Members from the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boys basketball team traveled to California to compete in an independent tournament on March 26, 2021 after high coronavirus levels squashed their hopes of going to the Alaska state championship. (Courtesy photo / Zoey Kriegmont)

Members from the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boys basketball team traveled to California to compete in an independent tournament on March 26, 2021 after high coronavirus levels squashed their hopes of going to the Alaska state championship. (Courtesy photo / Zoey Kriegmont)

Basketball players get final games in California

It may not have been a perfect ending but they got there together.

Members of the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boys basketball team enjoyed a last hurrah for the season in California in an independent tournament over the weekend.

The team, which couldn’t attend the state tournament because of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley region’s relatively high rate of COVID-19 transmission, competed in a tournament in Los Angeles. Participation in the tournament was independent of school district support, and team members raised money to cover costs associated with participation.

“It was fun. We had a great experience,” said Ben Kriegmont, acting coach of the team. “We had a good time. It was a good experience for our young guys to see not just the level of competition in the Southeast but the level of competition outside.”

Twelve players were able to attend, Kriegmont said, though two big names were injured, damaging the team’s chances.

“We ended up going 1-3 out of our four games. Brock McCormick wasn’t able to play with his broken thumb, and we lost Cooper (Kriegmont) the night before with a sprained ankle,” Kriegmont said. “That’s close to 40 points of our production, which hurts.”

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The competition was largely schools from the greater L.A. area, Kriegmont said, including some sports-focused prep schools that provided the stiffest competition. Talented teams and condensed games with 14-minute halves made for tight series of games. This makes for good experience for the younger players who might not have had the chance to play out of the Southeast yet, Kriegmont said.

“I always think if you play against guys who are bigger faster and stronger you get better,” Kriegmont said. “There’s no coasting.”

While the record wasn’t the source of as much joy as it could have been, Kriegmont, their location offered countervailing considerations.

“We had some great nights at the beach, some sand volleyball,” Kriegmont said. “The guys don’t like to lose but after five minutes at the beach, they put that behind them.”

The students were able to enjoy a circumspect spring break, Kriegmont said, not mixing with the locals and staying safe. The tournament had good built-in mitigation measures, Kriegmont said, to keep the limited number of fans and players safe.

“It was a good time. Quite a few parents were able to come down. Some guys had some relatives here that were able to visit,” Kriegmont said. “Brock and Cooper went to college visits with coaches they had talked with.”

Kriegmont thanks the generosity of the community and local companies for making it possible, saying the players were working on thank yous.

“Close to $17,000 was raised. Alaska Airlines got us a block group rate of tickets.This was a great idea, but it would never ever have happened without the generosity of the community and Alaska Airlines,” Kriegmont said. “RE/MAX of Alaska supported us with shooting jerseys. The Hooptime program loaned us to jerseys to play in.”

Other local donors and companies including Ike’s Fuel helped get the team down there, Kriegmont said.

“It was a great trip,” Kriegmont said. “The Juneau community really supported the kids.”

All-State players named

Kriegmont had an additional reason to celebrate, with his son Cooper being named to first team All-State.

“As a father, I’m super happy for him. As a father and coach, I’m proud of him,” Kriegmont said. “That’s the culmination of years of hard work. Cooper’s been in the weight room since he was a freshman on the varsity team. He’s done the work to earn the accolades.”

Meki Toutaiolepo of Thunder Mountain High School was named to the third team. On the girl’s side, Kiana Potter of JDHS and Sydney Strong of TMHS were both named to the third team.

The full listing is available at http://asaa.org/wp-content/uploads/programs/2021-3A-4A-Basketball-State-Championships-Program.pdf

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