Mariners find close competition in Anchorage

The Mariners took on the last three remaining teams in their region in Anchorage last weekend with a trio of hard-fought basketball games against Grace, Anchorage Christian and Houston. The Mariner boys lost to Grace and ACS after two tight games Thursday and Friday, claiming a victory over Houston on Saturday. The girls, who pulled off three late-game comebacks to keep themselves in each competition, lost all three games by four points each.

The Lady Mariners took on the Grace Grizzlies Thursday after a long bus ride, with several players combating the flu that has been circulating through the team. Grace came out strong, and the Mariners, who were slow to get moving, fell behind quickly. By the end of the first half Homer was down 20 points. 

The Lady Mariners have made it their mission this season to fight each game until the bitter end, and Thursday’s contest was no exception. During halftime, the girls found their mental shift and came back out with focused intensity. By the fourth quarter they had brought the score within one point. However, Grace managed to hold on to a slim lead, ending the game in their favor, 53-49.

Friday’s game against ACS had a similar feel. Homer hit a rough patch early on, and by the fourth quarter the Mariners were down 14 points. With two minutes left on the clock, they launched a run that brought them within one point of ACS in the final seconds of the game and the action ended just after ACS sank crucial foul shots, claiming a 45-41 victory. However, in the final moments of the game it could have been anyone’s win, and for Mariner Head Coach, Chad Felice, that was victory enough.

“We were down by 14 with two minutes left, and we missed a shot to tie it. We had a chance. … These girls, they don’t quit. They just don’t quit,” he said. 

The Mariners matched up against Houston on Saturday in another close game that turned physical in the second half resulting in several injuries. At halftime the Hawks had pulled within one point. As the teams traded for the lead during the second half, sophomore Sofia Clark fell and hurt her knee, while seniors Larson Fellows and Shelby Alexander each took hard charges and had to sit out the remainder of the game. The Mariners held on until the final seconds of the game, where a missed three-point shot would have tied it for them. Instead, the Hawks clenched onto their small lead and finished the game 57-53. 

Each game had great moments and the Mariners proved they could match up against anyone in their conference, Felice told the team.

“It’s pretty scary for other teams when we do the things that we’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

The Mariner boys, who have been working hard to find their strength as a cohesive unit, ran into two sharp-shooting individuals in games against Grace and ACS, according to Mariner Head Coach Nate Creel. 

The game against Grace got off to a slow start on Thursday, but the Mariners rallied in the second half and made a run for it in the final moments. Senior Jaruby Nelson scored five three-pointers in the fourth quarter to try and boost his team to a win. Despite his efforts, the Grizzlies finished the game 66-59.

Friday’s game against ACS got off to another slow start for the Mariners, who finished the first quarter down eight points. Their momentum shifted soon after, however, and they outscored ACS in the second and third quarters. By the fourth quarter the score was nearly even, but in the final moments ACS pulled ahead to win 55-60. 

During Saturday’s match against Houston, tensions began to rise as the game became physical, as well as emotional. Creel worked hard to give all of the players time on the court, urging the Mariners to maintain their focus and play as a team.

“Everybody came out and played hard in that game. (They) got me rebounds, set screens. That was a good all around team effort,” said Creel. 

The Mariners finished their weekend with a 51-42 victory over the Hawks.

Today the Mariners fly to Kotzebue for games against Nome. They will play Kotzebue on Friday; Saturday the boys face Point Hope and the girls play Grace again. 

Creel says he’s anxious to see what the northern teams have to offer, but also to bring the Mariners’ long stretch of travel to a close. After next weekend, both the girls and boys varsity teams play the remainder of their season at home, leading up to Regions on the first weekend of March, with the Mariners positioned well for the remainder of the season, according to Creel.

 “I think our boys have a great shot. They’ve proven to me they can play with anybody,” he said.

Lindsay Olsen is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.