Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 12:43 PM on Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Husky girls take borough basketball championship

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

They started the season winning and they never let up. That sums up the basketball season for the Homer Middle School Huskies varsity girls basketball team.

The team's undefeated record included taking first place in the borough championship game on Saturday. In the final game, the Huskies beat Soldotna Middle School's Maroon team, one of two SMS teams, with a score of 44-17.

In addition to Homer and the two Soldotna teams, also in the tournament were teams from Seward, Nikiski and Kenai.

"The girls made it look so easy. They played so hard and never let the other team approach so they were a real threat," said Huskies Coach Connie Akers.

Prior to the afternoon championship game played in Soldotna, the Huskies had a morning game against Soldotna's Silver team to determine who would play in the championship. The Huskies led for the entire game, not letting the comfortable point spread or their no-loss season slow their momentum.

"They couldn't give up," said Akers. "They had to play a tough defense the whole time because, of course, the other team wanted to go to the next game. They were confident, ready to fight from the beginning."

Husky team captains McKi Needham and Kayla Stafford credited their win to the efforts of Akers and assistant coaches Merlin Cordes and Chris Etzwiler, the length of time the girls have played basketball together and their morning practices.

"They taught me the most about basketball," said Kayla of coaching by Cordes and Etzwiler in programs she participated in beginning in elementary school. "They taught me the fundamentals of basketball, the little stuff that makes a huge difference: ball handling, getting your shot down, having the correct form when shooting."

McKi also has been part of the group of athletes that have played basketball together since fourth and fifth grade. This year, however, she and her teammates faced a new challenge that, in the end, paid off: practices at 6:15 a.m.

"We had the first game Saturday in the morning. We were used to that," said Needham of a 10 a.m. game that required the girls to leave Homer by bus at 7 a.m.

In addition, she credited having three coaches that taught the team to push themselves.

"We tried hard all the time," said McKi.

The Huskies' fan club was on hand Saturday to cheer the team to victory.

"I think we had a better turnout than the Soldotna teams did," said Akers of the Homer cheering section, adding, "It was just a really good team day. We ate breakfast together on the bus, ate lunch together in the team room, and rode home together. It was a great way to spend the day together."

On Monday, with a championship to their name and no early morning practice, both McKi and Kayla said they enjoyed sleeping in.

McKi, who will begin playing volleyball after the Christmas break, and Kayla had words of praise for the hardworking Husky team.

"Nice work," said McKi.

"Congratulations, ladies," said Kayla. "We did good, worked hard, and made our town proud."

Both captains plan to continue playing basketball in high school next year, and Akers is looking forward to coaching next year's HMS varsity team.

"I'm so happy for the girls. They worked so hard," she said of the Huskies. Looking ahead to next year, she added, "I don't know who else will be coaching, but I know I will. I'm excited."

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