North Pole Patriots
It's been four years since the last visit to Juneau by this Fairbanks-area Class 4A boys team. The Patriots (2-0) are already halfway toward matching their win total from last year's 4-18 season, posting victories over Class 3A Eielson (67-56) and Delta Junction (76-51). North Pole features seven seniors, but have no player taller than 6-foot-3.
Against Eielson, 6-3 senior center Marlee Currier scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while 6-3 sophomore forward Chris Powell added 14 points and 20 rebounds. Powell led North Pole against Delta with 16 points. Other probable starters for the Patriots include 6-1 senior wing Armand Burkhead, 5-8 senior shooting guard Brad Seavey, 5-8 senior point guard Matt Zanazzo and 5-9 senior point guard Brett Hollingsworth.
"We appreciate the opportunity to be able to come to Juneau and participate in this tourney," North Pole boys coach Sam McCormick wrote on his team questionnaire. "We are sure it will have quality players that will contribute to our season."
Newport Harbor Sailors
This is Newport Harbor's first trip to Juneau, but it's the second trip to Alaska for a tournament after the Sailors won the Service Cougar Tip-Off two years ago. The Sailors, also known as the Tars, are 7-4 this season following a 53-51 upset victory over Calabasas on Tuesday that saw 6-3 junior forward Taylor Young hit the game-winning shot as time expired. Newport Harbor, from Newport Beach, Calif., went 16-10 last year and took second place in the Division 2AA/Sea View League.
The Sailors will be the tallest team in the tournament, and are led in scoring by 6-8 senior center Jamie Diefenbach (15.1 points, 6.1 rebounds per game through Dec. 17). Young averages 10.2 points and 4.3 rebounds a game, while 6-2 sophomore guard Dennis Heenan adds 9.2 points, 6-5 junior forward Brett Perrine scores 7.2 points, 6-0 junior guard Raffi Mouredyan scores 5.8 points a game to round out the probable starters, and 6-5 senior forward Ricki Green adds 6.3 points a game off the bench.
"We are hoping with our challenging preseason schedule we will be able to make a run at the league title," Newport Harbor boys coach Larry Hirst wrote. "Having been to Anchorage with a team two years ago, we are very excited to come back to the state of Alaska."
The Trojans of Silverdale, Wash., near Bremerton, are another senior-laden team as all five probable starters and three reserves are upperclassmen. Olympic plays in the Narrows League and posted a 7-13 record last season. The Trojans are 3-2 overall and 1-1 in league so far this season, following a 41-40 victory over Gig Harbor on Dec. 19.
Leading the way for the Trojans is 6-5 senior forward Brendan Campbell, who is averaging 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. Chester Thomas, a 5-10 senior guard, is averaging 14.0 points and 2.3 assists a game, while 6-4 senior forward Brian Smith averages 6.3 rebounds a game. Other probable starters are 6-0 senior guard Jeff Shaw and 5-11 senior guard Stephen Braun.
"Seniors dominate the roster. Most of them have significant varsity experience," Olympic boys coach Robert Polk wrote. "(We) should be a factor in the Bridge Division of the Narrows League. Guard play will determine how far the team can go."
North Pole Patriots
The Patriots (2-0) are trying to rebound from last year's 7-15 record, that saw North Pole finish third among the three Fairbanks-area Class 4A teams. North Pole is a younger team, with only three seniors, but opened the season with a 74-68 victory over Class 3A Eielson and a 75-33 win at Class 3A Delta Junction.
Leading the way for the Patriots is 5-11 senior center Shardé Burkhead, who missed most of last year with a knee injury and is North Pole's leading scorer. Other probable starters are 5-10 senior forward-center Steph Dahlke, 5-8 junior forward Kaycie Gebhardt, 5-10 sophomore guard-forward Kelsy McIntosh and 5-4 freshman guard Caitlin Hamsley.
"The team looks forward to seeing another part of Alaska," North Pole girls coach Rob McIntosh wrote. "They are excited about experiencing Southeast Alaska in the winter and getting a chance to play in the Juneau atmosphere we have heard about. It is early in the season, so we look forward to getting a chance to play quality teams in preparation for the upcoming season."
Monroe Catholic Rams
The Class 3A Rams may come from the smallest school in the tournament, but they have the tallest girls roster with three 6-footers (two at 6-2). Monroe, another Fairbanks team, has yet to play this season, but last year the Rams (24-4) were ranked No. 1 in the state's Class 3A poll for most of the season before losing twice in the state tournament and finishing fifth. The Rams only have two seniors on the roster, but return three starters.
Leading the way for Monroe is 6-0 senior forward Carolyn Berg, 5-4 junior guard Amy Sokaitis and 5-8 junior guard Leah Stepovich, who all started last year. Rounding out the list of probable starters are 5-4 senior guard Brittany Burglin and 6-2 junior forward Marjorie Rima.
"This will be the first trip to our state capital for many of us," Monroe girls coach Michael Lantagne wrote. "We are anxious to play Juneau, a perennial powerhouse, and to see some new talent from Newport Harbor. Our game against North Pole on Tuesday, Dec. 30, will be the first of four meetings this season."
Newport Harbor Sailors
The Sailors (6-4 this season) of Newport Beach, Calif., are coming off a 13-15 record and fifth-place finish in the Sea View League last year, which included a first-round loss in the CIF playoffs. So far this season, Newport Harbor finished eighth in the South Coast Classic and second in the Cerritos Valley Christian Tournament.
Victoria Swigart, a 5-9 senior guard-forward, posted her second consecutive double-double on Tuesday, scoring 14 of her team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Sailors rallied for a 52-41 victory over Whitney. Jillianne Whitfield, a 5-8 senior guard, added 11 points, six rebounds and four assists, plus she hit the 3-pointer that gave the Sailors the lead for good, 38-35 with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter. Other probable starters include 5-6 senior guard Allyson Stoltz, who had seven assists on Tuesday, 5-6 junior guard-forward Vanessa Miller and 5-7 junior forward Kristi Eddington. The tallest player on the roster is a 5-11 freshman reserve forward Brittany Deyen.
"The coaches and the girls are looking forward to the trip," Newport Harbor girls coach Jennifer Thompson wrote. "Coming from Southern California, warm weather and sunlight, we are expecting an adventure. The team is excited to travel and play in another part of our country."