Monroe Girls make history, West Valley Boys take care of business at Joe T. Classic

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 8:21 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In the 9th annual tournament honoring longtime Fairbanks basketball coach Joe Tremarello, eight Alaskan programs took to the Joe T. Court at Lathrop High School for three days of action. Tremarello, who passed in 2012, played for Lathrop (then Fairbanks High School), before coaching Lathrop to a state championship in 1964. As a teacher, mentor and coach, ‘Joe T.’ is also a member of the University of Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, representing the Nanooks as a player and coach for many years.

“For over fifty years, he strived to pass on to those who follow, the exemplary qualities of service and leadership he himself so ably provided to the city of Fairbanks, the University of Alaska, the Fairbanks North Star Borough and to Lathrop High School,” an excerpt from the Joe T. Classic program states.

Don’t Sleep on the Monroe Girls

The Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic in late January featured the same teams as this weekend’s Joe T. Classic; The West Valley Wolfpack, the Lathrop Malemutes, the Grace Christian Grizzlies and the Monroe Catholic Rams. At the tournament less than a month ago, the Rams dropped contests to West Valley and Lathrop by 19 points each, before defeating Grace as their lone win of the tourney. Fast forward to February, Monroe was set to face the same field once again. The Rams opened the tournament on Thursday with West Valley, in not-the-cleanest of contests. With a halftime score of just 15-8, the Rams fended off the Wolfpack’s comeback efforts as junior Shelby Eidenmiller scored all 10 of her points in the closeout quarter to come away with a 38-32 opening night victory over previously undefeated West Valley.

“It is a really big deal, because we have been working the program for how long?” said Monroe senior Matteah Felix, the Girls Joe T. Classic MVP. “It has just been forever since we beat a 4A team so it just means a lot.”

Coming off the high of defeating the Wolfpack, the Rams had to turn around and face the Class 4A Malemutes the next night. Monroe took advantage of the absence of one of Lathrop’s best players, taking down the Malemutes 56-46, led by 14 points apiece from Katie Bast and Eidenmiller. With the win, the Rams defeated two 4A programs they have not beaten in about 15 years, according to the program.

“They’re job is to compete against one another every day in practice, but love and support one another at the same time and that is a tricky proposition. You don’t show love to a teammate by taking it easy on her,” said Rams head coach Bob Burcell. “I have been telling the girls for two years that the community at Monroe is ready for them to be good again and this was a step.”

By the time Saturday’s game with Grace Christian approached, the Rams had already locked up their first Joe T. Classic title. Not yet satisfied, Monroe topped the Grizzlies 49-39 led by 21 points from Maggie Zaverl, who did all over damage from behind the three-point arc.

“We tell them repeatedly that players win basketball games, not coaches. I can screw it up, but I am not going to win any games for them,” Burcell added. “I was talking to one of the assistants on the boys team, he said ‘hey, good strategy, I bet you told Maggie Zaverl to hit seven threes for you’ and its like ‘yeah, that was the strategy.’”

Pulling off the tournament upset, members of the all-tournament team noted that it is the chemistry both on and off the court that makes this team so special.

“The chemistry is great, we are all like family. In school, on the basketball court, out of school, it is just a big family.” said Eidenmiller.

“On the court it is awesome, off the court it is awesome, I am just so lucky to be a part of this program. It is just great, it has always been great.” added Bast.

“I just really love the chemistry with our team, we all work really hard together and everybody supports everybody and I love the culture here.” said Zaverl after the claiming the Joe T. Classic championship.

Joe T. Classic All-Tournament Team (Girls)

Matteah Felix (MVP) - Monroe

Katie Bast - Monroe

Shelby Eidenmiller - Monroe

Maggi Zaverl - Monroe

Tristian Martin - Lathrop

Ali May - West Valley

Tessa Binder - Grace Christian

West Valley Boys Back On Top

At the Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic mentioned earlier, West Valley fell to the host Rams 51-48 in the championship game. The Wolfpack were able to avenge that loss Thursday, handing Monroe their first loss of the season, 56-41, in a battle between two of Fairbanks’ best.

Trailing eight at the break, West Valley’s Tyriq Luke took over the game, scoring 19 of his 26 points in the second half to propel the Wolfpack to victory. Unfortunately for basketball fans, that would be the final time these two teams meet this year with the season series tied 1-1.

After the monumental victory on day one, it was Grace Christian and Lathrop standing in the way of West Valley’s Joe T. title. In what was their least productive game in terms of offense, the Wolfpack defense did enough to come away with a 50-46 win led by 17 points from Cortarius Mingo and 15 more from Luke.

Similar to the Monroe girls, West Valley (12-1) had already claimed the Joe T. Classic championship by Saturday’s tip-off, but still wanted to take care of business against Lathrop, their cross-town rivals. No shortage of offense from the Wolfpack in this one, scoring 16, 26, 26 and 23 points in each respective quarter in the 37-point victory. The duo of Mingo (34 points) and Luke (31) combined for 65 points, outscoring the Malemutes themselves, to seal the 91-54 win.

“I think we did great today, we played really well, team basketball. A lot of our shots were going down, we were just feeling it.” said Luke, the tournament MVP

“We get to show people how we really can play,” said senior Judah Ward after returning to form at the Joe T. Classic. “I think tonight we did really good, we came out in all four quarters and went hard instead of just coming in slow to start it off.”

Mingo added to Ward’s emphasize of playing a complete game.

“Our focus this week was try to put together a whole four quarter game so we can just succeed later on in the season,” said Mingo. “We learned how to play together, we are working together better now and we know where each other going to be on the court.”

Joe T. Classic All-Tournament Team (Girls)

Tyriq Luke (MVP) - West Valley

Cortarius Mingo - West Valley

Stewart Erhart - West Valley

Quinn McHenry - Monroe

Malachi Bradley - Monroe

Earl Parker - Lathrop

Luke Lentfer - Grace Christian

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