Juneau girls basketball coach Lesslie Knight set her team up for its state title run with a focus on fundamentals and a host of creative motivational tools.
Crimson Bear sophomore Talisa Rhea set her teammates up to score with pinpoint passes and superior court awareness.
Both now sit atop the Alaska basketball world, as Knight and Rhea were named coach and player of the year, respectively, among Class 4A girls on the 2004-05 Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Media All-State Basketball Teams, released today.
Juneau senior Mary Rehfeld joined Rhea on the all-state first team, while junior Lexi Garvey and senior Kate Potter earned honorable mentions for the Crimson Bears. The awards cap a season in which the Crimson Bears finished 21-6 overall and marched through the state tournament to win their first championship since 1996.
"It's pretty amazing," Rhea said. "It ends a great season, and its been a goal my whole life, something to work towards."
Rhea led the team in steals (3.4 per game) and assists (6.3 per game) this season, and finished second in scoring (13.7 points per game) and rebounding (4.9 per game). Her assists total - 170 over the 27-game season - was nearly as many as the rest of the team combined (190).
"It's a good feeling when you set somebody up, and they score," Rhea said. "You don't score the points, but you were part of it. It creates more of a team aspect."
Rhea also possesses good awareness on the court, and helps keep the team steady under pressure.
"She's a very wise soul for such a young lady," Knight said.
"Talisa is a well-rounded player," Rehfeld said. "She always had a bunch of assists, plays good defense and can score when she wants to. That's the kind of player who is all-state."
Rhea - who is playing on the JDHS soccer team this spring - will return next year with a strong group of talent already eager to repeat.
"The amazing thing with this whole group is they are all willing to do more," Knight said. "Already they're asking, 'When is the gym going to get open?'"
Knight credits her coaching success to being able to learn from a number of mentors in Juneau over the past two decades, as a player, assistant and now as a head coach.
"I was really fortunate to work with several great coaches," Knight said. "Jim Hamey is one of the best fundamental coaches there is. I had the chance to work with Peg Gwyther, whose strength was motivational, things off the court."
Knight said she's also drawn lessons from current Juneau boys coaches George Houston and Steve Potter, and from JDHS coach and activities director Sandi Wagner - and she gets to pick the very best techniques from each one.
But in the end, Knight said, it's the players who dictate success on the floor.
"You really have no control when they're on the court," Knight said. "You can try to motivate (but) you have to trust that everything you've been reinforcing all year long ... is going to pay off."
At each of the last two state tournaments, Knight has instilled her team with new mottos and tales of teamwork each day to provide an extra boost of confidence. To symbolically demonstrate how they would outrun the top-ranked Chugiak Mustangs, for example, Knight had the team cut the legs off a toy horse before the game.
"She definitely deserves it," Rehfeld said of Knight. "She's very inspirational, and we got so far at the state tournament because she motivated us."
Knight has had a hand in all three state titles won by the Juneau girls. She was a player for the 1983 state champion Crimson Bears, and was an assistant coach for the team that won in 1996.
"It's an incredibly different feeling," Knight said of winning as a coach, as opposed to winning as a player. "All I can say is how proud I am of the girls. I feel like a proud parent. ...
"I want them to believe in themselves and as a team, and what greater satisfaction is there than to come together and win as a team."
Rehfeld capped her high school career by leading Juneau in scoring (15.4 points per game) and rebounding (5.5 per game) this season. She shot better than 48 percent from the field, and nearly 35 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
"It feels amazing," Rehfeld said. "I feel like I really worked hard, and it paid off."
Potter and Garvey both made significant defensive contributions for Juneau this season, and Garvey hit four key 3-pointers against Service in the state title game on April 2.
In other divisions of this year's all-state teams:
Class 4A boys: Seniors Tyler Richardson and Jesse LeBeau of Ketchikan earned honorable mentions as they helped the Kings to a Southeast championship and their second straight trip to state.
Bartlett senior Mario Chalmers won his third straight player of the year award, while Colony's Jeff Bowker was named coach of the year. West Anchorage won the state title, while Colony was runner-up.
Class 3A girls: Three Mount Edgecumbe girls players earned postseason awards - junior Kimberly Rychnovsky (second team), senior Jennifer Evan (honorable mention) and junior Skeeter Atoruk (honorable mention) - as the Braves finished fourth at state. Sophomore Callie Bell of Petersburg and senior Drew Fossman of Haines also were named to the honorable mention team.
Monroe Catholic swept the top honors, with senior Leah Stepovich winning player of the year and Michael Lantagne winning coach of the year. Monroe won its second straight state title.
Class 3A boys: Mount Edgecumbe senior Josh Thomas was named to the second team after leading the Braves to a third-place finish at state. Three Southeast players earned honorable mentions - Mount Edgecumbe freshman Damen Bell-Holter, Craig senior Eric Hamilton and Petersburg senior Sam Jensen.
Senior Jared Reando and coach Brad Lauwers of state champion Heritage Christian won the player and coach of the year awards.
Class 1A/2A girls: Skagway senior Savannah Ames earned first-team all-state honors for the second straight season as the Panthers finished fourth at the state tournament.
Ames is leaning toward attending and playing Albertson College, an NCAA Division III school in Idaho. She and fellow senior Crystal Ketterman are the only Skagway players to graduate from this season's team, leaving a solid core of talent to carry on the winning tradition.
"It feels really good to rebuild the program, and I feel the girls (returning next season) have a really good chance to win regionals again" and get back to state, Ames said.
Yakutat senior Jacquoi James made the second team, while three Southeast players earned honorable mentions - Skagway juniors Candi Ketterman and Tiffanie Potter, and Klawock senior Sharon Webb.
Bristol Bay senior Danica Wilson won player of the year honors, while Bristol Bay's Tim Helvey won the coach of the year award after guiding his team to a state title.
Class 1A/2A boys: Two Southeast players earned first-team honors - Hoonah senior Dustin Bowen and Kake junior Derek Knudsen.
Bowen said the honor was "bittersweet" - the Braves lost to Cook Inlet Academy in the state title game - but called the season "the best year I ever had." He plans to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage in the fall, and may try out for the basketball team.
Knudsen will return next year as the Thunderbirds try to build on their trip to state this season.
"It feels pretty good, to work so hard and get" the all-state award, he said. This season "was a really good experience for us for next year."
Kake senior Tim Demmert was named to the second team, and three Southeast players earned honorable mentions - Hoonah junior Devin Moritz, Hoonah sophomore David "D.J." Lindstrom and Yakutat sophomore Kyle Dierick.
Zach Klein of Bristol Bay won player of the year honors, and Cook Inlet Academy coach Bruce Gabriel was named coach of the year.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
Anchorage Daily News/Alaska Media All-State Basketball Team 2004-05
The 2004-05 Alaska All-State high school basketball teams, selected by Alaska sportswriters, compiled by the Anchorage Daily News and released today. The team was selected by a statewide panel of sportswriters, which included Andrew Krueger of the Juneau Empire.
Class 4A Boys
Player of the Year - Mario Chalmers, Bartlett
Coach of the Year - Jeff Bowker, Colony
Mario Chalmers, 6-2, Sr., Bartlett; Ramon Harris, 6-5, Jr., West; Jordan Jamestown, 5-10, Sr., West; Justin Schwartzbauer, 6-1, Sr., Colony; Deray Wilson, 5-10, Sr., West.
Matt Crane, 6-4, Sr., Wasilla; Cade Dickey, 6-5, Sr., Colony; Dennis, Wilson, 6-3, Jr., East; William Edwards, 6-0, Jr., West Valley; Warren Lewis, 5-8, Sr., Dimond.
Jesse Bean, Wasilla; Rhett Magner, Colony; Tyler Richardson, Ketchikan; Mark Putney, Kodiak; Kylan Robinson, East; Ronald Moore, West Valley; David Williams, Bartlett; Jesse LeBeau, Ketchikan; Luke Schafer, Wasilla; Cedar Anderson, West Valley; Zach Keplinger, Kodiak; Matt Hicks, Soldotna.
Class 4A Girls
Player of the Year - Talisa Rhea, Juneau-Douglas
Coach of the Year - Lesslie Knight, Juneau-Douglas
Talisa Rhea, 5-10, Soph., Juneau-Douglas; Lillian Bullock, 5-6, Jr., Service; Kelsey Griffin, 6-1, Sr., Chugiak; Mary Rehfeld, 5-9, Sr., Juneau-Douglas; Megan Stearman, 6-0, Sr., Wasilla.
Bailey Lowney, 5-5, Sr., Homer; Aiesha Ailey-Brown, 6-1, Sr., East; Sylvia Bullock, 6-0, Fr., Service; Vanessa McCormick, 5-8, Sr., North Pole; Alana Clooten, 5-11, Sr., Lathrop.
Kelsey McIntosh, North Pole; Sarah Jones, Service; Shaina Afoa, Dimond; Hillarie Putnam, Wasilla; Sarah Neuschwander, Chugiak; Lexi Garvey, Juneau-Douglas; Anne Wesser, Wasilla; Kate Potter, Juneau-Douglas; Kelcy Joynt, Colony; Allison Horazdovsky, Homer; Maggie Burgess, East; Savannah Afoa, Dimond.
Class 3A Boys
Player of the Year - Jared Reando, Heritage Christian
Coach of the Year - Brad Lauwers, Heritage Christian
Jared Reando, 6-9, Sr., Heritage Christian; Trenton Millar, 6-5, Jr., Heritage Christian; Evan Skinner, 6-3, Sr., Eielson; Lonnie Ridgeway, 6-3, Jr., Heritage Christian; Kyle Wells, 6-1, Jr., Monroe Catholic.
Matthew Gueco, 5-11, Sr., Barrow; Josh Thomas, 6-2, Sr., Mount Edgecumbe; Chet Dyson, 6-0, Sr., Anchorage Christian School; Donald Fairbanks, 6-1, Sr., Kotzebue; Fritz Frier, 6-4, Sr., Barrow.
Richard McNutt, Anchorage Christian School; Thomas Millar, Heritage Christian; Eric Hamilton, Craig; Bobby Pico, Barrow; Josh Finney, Eielson; Damon Bell-Holter, Mount Edgecumbe; Travis McGahan, Nikiski; Ryan Dieckgraeff, Seward; Sam Jensen, Petersburg.
Class 3A Girls
Player of the Year - Leah Stepovich, Monroe Catholic
Coach of the Year - Michael Lantagne, Monroe Catholic
Leah Stepovich, 5-8, Sr., Monroe Catholic; Melissa Rima, 6-2, Soph., Monroe Catholic; Sarah Herrin, 5-7, Jr., Nikiski; Britni Carty, 5-8, Sr., Dillingham; Marjorie Rima, 6-2, Sr., Monroe Catholic.
Maria Eduarte, 5-3, Soph., Barrow; Kimberly Rychnovsky, 5-4, Jr., Mount Edgecumbe; Iris Bowers, 5-2, Sr., Dillingham; Teal Hetrick, 5-7, Sr., Seward; Hannah Thompson, 5-8, Soph., Nikiski.
Whitney Wright, Valdez; Amy Sokaitis, Monroe Catholic; Skeeter Atoruk, Mount Edgecumbe; Whitney Connor, Valdez; Jennifer Evan, Mount Edgecumbe; Bernice Oyagak, Barrow; Callie Bell, Petersburg; Drew Fossman, Haines; Heather Warren, Eielson; Lara Loomis, Seward.
Class 1A/2A Boys
Player of the Year - Zach Klein, Bristol Bay
Coach of the Year - Bruce Gabriel, Cook Inlet Academy
Zach Klein, 6-1, Jr., Bristol Bay; Blake Gabriel, 6-4, Sr., Cook Inlet Academy; Peter Tingook, 6-1, Sr., Point Hope; Derek Knudsen, Jr., Kake; Dustin Bowen, Sr., Hoonah.
Jeremy Franchino, 5-10, Jr., Cook Inlet Academy; Jory Peterson, 5-8, Jr., Golovin; Stan Harvey, 6-0., Jr., Noorvik; Art Vaska Jr., 5-11, Sr., Russian Mission; Tim Demmert, Sr., Kake.
Dwight Amaktoolik, 6-0, Sr., Golovin; Brian Beeson, 6-3, Sr., Cook Inlet Academy; Ronald Kippi, 6-2, Sr., Meade River; Axel Johnson, 5-9, Sr., Unalakleet; Dean John, 5-7, Sr., Newhalen.
Matthew Shewfelt, Fort Yukon; Lache Wilson, Tok; Carl Vaska, Russian Mission; Dalen Dorris, Kalskag; Kenny Morgan Jr., Kalskag; Travis Lons, Bristol Bay; Devin Moritz, Hoonah; David Lindstrom, Hoonah; Mason King, Bristol Bay; Brandon Wassillie, Newhalen; Andy Hall, Cook Inlet Academy; Tory Andrew, New Stuyahok; Charlie Pehle, Unalakleet; Kyle Dierick, Yakutat; Alan Conwell, Noorvik.
Class 1A/2A Girls
Player of the Year - Danica Wilson, Bristol Bay
Coach of the Year - Tim Helvey, Bristol Bay
Danica Wilson, 5-9, Sr., Bristol Bay; Kendra Moerlein, 5-10, Jr., Ninilchik; Janet Geary, Buckland, 5-2, Sr., Lydia Kasayulie, 5-10, Sr., New Stuyahok; Savannah Ames, 5-8, Sr., Skagway.
Jackie West, 5-10, Jr., Bristol Bay; Jacquoi James, Sr., Yakutat; Barbara Towarak, 5-8, Sr., Unalakleet; Roberta Strick, 5-7, Sr., McGrath; Tommilynn Ahmaogak, 5-7, Sr., Wainwright.
Nancy Timothy, 5-4, Soph., Point Hope; Tommi Parker, 5-1, Sr., McGrath; Tiffany Edwards, 5-4, Jr., Bristol Bay; Mary Epchook, 5-3, Jr., Kwethluk; Ruth Nash, 5-7, Soph., Point Hope.
Betsy Thomas, Buckland; Callie Ann Riddle, Bristol Bay; Janice Arkell, Galena; Jennifer Erickson, Ninilchik; Nikki Mayer, Wainwright; Emily Wood, Ninilchik; Candi Ketterman, Skagway; Jennal Burgett, Galena; Tiffanie Potter, Skagway; Elizabeth Phillip, Kwethluk; Kelsi Ivanoff, Unalakleet; Sharon Webb, Klawock; Alyse Bell, Cook Inlet Academy; Grace Milliken, Tri-Valley; Jenna Fagundes, White Mountain; Nikki Melkomukov, Nikolaevsk.