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By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily News Sports Editor
Rick Shaner knew what the Wrangell Middle School basketball players were feeling. As a seasoned coach of the game — and head coach of the Schoenbar Middle School boys basketball A and B teams — Shaner knew what it was like to be on the downside of a lopsided final.
“I’ve told the kids this — I just hate games like (that) because you’re trying to keep the integrity of the game intact,” Shaner said. “And you don’t want to make a mockery of the whole thing. But at the same time, there are certain things (that you can do).”
So with two minutes left between the boys’ A-squad matchup — and no shot clock — Shaner kept his Knights in constant motion during their final possession, zipping passes back and forth. But no one took a shot to score.
Schoenbar was ahead 63-14 and that was plenty to solidify a win.
“It’s a tough situation; it’s a tough situation to be on either side of the score,” Shaner said. “I’ve been on the other side. I know exactly what it’s like. It’s not fun.”
The 63-14 final capped off Wednesday’s first four matchups of the Schoenbar Shootout. The boys’ B-team defeated Wrangell’s B-team 61-16. And the Lady Knights defeated Wrangell, as well. The girls’ A-team won 41-11; the B-squad won 46-3.
Games will continue at Schoenbar Gymnasium and the Gateway Recreation Center on Thursday and Friday. Saturday’s bracket competition will be hosted at Ketchikan High School.
In addition to Wrangell’s teams, Craig, Klawock, Sitka, Metlakatla and Floyd Dryden (Juneau) middle schools will be in town beginning Thursday. Games are two 20-minute halves, with a a running clock, and will begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday and run through 8 p.m.
Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for adults. Tournament passes are $15 for students and $20 for adults.
The girls’ B-team began the shootout with its 46-3 victory. Schoenbar’s Taylor Jackson scored a trio of baskets in succession early in the second half. Sophie Agoney and Kenzie Pahang led the Lady Knights with double figures. Agoney had 12 points; Pahang had 10.
“They did really well,” Lady Knights coach Kristie Berntson said. “They moved the ball great.”
The boys’ B-team then won its game, 61-16. Schoenbar’s Brayden Gentry had a double-double, tallying 10 points and 12 assists. Leonaj Thomas, Andrew Kleinschmidt and Jared Rhoads also had double figures. Thomas and Rhoads had 10 points apiece. And Kleinschmidt led all scorers with 14 points.
Wrangell’s Daniel Harrison got a hot hand with a pair of three-pointers late in the first half. He finished the game with 12 points — nine of which came from behind the arc.
The Lady Knights A-team won their matchup 41-11. Lindsay Byron led Schoenbar with 14 points. Delaney Ingman had 12 points.
Schoenbar had leverage below the basket, with several players having a height advantage.
“It’s the first time that we’ve had a tall team, really,” Berntson said. “Usually, there’s maybe one or two. But this is the first time that I’ve had a team overall that’s been really tall. So it’s really nice. My tall players are really good ball handlers, too, so we can create some mismatches.”
The boys’ A-team closed out the evening with its victory. Jameson Parker and Colby Hanchey both had 17 points apiece. Joeben Lorenzo also hit double digits with 11 points.
“We have some athletes,” Shaner said. “The best part about it is that these athletes — they can play. It’s not anything I’ve done. This has been building since they were real small. And they know how to play. When you get kids that know how to play — yeah, you manage certain things with them — but the best thing you can do is to let them play. And they’re athletic. They like to get up and down the floor.”
The Knights have the energy to run up and down the floor, too.
“One of the things that I’ve been concerned about was the layoff that we had between our first games (on Oct. 27) and the games we had tonight,” Shaner said. “We worked on some things in practice and to come out on the floor and see how that carries over to a game situation — from practices to games — there were a lot of things that we did better tonight, than we did the first game. And obviously, it’s because of practice.”
Before every practice, Shaner challenges his team to be better than the day before. And the Knights take his words to heart.
“We just want to come out every day — whether it’s practice or a game — and we want to be a little bit better than what we were yesterday,” he said. “(I’ll say), ‘Hey, your goal today is to be better than yesterday. If you’re not better than what you did yesterday, then you’re short-changing yourself. So let’s come out, control what we can control and let’s be better than what we were yesterday.’”
Wrangell and Schoenbar will kick off the competition Thursday morning, with the first four games being rematches of Wednesday.
“Obviously, there’s not a whole lot of chances in between games to be able to spend time on the practice floor,” Shaner said. “But to go from game to game to game — we’ll be playing two or three games in one day — and at that point, things are fresh in the kids’ minds. And if we’re able to transfer that over into the next game, and work on that in the game — the game situation — yeah, that’s a great thing. And it’s to our benefit.”