They might not be the state's winningest basketball program, but the Eagle River girls sure know how to travel like all-stars.
The Wolves, who are coming off back-to-back winless seasons and are off to an 0-6 start this year, will fly to Juneau today for their second trip to Southeast in less than a month, squaring off for a pair of games against Thunder Mountain on Jan. 14 and 15.
Second-year coach Terra Bingham said the high-flying road trips are one way she's trying to attract players to her program, which is extremely low on numbers again this season.
"I try to make it as fun as I can," Bingham said following the Wolves' 74-14 loss to Dimond on Jan. 8 at Eagle River.
The Wolves didn't have much fun against the defending conference champions, as Eagle River managed just three points in the second half, turned the ball over 46 times and watched as Dimond's all-state star Keiahnna Engle racked up 26 points in less than 16 minutes of play.
But beating teams like Dimond isn't really the goal, Bingham said. Instead, she wants to begin building a team that can master basic concepts like team play and running a set offense.
"Our first goal is to work as a team, to be able to run an offense together," she said.
She also wants to help her players learn to deal with adversity something the Wolves have to face on a regular basis.
"It's also stuff like being able to deal with frustrations out on the court, because we deal with that a lot," she said.
Just 15 players turned out for basketball this season, and Bingham said she'll likely have eight or nine on varsity. Bingham said recruiting is tough because players don't typically arrive at her school with much organized basketball experience.
"They don't really have anything structured," she said.
Bingham's squad has just three returning varsity players, but she does have a promising newcomer in freshman Sam Coy, who led the Wolves in scoring with four points against Dimond.
"Mainly with her is she's really coachable and a hard worker," Bingham said.
Bingham's captains this season are her three seniors, Danielle Trubiano, Cassie Barsalou and Nicole Carroll. Barsalou had a solid game in Eagle River's 71-14 loss to Colony on Jan. 6, accounting for half the team's offensive production.
The Dimond loss dropped Eagle River to 0-6 overall and 0-2 in the Cook Inlet Conference. The Wolves also lost 63-10 in their conference opener to Bartlett on Jan. 4.
Bingham said her team's strength is defense the Wolves allowed just six points to Colony in the opening quarter but the Wolves struggled to find a rhythm on offense.
"It's just confidence," she said. "We can run it in practice just fine, but the games..."
She said she's even tried bribing her players with treats to try to get them to work the ball into the post, for example.
"I tell them, 'if you can get it down there 10 times I'll give you ice cream,'" she said.
Losing all the time isn't fun, which is why Bingham said she's trying to make the sport more attractive to new players by focusing on fun. Because there is no middle school basketball in the Anchorage School District, she said doing things like taking road trips, offering up ice cream, holding open gyms in the summer and encouraging players to attend off-season camps are her way of trying to build the program to respectability.
"I hope it works," she said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at email@example.com or 694-2727, Ext. 215.