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By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily News Sports Editor
Both the boys and girls Ketchikan High School basketball teams will jump start the new year in Fairbanks this week.
The Kings and Lady Kings have flown north to Monroe Catholic High School to participate in the Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic. The three day round-robin competition also will include Grace Christian and Valdez high schools.
The Kings will square off against the Monroe Catholic Rams at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday.
Before being crowned as the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic champions on Sunday, the Kings (3-0) went head-to-head with the Rams in the tournament’s semifinal on Saturday. The Kings squeaked by the 3A squad 62-61, thanks to a pair of free throws from freshman Joeben Lorenzo with 11 seconds left in the ball game.
Lorenzo hit both of the freebies, inching Ketchikan ahead by one. And the Kings’ defense held its own in the final moments, as the Rams weren’t able to get a clean shot off before the buzzer.
“(Monroe Catholic), regardless of classification, has arguably the best, if not, one of the top basketball programs, tradition, culture — just a lot of respect for them,” Kings’ head coach Eric Stockhausen said after the 62-61 win on Saturday.
And he is expecting Thursday’s meeting to be just as intense.
“I told my (players), ‘Expect an absolute war,’” Stockhausen said of Thursday’s game. “But they’re a great program. I think they’ll finish probably in the championship game of 3A, probably against Grace (Christian) who we play on (Friday). So we’re about to see some of the best competition, regardless of class, over the next two weeks.”
Just like the Kings, the Lady Kings will go head-to-head against Monroe Catholic’s girls’ squad. That game is slated to begin at 6:10 p.m. Thursday, following the Valdez and Grace Christian matchup.
The Lady Kings (4-1) placed second in the Clarke Cochrane tournament. Their only loss this season came against Esperanza High School in the championship game, falling 54-32 on Sunday. Esperanza is a top-eight team from Orange County, California.
Ketchikan beat Eagle River and South Anchorage high schools to advance to the title game. They swept a two-game series against Palmer High School earlier this season.
“(The Monroe tournament) will be a good test,” Lady Kings’ head coach Kelly Smith said. “We’ll see some different defenses — a lot of zone defenses, and things like that. We won’t be as undersized as we’ve been (throughout the Clarke tournament). ... So maybe we can get some success with our bigs.”
The Lady Kings will look to the tandem of sophomore Jenae Rhoads and freshman Lindsay Byron underneath the basket to help their offense.
“(They’ve been) playing against big strong girls who are seniors,” Smith said of the duo. “So it’ll be good for them to have some success.”
Notes: Both Ketchikan squads will face Grace Christian on Friday. The Lady Kings will start the action at 3 p.m. against the Grizzlies. The Kings will play Grace Christian at 4:35 p.m. Ketchikan and Valdez will square off on Saturday. The girls will play at 12 p.m., followed by the boys at 1:35 p.m.