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.