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Kings fall in tight game against 3A No. 1 seed: Grace Christian wins 57-52, Ketchikan to play Valdez High School on Saturday
Ketchikan High School senior Chris Lee (11) reaches for the ball against the Monroe Catholic High School Rams’ Jase McCullough (4) on Dec. 28 during the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic semifinal at Kayhi. Lee scored 41 points in the Kings’ 62-61 win. He scored another 47 points in a losing effort against Monroe Catholic during the two team’s rematch on Thursday in Fairbanks. The Rams won that matchup 84-78. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Sports Editor

When the Ketchikan High School Kings looked at their 2019-20 schedule, they knew it’d be a bumpy ride the first few weeks.

And just one week in, the Kings (3-2) already have squared off against some elite competition from around the state.

“Every team we’ve played so far is state tournament team,” said Ketchikan head coach Eric Stockhausen.

They’ve faced Monroe Catholic High School twice, splitting the two games against the top contender in 3A. And Ketchikan battled 4A foe West Anchorage High School — a viable state tournament team with a heavy load of upperclassmen.

And just like the others, Friday afternoon’s opponent was not any different.

The Kings went toe-to-toe with the top-seeded team in 3A — the Grace Christian High School Grizzlies — in the second game of the Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic at Monroe High School in Fairbanks.

“It’s very intentional for us to play the schedule we play,” Stockhausen said. “(Right now), we’re not worried about our record. We’re worried about progress. And we’re progressing.”

Friday’s outcome didn’t land in Ketchikan’s favor, as the Kings fell 57-52. But they never quit.

And that’s the mentality Stockhausen wants his Kings to carry moving forward.

“We really don’t feel like we played well,” he said afterward. “But we played tough. We battled. ... What’s developing is a level of toughness.”

That shined through, as the Kings had to regroup after falling behind 13-8 in the first quarter.

Ketchikan’s leading scorer, Chris Lee, who’s averaged 32.5 points per game this season, was scoreless after the first eight minutes. And although the senior leader was able to distribute the ball to his open teammates, Lee was kept quiet on the scoreboard throughout the first half. He finished the game with 11 points.

“Chris got the attention we knew he’d get,” Stockhausen said. “The other guys grew into making it successful. They took steps in the right direction.”

Ketchikan sophomore Josh Rhoads made his 6’3” presence known.

Rhoads played the majority of the game — nearly 30 minutes — and finished with a team-high 16 points. Kristian Pihl knocked down three 3-pointers in the second quarter, and finished with nine points.

“Josh was 4-for-4 from the (free throw) line. He had a great game,” Stockhausen said. “James Nordlund had two points, but he had (several) assists.”

Ketchikan’s Tyler Slick scored double digits for the second time in three games. He finished with 12, and Zach Hanchey tallied two points.

“We’re in this thing together,” Stockhausen said. “We’re definitely challenging ourselves. ... I’m confident in our ability to improve.”

That’s what the Kings are banking on moving forward. And Friday proved to be great strides.

“We always say, ‘We don’t lose; we learn,’” Stockhausen said “We learned that we’re not going to give up. I’m very proud of the kids.”

Lee climbs the charts

Ketchikan senior Chris Lee started the season with 1,241 career points, which was fifth all-time in school history. He sat 11 points behind Paul Axelson, who had 1,252.

Lee has tacked on several more tallies in five games this season, scoring 141 points, and has passed Axelson for fourth all-time in the process.

With 1,382 career points Lee now sits just 148 tallies behind his brother, Marcus, who is in third all-time. Marcus Lee graduated last spring.

Steve Ortiz sits at the top of the list with 1,788 career points. John Brown is second all-time with 1,572 career points.

Ketchikan’s down two Kings

Ketchikan junior Josh Gentry didn’t play on Friday after hurting his knee. And freshman Joeben Lorenzo didn’t make the trip to Fairbanks as a safety precaution, after taking a hard hit on Dec. 29 during the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic championship game against West Anchorage.

Lorenzo hit his head on the court after a West Anchorage player knocked him down as he dribbled downcourt. No foul was called on the play.

Kings face Valdez

The Kings will finish the Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic against Valdez High School at 1:35 p.m. on Saturday.

The Kings will host Colony High School on Jan. 10-11.