As some sport seasons are nearing their end, others are just getting geared up, like the boys and girls basketball teams at Homer High School.
The boys will first hit the court during the SoHi Tip Off. They will play Seward at 3:30 p.m. today, Service at 5:15 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, and Eielson at noon Saturday, Dec. 16, all in Soldotna. The Homer girls basketball team will gets its first taste of competition during the Kenai River Classic, to be held in Kenai. The girls will play Soldotna High School at 5 p.m. today, Eielson at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, and Kenai at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16.
Chad Felice, head coach of the varsity girls team, said he’s looking forward to the season and is proud of how much work his players put in during the off season. Now in his fourth season coaching the Lady Mariners, Felice came from New York, where he had already put in 11 years of coaching basketball.
Felice said he was drawn to coaching after playing the sport himself in high school and college, and saw it as a natural extension when his basketball career came to an end. He got into coaching girls teams when his own younger sister was in need of a coach, and it stuck. Female basketball players are extremely hard working, and very coachable, he said. The group he has this year at Homer is no exception.
“They just work hard… they’re the kind of kids you want in your gym,” Felice said.
This year, Felice has two seniors on his varsity team, along with three juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. Last year’s team was pretty young, he said, but the two sophomores got a lot of experience as freshmen on the team. Felice described the team’s practices so far as “phenomenal.” For him, the focus this season is on taking it one game at a time, encouraging the team to play they way he knows they can play. He’s not planning on looking too far ahead into the season, but instead having the girls focus on getting better each day. A big part of the team’s upcoming tournament in Kenai this weekend, the Kenai River Classic, will be helping the players to solidify a team bond, Felice said.
“We’re one big team, we’re one big family,” he said.
Weston Carroll is now in his third season coaching the varsity boys. Before that, he coached the junior varsity team for a year and coached at the middle school level for eight or nine years as well. Born in Homer, Carroll played basketball for Homer High himself. He began as an assistant coach, and it grew from there.
“It’s something … I enjoy, helping them to learn,” he said.
Aside from providing students with a way to get good exercise, Carroll said he hopes he has some kind of impact on the players’ lives.
“There’s some of the kids, you know, if they didn’t have sports you feel like they might not have motivation to do school,” he said. “But to keep them eligible for sports is a thing that keeps them going.”
This year’s makeup for the boys team includes four seniors, who Carroll said are basically the core group of the team that have been playing together for quite a while. There are also two juniors, three sophomores and a freshman.
“This is kind of that group’s culmination of all their work, so hopefully they can have a good season this year,” he said.
The longterm goal for the varsity boys team this year is to make it to the state basketball tournament, Carroll said. He has high expectations for the players and believes this is the year they can do it.
“It’s tough in our region to make it to the state tournament because we’re in the largest region,” he said. “There’s seven schools in our region, and Grace Christian and ACS (Anchorage Christian School) are always really strong teams. So you have to be one of the top two teams in (your region)to go to state, so it makes it pretty tough to get through them.”
Carroll said his players put in a lot of work in the offseason, and also credits the Bruins Basketball Program for kids for preparing future players while they’re young.
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.