The Region V, 1A girls basketball tournament looks to be wide open this year, and defending champion Klawock, despite being the No. 3 seed, has its eye on defending the title.
Klawock won its first 23 games last year before falling 43-42 to Newhalen in the state championship game. The Chieftains erased a 10-point deficit and just missed a shot at the buzzer that would’ve won state championship.
Success has been a bit tougher for the Chieftains this year, as the team has gone 8-8 overall and 4-4 in Southeast Conference play, but they still are seeking a region title and another run at the state tournament.
“It’s been an up-and-down season for us. We haven’t found our groove yet this year. If we play well, my expectation is for us to get to state,” Klawock coach Jim Holien said. “We’re the defending champs and we are going to defend that title. That’s our plan.”
Angoon (7-4, 6-2) earned the top seed in the region tournament, but the Eagles have regular-season losses against the two lowest seeds in the tournament, Kake and Skagway. 
“Every one of those teams can beat anybody on any given night,” Holien said. “The tournament is wide open.”
Only five schools in Southeast Alaska fielded girls basketball teams this year. Among the schools that didn’t have teams were Thorne Bay and Hydaburg, leaving Klawock as the lone 1A team on Prince of Wales Island.
“Ten years ago it seemed there was always a full region, but the girls side has been less over the last few years,” Holien said. “Some of the programs that were powerhouses haven’t had teams. It’s a little disappointing; it’s just enrollment.”
Despite the loss of 1A competitors in Southeast, Klawock did get a full schedule of games in with the help of its 2A neighbor Craig. The Chieftains played the Panthers four times and also played games against teams that were en route to face Craig.
“We got to play a few of the 2A teams that were coming to the island, and we traveled to Petersburg and got three games in against bigger schools. I think it helps us (playing larger schools). We’ll find out,” Holien said. “The Craig girls have a really strong team this year. We lost to them all four times, but it was definitely good competition.”
In the Petersburg tournament, Klawock beat 2A Petersburg and 2A Unalaska before falling to 4A Ketchikan.
“I was a little disappointed in how we played against Ketchikan,” Holien said. “That was day six of six games in a row for us. The night before we played Unalaska, which was probably one of our better games of the year.”
With just a five-team bracket, Klawock has a bye on Wednesday before opening tournament play with a semifinal contest against second-seeded Hoonah on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. The game will be streamed at mehs.us.
Klawock split a two-game series at Hoonah on Jan. 28-29, losing the first game 30-23 before winning the second game 29-25.
Play in the region tournament begins at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka with No. 4 Kake playing No. 5 Skagway. Awaiting the winner of that game will be No. 1 Angoon at 11:45 a.m. Thursday.