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Lester Pitka didn't play organized basketball until two years ago.
Now the Angoon High School senior is the state's Class 2A-1A boys player of the year.
Pitka, a 5-foot-8 shooting guard, averaged 17 points a game in the Class 2A state basketball tournament as he led the Eagles to their first state title. Pitka scored 18 points in Angoon's 37-27 victory over Kake in the championship game, including 10 points in the fourth quarter as the Eagles came from behind to win the game.
``I'm really excited for Lester,'' said Angoon coach Kevin O'Brien, who was voted the Class 2A-1A boys coach of the year. ``I'm really excited for all our players who made the team. They all deserve it. They did the little things it takes to win.''
Pitka was joined on the Class 2A-1A first team by his Angoon teammate Jason Frank and by Kake's Anthony Dolan. Walter Kookesh of Angoon made the second team, as did Kake's Joshua Hawk. Mitchell Snyder of Skagway and Ben Kondro of Kake were on the honorable mention list.
Pitka lived in the Yukon River village of Russian Mission for his freshman and sophomore years of high school, and it wasn't until he arrived in Angoon last year that he really played organized basketball. Pitka played for the Eagles as a junior, but even then he didn't play much, O'Brien said.
``Lester averaged about 17-18 points a game for us this year,'' O'Brien said. ``But he missed four games early in the season with a sprained ankle. He didn't go with us to Skagway or Hydaburg, so a lot of people didn't see him this year.''
O'Brien was celebrating his 31st birthday Thursday when the honors were announced and called the award, ``a nice present.'' O'Brien grew up in Madison, Wis., and played in the same Catholic school league as Nick Van Exel of the Michael Finley of the Dallas Mavericks. Even though O'Brien took Angoon to its third straight state tournament and fourth in seven years, he said there was another top coach in Southeast who also deserved the award.
``With Dwayne Davies (of Kake), I'm in good company,'' O'Brien said. ``He's a class individual. He did a good job getting Kake to the state championship game. I was glad to see two Southeast teams play for the title.''
The Class 2A-1A girls player of the year was Theresa Chihuly of Class 2A state champion Ninilchik, with Seldovia's Sara Nichols earning coach of the year honors. Rebecca Widdows of Yakutat made the second team, while Kake's Danielle Knudsen and Yakutat's Jasmine James were on the honorable mention list.
The Class 4A-3A girls player of the year was Colony's Jessica Moore, who will play for NCAA champion Connecticut next season. Ron Hoffman of Anchorage Christian Schools was coach of the year.
Juneau-Douglas High School senior Tanya Nizich made the second team, while Ketchikan's Mary Scudero and Mount Edgecumbe's Halane Isidore were on the honorable mention list.
The Class 4A-3A boys player of the year was Brandon Edwards of Class 4A champion East Anchorage, while Geno Morgan of East was the coach of the year.
Juneau-Douglas senior Evan Tromble made the second team, and Wrangell's Cody Angerman was on the honorable mention list.
The Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Sportswriters All-State Basketball Team, released Thursday. The team is voted on by a panel of the state's sportswriters and compiled by the Anchorage Daily News.
Class 4A/3A Boys
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Brandon Edwards, East Anchorage.
COACH OF THE YEAR - Geno Morgan, East Anchorage.
First Team - Brandon Edwards, 5-foot-10, Sr., East Anchorage; Kyle Bailey, 6-2, Sr., Lathrop; Nathan Glover, 6-3, Sr., Dimond; Jason Erickson, 6-3, Sr., Chugiak; Landon Libby, 6-3, Sr., Grace Christian School.
Second Team - Evan Tromble, 6-5, Sr., JuneauDouglas; Landon Lockard, 6-0, Sr., Dimond; Ari Zandman-Zeman, 6-6, Sr., East Anchorage; Peter Bullock, 6-6, Sr., East Anchorage; Cole Magner, 6-1, Jr., Colony.
Third Team - Nick Billings, 6-11, Sr., Kodiak; Zach Raidmae, 6-3, Sr., Valdez; Ben Luer, 6-3, Sr., Wasilla; Ryan Broker, 6-9, Sr., Lathrop; Todd Eide, 6-1, Jr., Valdez.
Honorable Mention - Nick Buzby, Sr., Wasilla; Mike Johnson, Sr., Colony; Cody Angerman, Sr., Wrangell; Thomas Kreta, Sr., Kodiak; Jeff Huston, Sr., Houston; Andrew Smith, So., West Anchorage; Tui Alailefaleula, Jr., Bartlett; David Wiehl, Sr., North Pole; Brandon Joseph, Sr., Monroe Catholic.
Class 2A/1A Boys
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Lester Pitka, Angoon.
COACH OF THE YEAR - Kevin O'Brien, Angoon.
First Team - Lester Pitka, 5-8, Sr., Angoon; Anthony Dolan, 5-11, Jr., Kake; Jason Frank, 6-3, Angoon; Jason Smith, 6-0, Sr., Noorvik; Ian Winklmann, 6-1, Sr., Tri-Valley.
Second Team - James Gundersen, 6-4, Sr., Sand Point; Chad Anderson, n/a, n/a, Bristol Bay; Walter Kookesh, 6-1, Sr., Angoon; Anthony Shewfelt, 5-7, Jr., Fort Yukon; Joshua Hawk, 6-0, Sr., Kake.
Honorable Mention - Peter Evon, Akiachak; Evan Olson, Tri-Valley; Stewart Erhart, Tanana; Aqpuk Mulluk, Noorvik; Mitchell Snyder, Skagway; Marvin Torres, Northway; Matt Brown, Seldovia; Dominic Swindells, Matanuska Christian School; Noah Shields, Cook Inlet Academy; Arnold Marks, Tanana; Ben Kondro, Kake; John Durand, Bristol Bay.
Class 4A/3A Girls
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Jessica Moore, Colony.
COACH OF THE YEAR - Ron Hoffman, Anchorage Christian Schools.
First Team - Jessica Moore, 6-3, Sr., Colony; Azella Perryman, 6-2, Jr., East Anchorage; Tenecia Macon, 6-1, So., East Anchorage; Aquanita Burras, 5-8, Jr., Lathrop; Taylor Long, 6-0, Sr., Grace Christian School.
Second Team - Katie Williams, 5-10, Sr., Palmer; Laura Berdahl, 6-0, Jr., Nikiski; Natalie Jones, 5-7, So., East Anchorage; Tanya Nizich, 5-8, Sr., Juneau-Douglas; Tami Callison, 5-5, Jr., Palmer.
Third Team - Krystle Robertson, 5-9, Sr., Chugiak; Alina Minnick, 5-11, Sr., Wasilla; Cory Hershberger, 5-7, Sr., Kenai; Brittney Kroon, 6-4, So., Wasilla; Alicia Adams, 6-0, Sr., Chugiak.
Honorable Mention - Mary Scudero, Sr., Ketchikan; Renaye Lavin, Sr., Wasilla; Sally Glaze, So., Nikiski; Denisha Lamb, Jr., Eielson; Erin Carr, Jr., Seward; Lucy LeBaron, Sr., Anchorage Christian Schools; Trista White, Fr., Lathrop; Halane Isidore, Sr., Mount Edgecumbe; Cayane McFarlane, Jr., Lathrop; Letricia Castillo, Fr., Dimond; Ebony Lewis, Sr., Bartlett; Kelly Quinn, So., Colony.
Class 2A/1A Girls
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Theresa Chihuly, Ninilchik.
COACH OF THE YEAR - Sara Nichols, Seldovia.
First Team - Theresa Chihuly, 5-6, Sr., Ninilchik; Maureen Ballot, 5-4, Jr., Noorvik; Jaime Geagel, 5-10, Fr., Seldovia; Whitney Leman, 5-7, Fr., Ninilchik; Tasha Leman, 5-6, Sr., Ninilchik.
Second Team - Jessica Ivanoff, 5-6, Sr., UnalakleetDegnan; Fannie Bodfish, 5-6, Sr., Wainwright-Alak; Tiffany Lausen, 5-7, Sr., Tri-Valley; Heather Alexander, 5-2, Jr., Minto; Rebecca Widdows, 5-8, Sr., Yakutat.
Honorable Mention - Jacquelyn Brown, Seldovia; Danielle Knudsen, Kake; Ardena Mongeau, Matanuska Christian School; Angela Billy, Chefornak; Jasmine James, Yakutat; Timayre Towarek, Unalakleet-Degnan; Elizabeth Bodfish, Wainwright-Alak; Beezee Jack, Noorvik; Nichole Jimmie, Minto; Mayanna Bean, Nenana; Liz Lewis, Anderson; Loryn Wilks, Matanuska Christian School; Hilda Frankson, Point Hope-Tikigaq.