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Monroe, West Valley take care of business in opening weekend of basketball

Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 8:30 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Opening day for any sport, for any season, always brings a buzz into the air, but this past weekend’s high school basketball season-opener felt different. Over 10 months removed from last season’s premature ending due to COVID-19, the hoopers are back on the hardwood where they belong. Friday night, the Monroe Catholic Rams hosted the North Pole Patriots to tip-off the high school basketball season in Fairbanks.

Monroe Boys

Monroe, a 3A favorite heading into last year’s state tournament, are back like they never left. After posting a 20-win season and going 10-0 in the Aurora Conference in 2019-20, the Rams are poised to make another run this year as they return their trio of All-Conference members Quinn McHenry, Jase McCullough and Malachi Bradley.

McHenry, who previously signed to Sonoma State’s Division II program, proved how eager he was to get back out there, scoring 11 of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter of Monroe’s 66-25 victory in the season-opener.

“Oh we were hyped, we were ready to be back, everybody was excited,” said McHenry of the energy prior to tip-off.

Setting the tone early, the Rams outscored the Patriots 23-3 in the first quarter and 26-6 in the second, blowing the top off the game. McCullough, the senior floor general, added 10 points and dished out his share of assists, while Alex Garcia paced the Patriots with nine points.

“What stood out to me was the pointing out of little plays along the way, the selflessness, the maturity of guys from last year to this year, the growth and my appreciation for their willingness to work at the level they do,” said Rams head coach Frank Ostanik. “It is not common to work extraordinarily hard as something like this and they do it really, really well.”

It had been 321 days since Monroe was last on the court for an official game according to Ostanik, and the players, coaches and parents in support were grateful to finally be back out there.

“It means a lot, because there was a lot of rumors that we wouldn’t even have an opportunity to play, so it feels good just to have something.” added McHenry.

It was a quick turnaround for the Rams, as they hosted Hutchison for the Hawks’ season-opener and coach Robert Carter’s debut on the sidelines the following afternoon.

Scoring 47 points by halftime, the Rams cruised to a 77-28 victory over their 3A and Aurora Conference counterparts. McHenry led the charge once again with a game-high 21 points, while sophomore standout Malachi Bradley contributed 18 points in the win. Cormac Kesey and Ryan Young had nine and eight points for Hutch respectively.

North Pole will return to action Thursday when they take on the Eielson Ravens, while Hutchison visits West Valley Tuesday. As for Monroe, they are hosting the annual Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic January 28-30 featuring Grace Christian, West Valley, Lathrop and the host Rams.

Monroe Girls

A stout defensive performance in the third quarter from the Monroe girls propelled the Rams to a 52-35 win over North Pole in their season-opener after the boy’s game Friday night.

“We won the game in the third quarter when we held North Pole to three points,” said head coach Bob Burcell.

Three Rams reached double figures as Maggie Zaverl (13 points), Shelby Eidenmiller (12) and Katie Bast (11) anchored the offense. Matteah Felix had four points in the victory, but it was her defensive effort that stood out.

“There have been plenty of successful teams at this school who defended and defended and defended until they went on a little bit of a run and got a workable lead and then beat people, and that is what we did tonight,” Burcell added.

The girl’s program also took on Hutchison Saturday, where defense was once again the key to their success. Holding the Hawks to under 10 points each quarter, Monroe went on to secure a 66-22 victory over their conference opponent. On the offensive side, Bast was the star, scoring 16 of her 22 points in the first half. Monroe will also be competing in the girl’s bracket of the Holiday Classic with the same field of teams.

West Valley/Eielson Boys

West Valley and Eielson were among other schools to get their seasons going this weekend as well. The Wolfpack, who were 22-1 prior the cancellation of the season, were fueled by the hunger of having their championship hopes taken away from them. Senior Judah Ward won the tip-off, sending it to Tyriq Luke, who found a streaking Cortarius Mingo. Ward, who lost the Eielson defenders amongst the action, skied to catch Mingo’s alley-oop attempt, flushing it down to set the tone for West Valley’s 64-19 win over the Ravens.

“It is amazing man,” said Mingo of being able to be back on the court. “Last year, that heartbreak, you don’t want to feel that again, so just coming out here just to play, we have to give it all we got every game.”

An all-around effort in victory, Mingo led the scoring with 11 points, while Ward and Stewart Erhart had 10 apiece.

After losing seven seniors to graduation last year, Mingo touched on the leadership changes in the Wolfpack locker room.

“Younger guys from last year, they have to take bigger roles and step and be leaders and talk to everybody, keep everybody calm,” he said. “Maintaining composure is the main focus.”

West Valley will host Hutchison Tuesday before participating in this weekend’s Holiday Classic. The West Valley girls are expected to make their season debut at the annual tournament hosted by Monroe.

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