The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team is heading into the season with a team that’s primarily a blend of sophomores and seniors. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team is heading into the season with a team that’s primarily a blend of sophomores and seniors. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

TMHS readies for season tipoff

The Falcons’ basketball season is ready to take flight.

The Falcons’ basketball season is ready to take flight.

The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball season will start Thursday at the Cougar Tipoff tournament at Service High School in Anchorage.

Coach John Blasco said in the lead-up to the season, he’s often asked how the team will look on the court.

“We’ll see,” Blasco said. “The guys have a lot of exciting energy among them. They’re excited to rebuild what TM basketball is.”

Based on the number of students who tried out for the team, that excitement seems widespread.

“We had 53 kids try out,” Blasco said. “It’s way more than we ever have.”

Blasco speculated it could be the result of kids eager for athletics and activity after multiple COVID-shaped years.

While on-court masks are still required, this season will be relatively normal compared to last year’s truncated season.

“Every week football and volleyball got to continue, it was encouraging,” Blasco said. “It was proving teams can play their season.”

He said players are eager to travel outside Southeast Alaska again.

The Falcons lost some key contributors to graduation including Meki Toutaiolepo and Oliver Mendoza, last year’s team MVP and Best Defense award-winners, respectively. However, several players who played significant roles in last year’s 9-9 team are returning, and last season’s junior varsity standouts, like JV MVP Samuel Lockhart, will be contributing to the varsity team this season.

[TMHS recognizes players with end of season awards]

Blasco noted that the team is primarily a blend of seniors and sophomores. There are five seniors on the team this year, two juniors and six sophomores.

“It’s an interesting age gap,” Blasco said.

James Polasky goes up for a layup during practice at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

James Polasky goes up for a layup during practice at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

He said it will be interesting to see how the team coalesces and plays together.

One of the sophomores, Thomas Baxter, was an all-conference selection last year, “which is a pretty big deal for a freshman,” Blasco said. Baxter was also the Falcon’s second-leading scorer.

Baxter, who was selected as TMHS’ most-improved player last year, continues to refine his technique, Blasco said.

“This year, I think you’ll see a lot more skill developed,” Blasco said.

Based on Baxter’s penchant for slam dunks in between practice drills, the athleticism that Blasco said fueled Baxter’s freshman year success is intact, too.

Wallace Adams, a multi-sport athlete, is among the returning seniors. Adams was selected as the Falcon’s best passer last season and was co-winner of the Coach’s Award and was recognized for Most Hustle, too.

Blasco praised both his play and leadership.

“He’s a pretty incredible leader and motivator with the guys,” Blasco said.

Varsity Schedule

Date, opponent / tournament, number of games

Dec. 16-18, Service Tournament, 3

Dec. 22 Alumni game

Jan.6 Petersburg (endowment), 1

Jan. 7-8 at Ketchikan, 2

Jan. 12 at Eagle River, 1

Jan. 13-15 at Palmer Tournament, 3

Jan. 19 Petersburg, 1

Jan. 20-22 at Barrow Tournament, 3

Feb. 4-5 at JDHS, 2

Feb. 11-12 Wasilla, 2

Feb. 17 South, 1

Feb. 18-19 Ketchikan, 2

March 4-5 JDHS, 2

March 10-12, Region V Tournament

March 23 -25, State Tournament

Roster

Number, name, grade

12, Wallace Adams, 12

3, Isaiah Nelson, 12

2, Matthew Johns, 12

11, Matthew Hartstock, 12

15, Storm Aguirre, 12

24, MJ Tupou, 11

32, Sam Sika, 11

33, Thomas Baxter, 10

14, Samuel Lockhart, 10

1, Lance Nierra, 10

30, James Polasky, 10

5, TJ Guevarra, 10

10, Owen Adams, 10

Head coach: John Blasco

Assistant coaches: Matt Seymour, Joe Tompkins

Managers: Kaidence Bernaldo, Cedar Croteau

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

More in Sports

Alwen Carrillo, one of the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boy’s basketball team captains, dribbles during practice on Dec. 15, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau boys basketball hitting the road

One team is bound for Anchorage, the other for Utqiagvik

A basketball sits ready for play at Thunder Mountain High School on Dec. 7, 2021. Starting this week, Juneau’s high school basketball and hockey players may participate in enhanced COVID-19 screenings rather than wear a mask while playing. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Prep sports teams breathe easier

New testing options let players drop masks.

Soldotna’s Gehret Medcoff prepares to enter the zone with teammate Daniel Heath against Juneau-Douglas on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi hockey tops Juneau

SOLDOTNA — The Soldotna hockey team defeated Juneau-Douglas 4-2 on Thursday in… Continue reading

The 1997-1998 Klawock boys basketball team. The author is in the back, the third player from the right. (Courtesy Photo)
I Went to the Woods: Region V memories

I Went to the Woods goes to the hardwood.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé junior Kai Hargrave collects his plaque from softball coach Lexie Razor after being named the boy's free-throw champ at the Princess Tours Capital City Classic on Dec. 30. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)
Another ‘Classic’ is in the books

JDHS girls win, local players earn tournament honors

teaser
Scores at a glance for the week of Jan.21

Quick recaps for local teams.

teaser
Scores at a glance for the week of Dec. 24

Quick recaps for local teams.

teaser
Scores at a glance for the week of Jan. 14

Quick recaps for local teams.

Alwen Carrillo, player for the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, dribbles during practice on Dec. 14, 2021. Both JDHS teams will compete in the Capital City Classic beginning on Dec. 27, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Happy ball-idays: Teams ready for Princess Capital City Classic

Teams from near and far will face down on the basketball court after Christmas.

teaser
Scores at a glance for the week of Dec. 17

Quick recaps for local teams.

Erlyn Penalosa of the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé girls varsity basketball team advances downcourt during practice on Dec. 14, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
JDHS girls basketball team starting season swinging

A junior- and senior-heavy roster make for a formidable team.