Story last updated at 6:26 p.m. Thursday, December 26, 2002

Mariner boys hoop season under way
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

The Homer High School boys basketball team was in position to get a win Friday night against West Anchorage, but unfortunately the Mariners didn't convert at the free-throw line and the Eagles did.

After a wild final few minutes, West pulled out a 67-65 victory at Service High's Cougar Tip Off Tournament. The Mariners finished the season-opening tourney 0-3, with losses to Service and Petersburg as well. For a while, the tournament became an afterthought when the Mariners' van narrowly missed being hit head on during a snowy drive home from Anchorage (See story, Page 3).

West's Vonnie Williams iced the win knocking down a pair of free throws in the games final minute.

Josh Luebbert led the Mariners against the Eagles, knocking in 16 points, while Steven Stead, who was named to the all-tournament team, added 14 and had a good game on the boards. Ben Kuhns, Matt Mahan and Adam Crum all played well for the Mariners, Homer coach Billy Day said.

Despite some missed opportunities down the stretch, Day said the Mariners came away from the game (their second of the tournament and the season) with a number of positives.

"We probably learned more from losing that one game than we've learned in the last two years," Day said, adding that watching his players pick each other up emotionally in the postgame locker room was inspiring. "While it was crushing to watch, afterward everybody owned up to their part in the loss.

"In the end, it was a great game, an exciting game and it's always fun to be a part of a game like that."

The game had a little bit of everything, including a three-pointer from Ben Kuhns, tossed in from about 60 feet away as time expired in the first quarter. As an added bonus, Kuhns was fouled and made the free throw for a four-point play.

Day said that any individual lapses were overshadowed by the simple fact that a better night at the free-throw line would have spelled the difference. The Mariners finished a combined 19 of 36 from the foul line.

"Make some of those free throws and it would have turned that two-point deficit around," he added.

The Mariners played perhaps their best half of basketball against Service on Friday, pouring in 40 second-half points against the Cougars in the opening game of the tournament. Unfortunately, Homer only scored 15 in the first half and went on to lose 72-55.

Stead led the Mariners with 13 points and Luebbert pitched in 11.

Things didn't improve for the Mariners on Saturday, as a talented Petersburg team handed Homer a 90-52 beating, pouring it on in the second half.

"I think we just kind of gave up," Day said, adding that throwing in the towel was uncharacteristic for his team. "There was some foul trouble, and I think there was some frustration going on."

Listed at a generous 6-foot-2, Crum put in his best performance of the tournament, receiving Homer player-of-the-game honors after scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds while facing a 6-foot-8 Viking center.

Day also highlighted Matt Mahan's defensive play.

"We played them even in the second half, but it was too late, we'd already dug ourselves too deep a hole," Day said.

"But shoot, (we) put up 40 in the second half against a pretty tough Anchorage team.

"All in all, we played some great basketball."

Sepp Jannotta can be reached at sjannotta@homernews.com.

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