Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 6:46 PM on Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Middle school basketball heats up the court

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Kayla Stafford, left, assisted by Aurora Waclawski and Marilyn Moore, add two points to the Homer Middle School Huskies' score in the team's first competitive game of the season on Friday against Kenai.

The bleachers were full. The fans' cheers were loud. The action was fast-paced.

So began Homer Middle School Huskies' competitive basketball season, with the boys' and girls' A and B teams taking to the floorboards against Kenai on Friday.

In the first games of the season, played in Homer:

• Girls A team beat Kenai, 36-15;

• Girls B team beat Kenai, 45-16:

• Boys A team lost to Kenai by a mere three points, 23-26:

• Boys B team fought hard, losing to Kenai 42-51.

Meeting the school's academic requirement is the main factor in deciding whether the students play. They also are evaluated on skill, knowledge of the game's fundamentals and coachability. There is a $15 fee to participate in the intramural season; an additional $45 to play in the competitive season helps cover travel costs.

This is the third season Connie Akers has coached the girls' teams. She is being assisted by Merlin Cordes and Chris Etzwiler. Wes Carroll is coaching the boys' teams, after a year assisting former Head Coach Tim Daugharty. Carroll is being assisted by Matt Harris, who is working with the boys B team.

"Mark Casseri, the (Homer High School) boys coach has come over and helped out and Dave Edens also has been helping out," said Carroll.

The boys and girls A teams are made up mostly of eighth-grade athletes, with the B teams mostly seventh graders. There are some exceptions, however, allowing for more experience and court time. The first four weeks of the program are intramurals, allowing every interested student the opportunity to be involved. The competitive season began last week and wraps up with a borough-wide tournament in December.

"We play each of the larger schools in the borough one time," said Carroll. "Those games are set up by the borough and pick up some extra games against the smaller schools as well."

The girls are at the school by 6:15 a.m. to practice four days a week. Wednesday is the one morning they get to sleep in.

"By practicing in the morning, we get to use the gym all the time. If it was the afternoon, we'd have to alternate between the lunchroom and the gym," said Akers of having to share space with the boys' teams.

"The lunchroom is a real poor facility. One of the baskets isn't even set up. We have to move it in. And there's no scoreboard."

The girls' willingness to have early morning practices reflects their level of commitment. Many of them played on the Bruins, a basketball team through community recreation, and have attended basketball camps.

"They are really serious about basketball, developing the best fundamentals they can to progress," said Akers.

To help them do that, she's called in the help of Cordes and Etzwiler. The former Bruins coaches are helping the girls be more precise in their movements on the floor and in working together as a team.

"It's really wonderful, let me tell you," Akers said of the impact of Cordes and Etzwiler.

As far as the season ahead, Akers said, "These girls ... know what it takes to be winners. It takes a certain attitude to really fight for that when you have to turn it on at the end of a game or when things are tough."

Carroll sees the students taking their basketball skills beyond this school year.

"I would guess a fairly high percentage of them will give it a try in high school as well," he said, adding, "Team sports can teach players the importance of working together and for many of them it is good for them to get the extra needed exercise. It gives them a skill or a hobby that they can use throughout their lives."

Parents, who cheered enthsiastically from the stands during Friday's games, also see the impact basketball has off the court.

"I've spoken with parents who think their daughters are respectful and hard working and they attribute some of that to basketball," said Akers.

The Huskies play Seward in Seward on Saturday. For more information, call the school at 235-5700.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.