Ketchikan Kings reclaim state title after 45 years

L-R Rear: Asst. Coach Rick Shaner, Asst Coach Darryl Simons, Gavin Salazar (14), Head Coach Eric Stockhausen, sportscaster Russell Thomas, Cody Kemble, E.R. Caparas (holding trophy), team manager AJ Malouf (partially obscured), Arthur Williams, Jake Taylor, Tyler Slick (44), Robert Hilton-Seludo (34), Wyatt Barajas, Chris Lee (11), sportscaster Clark Slanaker, Kristian Pihl (21). L-R Seated: Kyle Smith (12), Marcus Lee (Photo courtesy of Russell Thomas)

After a 45-year drought, the Ketchikan High School Kings basketball team on Saturday took the 4A title, winning 57-53 against Dimond High School at the state championship tournament in Anchorage.

Kings head coach Eric Stockhausen says 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 says because they had fewer taller players this year, and some players were coming off injuries, he changed strategy this season to fit the players’ strengths. He says there were no seniors on the team last year, this year there were eight. Stockhausen says team members grew up together, playing in Ketchikan Dribbler’s League before joining school sports. He says 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 in to everything I asked them to do, and they did it. And exceeded expectations or at least met them in every situation.”

The Kings were the eighth-seeded team in the eight team tournament. Stockhausen says that ranking was based on games played in January, which they did not win. In February and March, the team was scoring wins. He says being ranked eighth gave them motivation. Stockhausen says 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.”

In the first round, the Kings played top-seeded East Anchorage High School. Ketchikan fell behind in the first quarter but rallied back to win 60-58. The Kings played Soldotna High School in the semi-finals, again coming from behind to win 53-48. Saturday’s championship game with Dimond went into overtime, and 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 Kings basketball team last held the state title in 1974. This year’s win marks the Kings ninth state title.