There’s a lot to be said for peaking at the right time in a sports season that spans across four months.
And for many on the Ketchikan High School Kings’ roster, this basketball season is the longest they’ve ever been a part of, to date.
Schoenbar Middle School’s basketball season is only a month long. And six freshmen made the jump to Kayhi’s varsity roster after that.
But even at that — and four months in — they might be finally finding their groove.
And it’s coming when the Kings need it the most.
“I think we’re starting to come together at the right time,” Ketchikan head coach Eric Stockhausen said. “I think we’ve got some options with some kids that can give us a boost when we need it — kind of like Max (Malouf) and JJ (Parker) did (last weekend). So we’re excited.”
Malouf and Parker are part of that freshmen group. They helped lift the Kings to a 51-46 win over Thunder Mountain High School on Saturday, giving their teammates an energy boost.
The Kings will travel to the capital city this weekend to square off against Juneau’s other high school — Juneau-Douglas — for a two-game series on Friday and Saturday.
Both games are scheduled to tipoff at 8 p.m.
“We don’t have to win these games this weekend, and we don’t have to win the region tournament for us to have learned and grown as a group — and individually,” Stockhausen said. “But obviously, that’s what you’re going for.
“Until the tournament is over, we’re still defending state champs,” he continued. “So we’re going to have to try to defend. ... It’s a good adventure.”
And what an adventure it’s been.
The Kings opened the season with sweeping their competition in the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic in December, before bouncing wins and losses back and forth throughout a pair of tournaments in Anchorage.
Most recently, they’ve won eight of their last 10 games ahead of entering the final weekend of the regular season.
But the Kings (12-7) have to sweep these two in Juneau in order to claim the top seed in the Region V tournament in March.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we have a chance at the one seed, which if you would’ve told me that after the state tournament last year — (after graduating eight seniors) — I definitely would’ve believed you,” Stockhausen said. “But I would’ve taken it on the spot.”
And leading up to this weekend, the Kings have had some of their best practices.
That same freshman group.
“I thought Tuesday was the best practice we’ve had in a long time,” Stockhausen said on Thursday. “Guys were sharp, ready to go, vocal. We addressed some things that we’ve let slip a little bit, and I thought we’ve been competing all week, really.
“And really, just getting focused on doing the little things that we have to do to be successful,” he continued. “Attitudes have been good.”
Ketchikan freshman Colby Hanchey might’ve been one of the most vocal.
“I told Colby Hanchey, ‘You know what? This is the first week I’ve heard your voice every single day,’” Stockhausen joked. “I feel like — times, they are a’changing.”
And that change is a good thing.
“They’re doing so much better with intensity, focus. Even talking,” Stockhausen said. “The young kids are naturally quiet people.
“... (It’s) just growth,” he continued. “Every kid started in a different place. Every kid’s got a different set of strengths and weaknesses. And watching them as a group starting to play off of each other and help each other where they’re weak — it’s the good things that athletics can teach kids.”
And this group has definitely started to gel — and started to peak.
“This group of guys have learned to become more empathetic; the chemistry is improving,” Stockhausen said. “It’s still an interesting group of guys. A wonderful group of guys, just — we might be a tie-dye shirt instead of a Gucci sweater. But there’s definitely some color in what we’re putting together. (It’s a) good group of guys.”
The Kings swept Juneau-Douglas (6-16) when the Crimson Bears came to town on Feb. 7-8. Ketchikan outscored them 144-108 in that two-game series.
“There’s a lot of pride there,” Stockhausen said of the Kings’ rival to the north. “They’re going to come at us with everything they have. It’s probably going to a be a good, physical high school game, like what we’ll see in regions. And we’ve got to be strong with the ball and make good decisions, and play with composure. That’s the big thing.”
And while the Kings’ offense might focus primarily around Chris Lee and Kristian Pihl — two players which ASAA lists in its top 20 — Ketchikan’s role players might loom large this weekend.
Lucky for the Kings, those role players are facing two of the state’s top players every day in practice.
“Chris is a problem for everybody in the state,” Stockhausen said. “So now you’re asking a bunch of 5’7” freshmen, 5’5” freshmen (during practice), ‘Hey, go shut him down.’ Well, that’s a little unfair. But they’re getting better trying, and they’re getting smarter trying. So (that’s) all things that’ll help us down the road.”
And for the Kings, that foreseeable road currently leads to Juneau.
“I’m real proud of the guys — good group of guys,” Stockhausen said. “Just a unique group. ... This group is totally different (from last year’s), and we just need to create our own story. And we’ll see where that ends up.”
Juneau’s the new ‘home’
For at least a couple weeks, the Kings are setting up camp in Juneau.
They’ll be back at Kayhi for school, of course.
But after traveling to Juneau to face the Crimson Bears this weekend, the Kings will turn around and travel back to the capital city in a couple weeks for the Region V tournament, which will be at Juneau-Douglas High School from March 10-14.
Young Kings compete
Both of the Kings’ younger squads will compete against their respective counterparts in Juneau-Douglas this weekend.
The Kings’ C teams will start the action on both Friday and Saturday, followed by the JV squads. Game times have not been announced.