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By JOE JUDD
Daily News Sports Editor
This year’s Ketchikan High School girls basketball team has a chip on its shoulder and head coach Kelly Smith doesn’t quite know how it got there.
Smith said he doesn’t expect it to go away anytime soon, either, with the Juneau-Douglas High School Lady Crimson Bears set to pay Ketchikan a visit on Friday night.
While on paper it is a rivalry game of historic proportions, Smith said his team has been bringing the fire and intensity with them to the court for every game its played this season.
“If they have more to bring tomorrow against Juneau — wow — because they’re bringing a lot right now,” Smith said after his team finished practice on Thursday.
Smith said he can tell that his players truly want to succeed. Collective motivation from day one has never been an issue for this year’s edition of the squad.
He added that, if his team should lose in its home gym, then it should be because of a quality opponent outplaying Kayhi for 32 minutes — not because of his team beating itself.
“I make them visualize somebody else cutting down the nets in our gym. That’s a tough one to swallow,” Smith said.
The Kayhi coach also mentioned that his team’s lack of height has added to its scrappy style of basketball.
Oftentimes, Kayhi girls and boys basketball — despite its 4A status and recent hardwood success — have been overlooked in the grand scheme of Alaska high school basketball, according to Smith.
All of these factors combine to form one large chip on the shoulder of the Lady Kings for this season.
“We’re small and Ketchikan doesn’t get a ton of love statewide as a 4A team, even though we’ve been really competitive this last four or five years,” Smith said.
Despite this, Smith said he and his players are exactly where they want to be.
Smith went on to say that the Lady Kings of 2017-18 have a collective disdain for losing, going as far as saying that his team hates losing even more than it loves winning.
Combined with an all-for-one team mentality, these elements have proven to be quality motivators for Kayhi, now eight games into the season.
Basketball is a sport where the individual must recognize and respect their specific role on a team and Kayhi’s girls have done just that this so far this season.
“I think that might be the single biggest reason we’re putting ourselves in the (good) situations we’re in right now,” Smith said. “The kids — all of them know their role, all of them have accepted it and do the best they can in that role. Not everybody gets to play a lot of minutes and everybody wants to play. It doesn’t mean the things they’re doing every day in practice aren’t as important.”
Smith added that knowing his players recognize their respective roles on the team and are comfortable with them is an exciting way to begin a season.
Kayhi is coming off a weekend that saw the Lady Kings split its two-game set with Colony High School by a combined eight points, with Kayhi winning Friday’s game 52-48 and falling on Saturday 54-50.
It was a physical two days of competitive basketball, which led Smith to tone down the physicality during practice this week, and focus more on shooting the ball and some pre game walkthroughs.
“Our kids are getting beat up in games. We can’t beat them up four or five practices a week, too,” Smith said.
Friday and Saturday will be the first time this season in which the pair of Southeast Alaskan rivals will square off and also the last time Kayhi and JDHS will meet until Feb. 16-17 in a Southeast conference series set to take place in the capital city.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. at Kayhi’s Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.