Win or lose, Ketchikan High School head coach Kelly Smith wanted to make sure his group of Lady Kings put forward their best effort.
The inner drive and desire to strive for a common goal, regardless of results, was something Ketchikan could control. And as long as the Lady Kings gave it everything they had on the basketball court, tallies in a win-or-loss column were secondary.
Such was the case inside Juneau-Douglas High School on Friday evening, when the Crimson Bears defeated the Lady Kings 50-26 to claim the Region V 4A title.
While the end result stung, the effort was there. But sometimes the ball bounces out of the hoop.
“I told them, ‘As long as you walk off the floor and have no regrets, that’s all that matters,’” Smith said. “And I think we did that with our effort, and how they carried on the tradition of Lady Kings’ basketball with class. I was extremely proud of them.
“This was a pretty hostile environment,” he continued. “Juneau was keyed up to beat us; they had a lot of emotions. And our kids just represented themselves like they always do.”
And the Lady Kings have always done that with class and character on and off the court.
“We took a young group, with a lot of unfortunate pressure put on by outside sources — with streaks and stuff like that — and they competed,” Smith said.
The Lady Kings finished the year 15-11, stringing together a pair of four-game winning streaks, and hit the quarter-century mark in consecutive victories against Thunder Mountain High School.
The Lady Kings were nearly unbeatable at home — going 9-2 inside the confines of Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.
Their only two losses at home were against Esperanza High School, a top-ranked team from Los Angeles, during the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic, and against Juneau-Douglas in late February. Juneau-Douglas has been the top-ranked team in Alaska this season.
“It’s high school basketball, and obviously there are a lot bigger things going on in the world right now,” Smith said. “But these kids don’t owe anybody an explanation. … Can they live with the results because of the effort they gave? And they can.”
Ketchikan also was only one of two teams from the state of Alaska to beat Juneau-Douglas this season, as the two teams split their final two-game series of the regular season.
And the Lady Kings closed out the year with a four-game stretch at the Region V tournament in the capital city, finishing 2-2 in the double-elimination bracket.
Ketchikan opened the tournament with a 41-21 win over Thunder Mountain on Tuesday. The Lady Kings fell 49-36 to Juneau-Douglas in the regional semifinal on Wednesday, but battled back to beat Thunder Mountain once more, 41-36, on Thursday, forcing another showdown against the Crimson Bears on Friday night.
“We got to play four games at the region tournament. That’s pretty exciting,” Smith said. “… It would’ve been very easy after a really good (victory) Tuesday night, an OK (game) Wednesday — it would’ve been really easy to roll over on Thursday morning, 15 hours later. And they didn’t do that. It wasn’t pretty, but they found a way to win.”
The Lady Kings will graduate seniors Nadire Zhuta, Madison Rose and Lianne Guevarra this spring. The Lady Kings didn’t have anyone on roster this year from the Class of 2021, giving them the same core for the next two seasons.
“They are classy young ladies, all unique in their own ways,” Smith said.” Yeah, it was a good year for Lady Kings basketball.”