Chugiak's Andrea Samaniego (1) drives toward the basket as teammate Kelsey Heller sets a screen on East's Tia Harrison during the T-Birds' 53-47 win over the Mustangs on Jan. 4 at Chugiak.
STAR PHOTO by Matt Tunseth
After watching his team nearly stage a big comeback against East in its Cook Inlet Conference opener on Jan. 4, Chugiak girls basketball coach Ryan Hales predicted that the Mustangs were on the verge of victory.
"We'll get there," Hales said after the 53-47 loss at Chugiak High.
It might be time for Hales to head to Vegas.
The Mustangs proved their coach dead-on in their next game, getting 17 points from Jessica Tramp to seal a 42-35 win over Bartlett on Jan. 8.
Tramp's big game was just what the Mustangs needed. In the team's first four games all losses Hales said his players seemed reluctant to assert themselves offensively.
Chugiak, which improved to 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the CIC with the Bartlett win, is a young team. The team has no seniors on the roster and just three returning varsity players, and Hales said one of the biggest challenges this season will be to convince his squad that they're ready to be key varsity contributors.
"They've been just role players, and now they're having to step up," he said.
Tramp stepped up big time against Bartlett, netting nine of her points in the final quarter to help Chugiak pull away. Jessi McMullen and Mollie Matthis each scored nine points for Chugiak, while Kelsey Heller added eight.
Hales said consistency will be an issue this season, and that was evident in the home opener against East. The T-birds raced out to an early 26-7 lead as Chugiak struggled with turnovers and poor shooting. Chugiak fought back in the third, cutting the lead to 36-31 behind seven points from Tramp in the quarter.
But Chugiak was only able to get as close as five points down the stretch as the Mustangs missed nine of their final 11 shots. Fiti Manu and Tia Harrison each scored 14 points to pace the T-Birds.
"We are yet to put four quarters of basketball together," Hales said following the loss.
Tramp led Chugiak against East with 10 points, while Matthis had a fine all-around performance with nine points, nine rebounds and seven steals. Heller added nine points and six boards, Alistie Aguilar had nine points and four steals, Tracie Haken chipped-in eight points and McMullen added three points and grabbed eight boards.
The first-year head coach said he wants his team to play an up-tempo style of basketball that will put a premium on fitness and aggressiveness.
"I want to average about 65 shots a game," he said.
In order to continue winning that way, however, he said his players must continue to accept the fact that they're now ready for prime time.
"They've gotta pull the trigger," he said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 694-2727, Ext. 215.