Senior night for varsity basketball last Friday was a night of reflection, celebration and bittersweet tears for the players moving on to college after the season and the teammates and coaches they are leaving here in Homer. The Friday night games were the Mariners’ basketball teams last home games of the season.
The JV and varsity teams will travel to play Grace Christian School, Houston and Anchorage Christian School for three days of play that begin today.
In between the girls and boys varsity games, seniors from the boys and girls basketball teams and the cheerleading squad were recognized for their time in athletics at Homer. Players lined up on the court with their parents to receive gifts from their team and cheers from the audience.
Madison Akers shed tears as she stood with her parents, listening to the announcer detail her Homer athletic career. Friends of girls varsity basketball player Kayla Stafford held up signs that showed Stafford’s picture edited to appear in between pop musician Taylor Swift and Golden State Warriors professional basketball player Stephen Curry amid tigers and piles of money and gold with the words, “Kayla is a boss.”
Coaches praise players
For both coaches, Friday was a time to acknowledge the growth and accomplishments of their players with family, friends and fans.
“They’re obviously great players — their work ethic and the way they are with the younger girls, you know from freshman all the way up — they’re part of the reason the basketball team had 29 girls go out for it this year. They’re such great leaders and great young women. They’ve grown into young women, and it’s great to see. I see only great things for them no matter what they chose to do,” said girls varsity basketball head coach Chad Felice.
“(Johann Kallelid) gives a hundred percent when he goes on the floor. You know he’s an important part of our team this year and a good leader, always working hard — that’s some of the things I would characterize as him and he’s improving too,” said boys varsity basketball head coach Weston Carroll.
Seniors have eyes on the prize
As all the attention centered around them, the seniors reflected on the time they spent playing as Mariners, the teammates they consider their family and their goals for the rest of the year.
Akers has her eye on a region title and a place at state for the Mariner girls before she leaves Homer High and she said she believes the team can make it happen. As one of the leading scorers on the team, as well as a senior who has played all four years, Akers is a core part of the team leadership along with Stafford and Aurora Waclawski.
“I know all the girls look up to me so they know I’m a leader on the floor. When there’s a situation they know they can trust me, Kayla and Aurora — we’ve got three really great leaders. We are the glue that helps hold the team together, but everyone contributes,” Akers said.
As for who will take her place as a leader next year, Akers said she thinks Rylyn Todd is the girl for the job. The reality of the end of high school hit Akers hard on Friday night and she said that leaving is bittersweet, as she has enjoyed playing with all the girls on her team. Looking forward, it seems like it will be a bright future for Akers in collegiate sports, though her decision on a specific school is still pending.
“It’s still up in the air, but I’ve been talking to a couple of coaches. We’ll see what happens.”
Senior boys varsity player Johann Kallelid plans to try out for the University of Anchorage Alaska basketball team next year, but first he hopes to make it through regions and to state with his fellow Mariners.
“We’re really close. We work well as a team. We’re like family. We just work together — we try to build each other up,” Kallelid said. “There’s great people here, coaches too.”
Girls stomp down Seward
The girls started and ended strong against Seward, finishing the night with a whopping 50-30 lead. The game began as a struggle between both teams’ persistent defensive strategies — Homer only scored five points and Seward earned six in the first quarter. Homer burst out of the gates in the second quarter and came up to halftime with twice as many points as Seward, 26-13. The game continued with the Mariners in a strong lead, as the girls prevented the Seahawks from gaining any real ground after halftime.
Waclawski scored the most points of the game with 15, followed by Stafford with 13 and Akers with 11. Seniors Grace Kann and Samantha Draves scored four points each, and junior Uliana Reutov scored three points.
Boys lose in tight battle against Seward
Mariner boys held up their own against the Seahawks in the beginning, finishing just behind Seward in the first quarter, but the second quarter marked a turning in the tide.
“We lead as much as ten points in the first half and it was good start and we got tired at the end, maybe, or struggled to hold on, but I’m really proud of how the kids played and showed a lot of improvement over previous games,” Carroll said.
At the finish of the second quarter Homer was leading by one point. Homer lost steam after Kallelid, their only senior player, sat on the bench to avoid getting too many fouls early on in the game.
“I didn’t want to take a chance of him getting his third foul so he didn’t play the second half of the second quarter and that’s when they caught up, just (from) not having a big guy in their rebounding and having his presence in there,” Carroll said. “Maybe I should have put him back in sooner because I think he only got one more foul, but those are the decisions that you have to live with.”
It was in the third quarter that Seward gained an eight-point lead on Homer. As the chance of a second conference win slipped away, the boys gained speed and pushed back hard in the fourth quarter.
By the time there was only a couple minutes left in the game, Homer was only a couple points short of bringing the game into overtime. Bad luck with fouls as they tried to steal the ball and another basket from Seward brought the score up to 60-52 and crushed Homer’s chance for a last-minute comeback.
Sophomore Jordan Beachy scored 15 points, followed by Koby Etzwiler with 11 points and Kallelid with nine. Hunter Edens contributed seven game points, Charles Rohr scored six and Justin Ellison scored four.