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Kings back at home to face off with Braves: Kayhi plays host to Mt. Edgumbe H.S. this weekend
From left, Kayhi’s Marcus Lee, Jake Taylor and Kristian Pihl surround Chugiak’s Matthew Blackly during the King's 73-57 loss in the championship match of the O'Brady's Invitational on Jan. 20. Photo for the Daily News by Michael Dinneen

Daily News Sports Editor

After two travel-filled weekends spent on the road, the Ketchikan High School boys basketball team has returned to the friendly confines of the Clarke Cochrane Gym.

The Kings will spend their weekend on the court for two games with the Braves from Sitka’s Mount Edgecumbe High School.

It will be Kayhi’s first home game since Jan. 5-6 when the Kings played Colony High School for two games, losing the first 70-55 and winning the second 63-53.

The Kings are coming off a weekend in Anchorage that saw Kayhi take first place in the Robert Service High School Tip-Off tournament.

Kayhi head coach Eric Stockhausen said during practice on Wednesday that he has noticed an extra pep in his team’s step since it arrived in town from Anchorage.

“This is the fewest number of road trips we’ve had in a season, but it still feels like we’ve been gone a long time,” Stockhausen said. “It’s good to be home.”

Despite winning the Service Tip-Off and bringing back a trophy, it was an underwhelming environment as far as attendance was concerned.

Stockhausen said there were roughly 40 people in the bleachers of the Service High School gym during the trophy presentation ceremony.

“I think (the players) get the sense of how great our community is and how lucky they are to be in this program with all that it entails,” Stockhausen said.

Junior Kyle Smith said that playing at home will be good for the team, after having to travel more often than not for the past three weekends.

Smith said he is appreciative of the support the local community gives Kayhi, especially after playing in front of some sparse crowds in Anchorage.

“Just that thought of being at home and not on the road is something that gives us a bunch of energy,” Smith said. “It just makes you want to go that extra mile, for sure.”

In comparing Kayhi and where the team played most recently, Smith said it’s harder to look into a mostly empty crowd and see a few strangers than it is to be surrounded by family and other familiar people.

Smith went on to say that the Kings have been coming together more and more like a family in recent weeks, and the players have been more team-oriented, rather than focusing on themselves.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs this season,” Smith said. “Our chemistry is getting a lot better.”

During last weekend’s tournament, Kayhi defeated Palmer and Delta high schools by a combined margin of 110-78.

Over the previous two weekends of competition, the Kings have won four out of six games, and Stockhausen said he has noticed growth in his team during that time, mostly in how the defense has been able to shut down opponents.

“Even in practice, you can see that we are just doing a better job of protecting the rim than we had been earlier in the year,” Stockhausen said.

All of the extra emphasis on the defensive side of the ball has been a byproduct of the number of changes and unexpected turns the season has seen to this point.

“These kids are very attentive to getting better, and that’s why we see the improvement,” Stockhausen said.

Stockhausen also praised Mount Edgecumbe’s basketball program and its head coach, Archie Young.

The Kayhi coach said he thinks that Young is one of the best coaches he has ever met.

“His kids will play as hard or harder than anybody we’ve played, which is saying a lot,” Stockhausen said. “They play with a lot of pride and a lot of heart.”

Young has been a coach with the Braves since 1999.

Tip-off for varsity games on both Friday and Saturday night will be at 7:15 p.m.

Kayhi’s junior varsity boys team will begin play at 5:30 p.m. and the C-team will tip-off at 4 p.m. on both nights.