In the girls A Bracket game, Sitka used a suffocating press on defense to beat HoopTime 7/8. The defense forced several turnovers, although HoopTime 7/8 did handle it better than it did earlier in the week when the teams played.
"I felt a little frustrated, but then I relaxed and got into the game," said Korina Chapman, a 5-foot-10 sixth grader who scored six points to share Sitka's leading scorer honors with eighth-grader Melissa Marvin. "Our trap fell apart, but it still worked. It was just fun, lots of fun."
"I think we did a really good job, but we could have done better," Marvin said. "They learned our trap."
Susy Hurtte scored eight points to lead HoopTime 7/8.
In the boys B Bracket game, Reese Saviers scored 10 points to lead HoopTime 6th over Sitka, while Keath Flint added eight and the duo of Cody Grussendorf and Victor Wilson scored six each. Kevin See and Anthony Perkins scored four points each to lead Sitka.
"We went out there pretty confident, but we didn't want to be too cocky," Saviers said after his team had dominated the rest of the bracket (it won early games by scores of 88-3 and 55-3 and beat Sitka 43-15). "We played better 'D' and our team worked hard. We got more boards this time. The last time we were pretty much showboating, but this time we were running our offense. We wanted to get everybody involved."
In the girls B Bracket game, Corey Mulder and Kristin Dierick scored 12 points each to lead HoopTime 6th over HoopTime 5th. Janelle Saceda, Chandler Christensen and Megan Marvin scored two points each to lead HoopTime 5th.
"I felt really good about how we played, but I thought there were things we could do better," Mulder said. "When we got in a bad situation, we panicked. Our one play that worked very well was our inbounds play (under the basket). But most of all it was our defense. That was the best, and Kristin hit two 3-pointers."
Even though her team lost in its championship game, Catie Frega of HoopTime 7/8 wanted to make a dedication.
"I want to dedicate this to my dad," she said. "He's been at every game I've played."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.