For Boys' Basketball, High Hopes at State Tournament

Friday, March 13 2015

Coach Kent Russell and the Raiders boys' basketball team watch as junior Ben Enlow takes a shot during practice on Friday. (Annie Ropeik/KUCB)

The Unalaska Raiders boys’ basketball team will fly out for the state 2A tournament in Anchorage on Saturday, weather permitting. It's the first time in almost two decades that they've qualified for high school March Madness.

The team has spent their whole snowy spring break in intense practices -- getting ready mentally and physically to compete at states. On Friday, it was time to lighten things up:

Kent Russell: Half court hot-shot, alright -- what your coach couldn’t do.

Coach Kent Russell lines his team up for a hot shot contest in the high school gym. Each group has to sink a series of different shots, finishing from way out at center court.

Russell: Ready? Set? Go!

After a few rounds, junior Bryan Earnshaw lines up a one-handed half-court shot from over his shoulder…

Team: Ohh!!! [amazed cheering]

… and nails it.

"I practice those during lunch," Earnshaw says afterward, laughing. "Just behind the back, half-court."

The boys are feeling confident going into next week’s tournament games, starting Monday against Chevak. Junior Ben Enlow had high hopes they’d make it this far.

"I think we knew our team was a lot stronger than it was last year," Enlow says. "It’s a lot deeper this year, so there’s a lot more trust in that we would have the ability to go to state."

Enlow and some other juniors on the team have had Kent Russell as their coach since he came to Unalaska their freshman year. By now, Russell says, his team has come together.

"They’ve just matured, he says. "They’ve found their roles and kind of figured out more how to win as a team."

The last time the Raider boys or girls went to states was in the 1996-97 season. They were in division 2A back then -- but they spent a long stretch in 3A after that, playing bigger schools with more competitive teams.

Now, they’ve been back in 2A for a few years -- and principal Jim Wilson, himself a former coach, is hoping they’ll have a shot at the championship.

"You know, you get to the state tournament, and any team can win three games," Wilson says. "So we wish ‘em the best of luck."

Russell: Alright, here we go, have a seat.

As practice winds down, Coach Russell hands out schedules and goes over some final details.

Russell: Make sure you have everything that you need. Alright? Don’t forget to pack your games.
Team: Like video games? -- Like chess?
Russell: Your basketball skills.
Team [laughing]: Oh, dude, I never forget that. -- I keep it in a little, like, fannypack. -- See this little pocket?
Russell: You got it in a fannypack?

The Raiders are set to fly out Saturday morning, along with at least a dozen parents and siblings -- including some from the girls’ team, whose season was cut short at regionals.

So now, it’s all on the boys. Their last advice from Russell: They’re at their best as a team, not just as individuals.

Russell: You don’t have a guy that’s gonna go out and score 30 points every night. But it could be a different guy every night that goes out and scores 20, or 15. So kind of keep that in mind, think about how our style of play will be at the state tournament. Get ready, pack your stuff. Don’t be late!
Team: Alright. [in huddle] Out -- together!
Russell: Get outta here.

The full boys' 2A bracket schedule is available here.

Alaska Airlines is offering a discount for anyone booking a last-minute flight to the state tournament. And you can tune in to KUCB 89.7 FM to hear the games broadcast live, starting Monday at 3:30 p.m. against Chevak.

News Community About Site by Joseph Redmon