For one Saturday night in January, at least, there was a hint of normalcy inside Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium, as basketball was played.
It’s been 10 months since the Kings and Lady Kings took the court inside Ketchikan High School — 10 months since Kayhi was last represented on a basketball floor.
There were fans in the stands — not a full house, but a couple hundred people.
The Ketchikan High School pep band played nearly non-stop, and the Kayhi cheerleading squad, KHighlites dance team, as well as the Dancemania All-Stars, put on shows between each “game.”
The games were moreso scrimmages, of course.
The points on the board didn’t matter for the annual Meet the Kings event.
But what did matter was the fact that Ketchikan — and its kids — had something fun to look forward to.
As the the country struggles with the novel coronavirus pandemic, Saturday was needed as a sense of relief — especially for a town that lives and breathes its basketball.
“The first time things have felt normal to me, was the Thursday before tryouts,” Lady Kings’ head coach Kelly Smith said. “We had 14 high school girls in the gym, three ex-Kayhi Lady Kings, and we were playing. This place was loud and coaches (were) watching. It was the first time it’s felt normal since last year. So to have this environment again is awesome. ... It’s just great for the kids.
“One thing we have learned in the last 10 months is that human connnection is huge, and this is part of it,” he continued. “This is what keeps kids going.”
Typically hosted in early December, the Meet the Kings event kicks off Kayhi’s basketball season. Saturday’s event jump starts an abbreviated schedule, which includes an all-Southeast list of opponents — Juneau-Douglas, Thunder Mountain, Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe high schools. The teams will play a home-and-home series against each school.
“There were all kinds of emotions (tonight),” Smith said. “There was excitement, happy to be playing basketball (and) dead tired. This is the first week.”
Tryouts for both the Kings and Lady Kings started on Jan. 11.
Kayhi immediately hit the ground running, preparing for Saturday’s event. And in a zero-to-60 fashion, Ketchikan will start its season Wednesday in Juneau. It will be a four-day trip, as the boys’ and girls’ teams will play both Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain.
“Just talking with (the kids afterward), they were saying, ‘This is much better than what practice has been,’” Kings’ head coach Eric Stockhausen said. “... They played better tonight than what they’ve been playing in practice.”
The Kings’ junior varsity team started the evening, followed by the Lady Kings varsity and Kings’ varsity. The Kings wore masks, as they will be required to wear during games in Juneau.
“(I’m) very pleased with the effort,” Stockhausen said. “The week is a little more of an epic rollercoaster than I wanted, but, as you can see here, these kids are resilient, and not once have they complained about the masks. They know that’s just the game at hand.”
And Saturday’s game at hand was bigger than a scrimmage.
It gave hope to tomorrow.
“It just kind of feels like there’s hope for normalcy again,” Stockhausen said. “... Our kids just went out and played. Win, lose or draw — that’s what kids should be doing, and getting those experiences.”
Here are the 2020-2021 rosters:
Lady Kings roster: Shaelyn Mendoza; Paige Boehlert; Bree Johnson; Hyacinth Bondoc; Hayley Gilson; Rachelle Biggs; Abby Davies; Lindsay Byron; Gabby Mas; Ira Magno; Jenae Rhoads; Johanna Werth; Monique Clevenger; Chelsea Johnson; Tracilee Denny.
Kings roster: Joeben Lorenzo; Tyler Slick; Clayton Olstad; JJ Parker; Josh Gentry; Andrew Kleinschmidt; Josh Rhoads; Kylar Charles; Zach Hanchey; Albrim Zhuta; Jared Rhoads; Archie Dundas; RC Lorenzo, Bubba Williams; Jack Zink; Brayden Gentry; Kyan Scudero; Pehja Hudson.
Eighth graders help fill roster
To help give the Kayhi Kings a junior varsity scrimmage on Saturday, six eighth graders helped Ketchikan fill out the roster. These eighth graders are not affiliated with the Schoenbar Middle School Knights basketball program, as they wore the Kings’ jerseys on Saturday.
Schoenbar still plans on providing intramural activities this spring for the Knights and Lady Knights. The school’s basketball season was pushed back in November, due to the novel coronavirus, and is currently scheduled to begin in March.
Without the six eighth graders who helped the Kings scrimmage Saturday, Ketchikan’s boys’ junior varsity squad would’ve had only six players.
There is not a C squad for the Kings this season.
Kayhi heads to Juneau
Both the Kings and Lady Kings will travel to Juneau this week. It will be the first time a Kayhi team has traveled to the capital city since the novel coronavirus pandemic hit last spring.
During the four-day trip from Wednesday to Saturday, the boys’ and girls’ teams will play both Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools. Juneau does not allow fans in the stands, and masks must be worn during competition.
The Lady Kings are scheduled to play Juneau-Douglas on Wednesday and Thursday, before traveling across town to face Thunder Mountain on Friday and Saturday.
The Kings have the opposite schedule — playing Thunder Mountain on Wednesday and Thursday, before passing the Lady Kings on the road to play Juneau-Douglas on Friday and Saturday.
Home schedule begins Jan. 29
After traveling to Juneau, Kayhi will continue its all-Southeast schedule, as both the Kings and Lady Kings will host Sitka High School at the end of the month, on Jan. 29-30, for their first home games of the abbreviated season.
There will be limited seating, however. Similar to the Meet the Kings event on Saturday, only those with a pre-arranged ticket will be allowed to enter the Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium. The games are scheduled to be broadcast on KPU and live streamed at www.kgbsd.org/live.