The Princess Cruises Capital City Classic has a history of bringing in Lower 48 teams.
Colorado, Idaho, Washington — name a state on the West Coast, and they’ve probably appeared in Juneau-Douglas High School’s annual Christmas-time basketball tournament.
Something far less common, and maybe even unprecedented? A team coming from New York.
Maine-Endwell High School, located just outside of Binghamton, New York, a city of approximately 50,000 people near the New York-Pennsylvania border, is one of the six visiting teams participating in this year’s classic. The boys tournament consists of JDHS, Maine-Endwell, Barrow and Lathrop, while the girls tournament features JDHS, East Anchorage, Barrow and Sitka.
It isn’t the first time MEHS boys basketball coach Bill Ockner has sought out seasonal tournaments outside of his home state. The Spartans traveled to Maryland a few years ago for such a reason, and have continued to look for new places to spend their holiday break.
“Culturally, it’s good for our kids to get outside of our area and see some different things that maybe they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do (otherwise),” Ockner said. “We’re got some kids that are pretty well traveled in our group, and we got some that haven’t been on a plane before. We’re looking forward to an interesting week.”
A late drop out from the classic last year opened up a spot for Maine-Endwell, a school of roughly 700 students, but there wasn’t enough time for the Spartans to make the proper preparations. When JDHS coach Robert Casperson invited Ockner’s team for the following year, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Ockner said he was fascinated both how differently basketball functions in Alaska.
“It was just amazing for me in talking to (Casperson) about how different the landscape is of high school basketball and how things are done,” Ockner said.
Maine-Endwell is a member of Section IV of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA).
After winning the New York Section IV Class A championship last season, the Spartans lost to Ardsley High 59-41 in the first round of the state tournament. Ardsley, the eventual state runner-up, won their sectional final on a well-publicized three-quarters-court buzzer beater.
Ockner is bringing at least 10 players to the Classic. One of his leading scorers, junior Connor Green, turned an ankle in a recent game and his availability for the tournament was in limbo as of Sunday night. If Green is unable to go, Jack Coleman, Chad VanPatten and Gannon Russell will be the main offensive weapons, Ockner said.
2018 Princess Cruises Capital City Classic
Thursday, Dec. 27
10 a.m. Shooting Contest
1 p.m. East Anchorage vs. Barrow (girls)
3 p.m. Barrow vs. Maine-Endwell (boys)
5 p.m. Juneau-Douglas vs. Sitka (girls)
7 p.m. Juneau-Douglas vs. Lathrop (boys)
Friday, Dec. 28
1 p.m. Sitka vs. East Anchorage (girls)
3 p.m. Maine-Endwell (NY) vs. Lathrop
5 p.m. Barrow vs. Juneau-Douglas (girls)
7 p.m. Juneau-Douglas vs. Barrow (girls)
Saturday, Dec. 29
1 p.m. Sitka vs. Barrow (girls)
3 p.m. Barrow vs. Lathrop (boys)
5 p.m. East Anchorage vs. Juneau-Douglas (girls)
7 p.m. Juneau-Douglas vs. Maine-Endwell (NY)
8:30 p.m Awards JDHS gym
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.