Eagle River's Dominic Young attempts a shot during the Wolves' 58-31 loss to Dimond on Jan. 8 at Eagle River High. Young led the Wolves with 12 points and six rebounds in the loss, which dropped Eagle River to 0-2 in the Cook Inlet Conference.
STAR PHOTO by matt tunseth
As the smallest school in the premier boys basketball conference in the state, Eagle River won't have many easy nights this season. But coach Craig Harrison doesn't think that means his team has any excuse not to play hard.
"I never try to put a number on [wins and losses], what we're looking to do is play hard and be in games at the end," Harrison said after his team fell to 0-2 in the Cook Inlet Conference with a 58-31 loss to Dimond on Jan. 8 at Eagle River.
Eagle River also dropped its CIC opener 80-26 on Jan. 4 at Bartlett.
Harrison said that his team, which failed to win a CIC game last year, will need to focus on the little things in order to have a chance to knock off some of the big boys in the CIC this season.
"The toughest thing for us is knowing when to make a play and when not to make a play," Harrison said.
Eagle River was done in by turnovers and sloppy play against the Lynx. After a tight first quarter that ended with Dimond up 11-9, the Lynx pulled away in the second by turning careless mistakes into easy baskets at the other end.
Dimond used a trapping zone defense to confuse Eagle River's ballhandlers, forcing 23 turnovers in the game.
"We had a lot of hesitation," Harrison said.
Ryden Hines led Dimond with 23 points and 10 rebounds, taking advantage of Eagle River's lack of size inside.
Dominic Young was Eagle River's top scorer with 12 points. He also added six boards for the Wolves, who have been missing leading scorer Nate Yaw in the early going as the senior recovers from knee surgery.
The Wolves also lost several players to grades, which Harrison said has made practicing with limited resources a struggle.
"We only have nine active players, and it's hard to get a good, intense look at a defense when you've got a coach stepping in and trying to be a tenth player," he said.
Harrison said he's hopeful Yaw's eventual return to the lineup will help the team's struggling offense.
"We're missing about 20 points per game right now," he said.
Eagle River has had some close games. The Wolves spotted Colony an 18-5 lead after the first quarter on Jan. 6, then outscored the Knights the rest of the way in a 48-39 Colony win. Taylor led the way with 14 points for Eagle River, while Madubuko added nine and Branden Viotto had seven.
Kyle Taylor added nine points against Dimond, Kelechi Madubuko added six and Branden Viotto chipped-in four. Young, Yaw and Taylor are the team's only returning varsity players, though Harrison said Madubuko an athletic guard who played junior varsity his first two seasons will be called upon to play a large role at the point.
"What we try to tell Kelechi is we'd like him to use his technique more than his talent," Harrison said.
What he means by that is the Wolves want Madubuko to limit his turnovers and be careful with the basketball. That didn't happen against Dimond, as Madubuko turned the ball over a game-high nine times in the loss.
"Decision making is our Achilles heel," Harrison said.
If the Wolves can limit their turnovers and run crisp set pieces on offense, Harrison said his team has the talent to compete in the conference.
"If we continue to work hard and do the things we need to do, we'll be okay," he said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 694-2727, Ext. 215.