After a 45-year drought, the Ketchikan High School Kings boys basketball team took the 4A title on Saturday, winning 57-53 against the Dimond High School Lynx at the state championship tournament in Anchorage.
Kings head coach Eric Stockhausen said because of the schedule and changes implemented this season, he told the team they likely would lose games early in the season but end up victorious in the end.
“The kids bought into everything that we were trying to do as a program. They were very selfless and very tightly-knit all season long,” Stockhausen said. “Through some adversity, our kids just kept the course and kept encouraging each other and believing in each other and believing in me, and it worked out for us and our community.”
Stockhausen said because they had fewer taller players this year — and some players coming off injuries — he changed strategy this season to fit the players’ strengths. He added that there were no seniors on the team last year, but this year there were eight.
Stockhausen said team members grew up together, playing in the Ketchikan Dribblers League before joining school sports. He said they also are close friends off the court.
“In practice, they were much more competitive than they were last year. Everybody was much more focused,” Stockhausen said. “They were able to correct each other this year, which was more of a difficulty last year, and, like I said, the kids just bought into everything I asked them to do, and they did it. And (they) exceeded expectations, or at least met them in every situation.”
The Kings were the eighth-seeded team in the eight-team tournament. Stockhausen said that ranking was based on games played in January, which they did not win. He said being ranked eighth gave them motivation.
Stockhausen said the coaches used two words to tell the team what they needed to do: poise and intensity.
“Poise on offense, which our kids showed great poise during tough times and lots of pressure, and the intensity was obvious,” Stockhausen said. “We played great defense, and that was the key to our championship run.”
Saturday’s championship game with Dimond High School went into overtime. As the clock ticked down, Stockhausen told the team to just have fun.
“Whether we won or lost that game, it’s not going to change how those kids are going to do. They’re going to be successful men, fathers, husbands the rest of their lives,” Stockhausen said. “But it meant so much to the community, and all the people reaching out and the memories that were brought back for our community. Forty-five years is a long time to want something.”
The Ketchikan boys basketball team last held the state title in 1974. This year’s win marks the Kings ninth state title.
It wasn’t all bad news for Anchorage-based Dimond High School on Saturday. The girls basketball team won their second straight 4A championship, defeating crosstown rival Bartlett High School by a score of 62-57.