Metlakatla coach Julian Russell waves the MisChiefs Region V Championship net on Friday. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Metlakatla coach Julian Russell waves the MisChiefs Region V Championship net on Friday. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Metlakatla girls defeat Craig for Region V championship

MisChiefs play with emotion in win over Lady Panthers.

The Juneau Empire’s expanded coverage of the Region V tournament is made possible by Sealaska Corp. Thanks to this sponsorship, this article —and all 2023 Region V coverage — is available online without a subscription to the Empire.

Playing on emotion for their teammates, their high school and for community members in the stands and in their hearts the Metlakatla High School MisChiefs basketball team dominated the Craig Lady Panthers 47-18 to win the Region V 2A Girls Basketball Championship on Friday in Juneau’s Thunder Mountain High School gymnasium.

“I’m ecstatic,” Ryley Booth said. “I can’t even believe that we just pulled this off. We all love each other so much and I think we all just wanted it so much for each other. We all fought so hard. Craig is a really tough team but we just came out knowing that we were the ones that deserved to win that. We lost a pretty big influencer in our life a few months ago, in December, so this was a pretty big deal for us. He is like a father figure to all of us and he is a really great coach and we all really love and appreciate him. This is really an emotional time for us. We all fought so hard to get this. We are just hoping we get State now. We are firing on all cylinders right now.”

That influencer was Randy Cook, the father of junior Kennedy Cook, grandfather to sophomore Lexi Cook. He passed away in December from a heart attack.

After Metlakatla coach Julian Russell cut down the last string of the championship net Friday night he took it to Javan Cook, Randy’s widow.

“It’s like a rollercoaster right now,” Metlakatla coach Russell said. “So emotional. With what happened to Randy we have tried to stay mentally focused and mentally strong. I have my own individual, my father Albert, who passed away 14 years ago that I wish were here. He never got to see me coach… but these girls battled so hard. They worked their butts off to get this and we didn’t let it go this year. We were up at halftime last year and we blew it in the second half… we made sure that wasn’t going to happen this year…”

Metlakatla High School junior Kennedy Cook (3) dribbles against Craig senior Laci Lowery during the MisChiefs 2A Region V Championship game win over the Lady panthers on Friday at Juneau's Thunder Mountain High School. (Klas Stolpe  / for the Juneau Empire)

The MisChiefs started quietly with an 8-3 advantage after the first quarter on three baskets by Lexi Cook and one from senior Randi Schleusner. Craig’s lone basket came from senior Alissa Durgan and a free throw from senior Amiaya Hansen.

The MisChiefs pushed their advantage out to 22-9 at the half-time break behind three free throws by Kennedy Cook, baskets by Lexi Cook, Schleusner, junior Bree Chavez, and Booth. Craig senior Alexis Lawnicki had five free throws and junior Priscilla Trudeau a basket.

Craig senior Alissa Durgan (14) and Metlakatla sophomore Lexi Cook (12) jump to tip off the girls 2A championship game of the Region V 2A/4A Basketball Tournament on Friday at Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Craig senior Alissa Durgan (14) and Metlakatla sophomore Lexi Cook (12) jump to tip off the girls 2A championship game of the Region V 2A/4A Basketball Tournament on Friday at Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

“It feels good, we worked hard,” Lexi Cook said. “Last year we came out strong in the championship game but we came short. So this year was kind of like our comeback. Now we go to State. It is not over yet. Try to get those seniors last chance at a championship.”

Lexi Cook said Randy would have been vocal at the game.

“He was more like my dad because he was raising me,” she said. “I lived with them. We argued a lot but that was like our bond, that was our connection, the arguing…”

Randy Cook would have appreciated Metlakatla’s third quarter as Kennedy Cook scored four free throws, and junior Bree Chavez, Booth and junior Sarai Buffalo hit one basket each.

“It’s rough but… he meant everything to me,” Kennedy Cook said. “He was my dad. I did everything for him. He did everything for me. He was our coach for a lot of girls on the team…”

Metlakatla High School sophomore Lexi Cook (12) blocks a shot by Craig senior Alissa Durgan (14)  during the MisChiefs 2A Region V Championship game win over the Lady Panthers on Friday at Juneau's Thunder Mountain High School. (Klas Stolpe  / for the Juneau Empire)

In the off seasons Randy Cook would take Kennedy, Lexi, granddaughter Mia Winter and their teammates to basketball camps and tournaments.

“His inner child really showed,” Kennedy Cook said. “He liked to do everything with us, just not roller coasters… He liked to play me one-on-one a lot but he had a bad knee and shoulder so I got him… I think he was here with us, definitely celebrating. He was always our biggest supporter out there. He cheered hard and followed us everywhere.”

Craig scored five points in the third quarter and four in the fourth quarter.

Metlakatla put 15 points on the score clock in the final eight minutes including two shots past the arch from senior Chloe Guthrie, and baskets by senior Pyper Booth, Ryley Booth and Chavez.

“I’m excited, we deserved that,” junior Bree Chavez said. “We worked for that all year. State is next. It is our year. We were in this exact position last year and we lost. But from the start of this game I knew it was going to be ours. Randy would be proud.”

Metlakatla MisChiefs players celebrate a made basket during their 47-18 win over the Craig Lady Panthers in the 2A Region V Championship Game at Juneau’s Thunder Mountain High School on Friday. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Metlakatla MisChiefs players celebrate a made basket during their 47-18 win over the Craig Lady Panthers in the 2A Region V Championship Game at Juneau’s Thunder Mountain High School on Friday. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Ryley Booth led Metlakatla with nine points, Lexi Cook and Guthrie added eight points apiece, Kennedy Cook and Chavez seven apiece, Schleusner four, P. Booth and Buffalo two apiece.

The MisChiefs hit 10-14 at the free throw line, the Lady Panthers 9-26.

Lawnicki led Craig with eight points, Durgan added four, Makenna Taylor three, Trudeau two and Hansen one.

Metlakatla will be the top Southeast seeded team in the March Madness Alaska State Basketball Tournament in Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

Craig will play for the second seed on Saturday at 3 p.m. against Haines.

More in Sports

A roadside daisy displays a fasciated center. (Photo by Deana Barajas)
On the Trails: An odd plant malady, a clever duck, and more

I recently learned about a mysterious, relatively rare affliction of plants called… Continue reading

Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau (right) takes a selfie with WSOP legend Phil Hellmuth in the background. (Photo provided by Alaska Sports Report)
Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau and Mario Fata consistently cashing in at World Series of Poker

Anchorage pro Adam Hendrix remains Alaska’s most prominent poker player, but don’t… Continue reading

Heidi Reifenstein reaches Father Brown’s Cross to complete the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run on Saturday, setting a new women’s record for the 3½-mile race with a time of 37 minutes and 40 seconds. (Photo by Jeff Gnass)
A mother of a mountain: Heidi Reifenstein sets new women’s record for Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run

Longtime Juneau resident returns to peak form after taking break from racing while raising kids.

After a morning hike, a satisfying breakfast for under $20 hits the spot. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Food for thought

To my left is a man with a thick British accent who… Continue reading

The Nogahabara Sand Dunes in the Koyukuk Wilderness Area west of Koyukuk River. (Keith Ramos / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Alaska Science Forum: Mystery of the glass tool kit in the sand

From space, the Nogahabara Dunes are a splotch of blond sand about… Continue reading

A bumblebee pollinates the flower of shy maiden, which will turn upward soon afterward. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Flowers, showy and otherwise

The spring and summer flower show at Cowee Meadows (way out on… Continue reading

Athletes compete in a swim event at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center on Sept. 16, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: It’s OK to say an athlete failed at obtaining a goal

During the telecasts of the 2024 Olympic trials commentators stated that around… Continue reading

A brush turkey on a mound the size of a car (Flickr.com photo by Doug Beckers /CC-BY-SA-2.0)
On the Trails: Nest-building by male birds

Most birds build some sort of nest where the eggs are incubated.… Continue reading

Insects like these flies clinging to a tent seem to be in ample supply in Alaska’s boreal forest. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Insects of Alaska forest humming along

Recent long-term studies revealed a three-quarters reduction of insects in parts of… Continue reading

An estimated 185 people, many dressed in unconventional attire for running or walking, take off from the starting line outside Centennial Hall during the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau revives its summer solstice spirit with Only Fools Run At Night

Runners and walkers in madcap costumes fill downtown streets as race returns after six-year absence.

Lydia Jacoby, Alaska’s gold-medal swimmer, announced Tuesday she is withdrawing from the U.S. Olympic Trials. (Alaska Sports Report photo)
P.J. Foy does not advance, Lydia Jacoby withdraws from U.S. Olympic swimming trials

First-ever Juneau swimmer to compete in trials finishes 49th among 61 competitors Friday.

Trout Unlimited's Matt Boline holds a container with coho fry for official documentation of anadromous fish use in an unnamed creek in the vicinity of Juneau. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Survey says…

Our floatplane cleared the notch in the snowy ridge then turned slightly… Continue reading