Triple Double, Double Double, Wolves Win!

I came from a high school whose basketball program and league that produced numerous college players, NBA players and am very use to having gyms packed to the rafters for games.  I can not remember a boys game at my high school that there was not a seat left in the house.  So coming to Alaska, and going to high school games, I am usually a little disappointed when the game starts and there are a handful of parents and students sitting in the bleachers.  It is even more sad when either the band or the visiting fans outnumber the home fans.  I am use to hardly being able to hear myself think then to hear crickets in the background of an empty gym.

The Wolves Den was almost packed for the Varsity Boys game against Chugiak on February 1st

But last night was different.  While the gym was not packed (thank you ASAA for scheduling an Eagle River Hockey game the same night as the biggest basketball game for the Wolves), it was filled more than usual.  If the hockey team and fans could have been there, it would have been perfect.  But we take what we can get when filling the seats.

Unfortunately for the girls team, it was more of the same.  Lots of turnovers, not looking for the shot (or seeing the shot) when wide open and tough defense from Chugiak was just too much for the Lady Wolves.  However, the underclassmen on the team show a lot of promise.  There is some talent that if the future teams can build off of, they might just have something there.

But onto the Boy’s game.  Chugiak had a uphill battle to fight from the start.  While they may have won the first meet up on the football field (look at the tape…the officials took that game away from Eagle River), the hockey team swept Chugiak this year, with the last loss to the Ice Wolves just a few nights ago, Chugiak needed a win just for their pride.  Chugiak is not the same basketball team, and for good reasons, which we will not talk about here.  In my opinion, they are a more balanced team, and could be a power house.  But they have something that holds them back, and I have seen this for years, and that is their attitude.  They walked into the gym with the “We already beat you attitude”, the “We are so much better than you” attitude.  To be fair, Chugiak has some great players.  It is not often you see a 6’6″ high school player on the perimeter with a 3 point shot.  That is the type of player that could go on to a D1 college if coached right.  But last night, it was the Wolves night.  There was something in the air.  The Varsity boys came out with fresh cut mow hawks, afros teased out, high top fades, and a fun attitude.

Senior Steven Carlos guards the inbound pass from Chugiak

I really did not want to focus too much on a single player, out of respect to the coaching staff of Eagle River, but the spark that has been missing this season has been Senior Nate Yaw.  Last season, everyone had high hopes for Nate, and honestly, he did not play to his potential.  Then after having off season knee surgery and missing most of the season, all really looked bleak for the Varsity team.  But after a warm up comeback against Thunder Mountain last week, Nate was ready, and Chugiak had no answer for him.  If he can keep that play up the rest of the season, Eagle River could shock every team they play into the CIC tournament.

On his way to a triple double, Senior Nate Yaw is fouled on the way to the basket.

Senior Nate Yaw flips a shot up against Chugiak

Eagle River jumped to a lead early on, but Chugiak would fight back to within a couple points, then tie, then back behind by a couple points, then ahead by as many as 3, but it just was not enough.  When the 4th quarter started, it was all Wolves.  A technical by the Chugiak coach gave Senior Kyle Taylor 2 shots at the line (only sinking one), and the Wolves the ball.  A couple steals by Yaw (one on an inbounds play by the Mustangs) started to pile the points on.  And when it was over, when that final whistle blew, the Eagle River Wolves stood proud with a 73 to 58 win.  73 to 58.  At the start of the 4th, Chugiak had pulled into a tie with Eagle River, 48-48.  But the Yaw led Wolves outscored Chugiak 25 to 10 in the fourth.

Kyle Taylor drops back after shooting a NBA range 3 point shot against Chugiak

Viotto for 3

Senior Branden Viotto shoots a three from the corner against Chugiak

As for Nate?  28 points.  11 boards.  10 assists.  Triple Double.  That is huge in high school.  In fact, it just might be a first for Eagle River.  But we are not done yet.  Senior Dominic Young?  lets throw in 22 points for him along with 11 boards.  Two players, triple double and double double.  Not too bad.  What was really killer for me was the bench.  two players specifically.  Seniors Kyle Taylor and Branden Viotto.  If the inside was not there, key three pointers came from Taylor and Viotto.  In fact, Taylor, who started at the beginning of the season, but has moved to a 6th man roll, is unconscious from outside the arc.   There was a point last night that Chugiak did guard Taylor at the three point line, so what does Kyle do?  Pass inside?  No.  Drive past the defense for a closer shot?  No.  How about step out to NBA range and drain a three.  Sure.  How about we pop Viotto in the corner for a three.  Sure.  With Nate Yaw and Dominic Young battling inside, and Viotto, Steven Carlos and Taylor tossing up threes from the outside, throw players like Kelechi Madebuko in with his driving penetrations (and 8 points last night), you have a pretty tough team, and Chugiak found that out the hard way.

Junior Kelechi Madebuko soars through the lane between the Chugiak defense

I am already for the rematch at Chugiak later this month.  Bring it on.

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