The good news for Chugiak and Eagle River's boys basketball teams is that it's a long season. The bad news? It could be a long season.
The Mustangs fell 67-39 to Service on Jan. 19, the same day Eagle River dropped a 90-57 decision to South.
"We're still building," said Chugiak assistant Sean Murphy, who handled the coaching duties against Service in place of head coach Orin Wear, who missed the game to attend to a personal matter.
Murphy said he still believes the Mustangs (who fell to 5-5 overall and 1-3 in the Cook Inlet Conference) are capable of turning their season around.
"We're building on the idea that we've been in these games, and if we keep learning from every one of them we'll be okay," he said.
Chugiak was in the game until the third quarter, when Service guard Amu Aukusitino made the Mustangs pay for sitting back in their 2-3 zone, knocking down a trio of 3-pointers and ripping off 17 points in the frame as the Cougars opened up a 20-point lead and never looked back.
"We just need to be able to identify that quicker," Murphy said of Aukusitino's defense-busting bombs.
Murphy said the team needs to get better at handling the ball (Chugiak committed 26 turnovers) and communicating on both ends of the floor.
"We've got to be talking to each other," he said.
Aukusitino finished with a game-high 30 points to lead the Cougars.
Colby Mitchell led Chugiak with 11 points about half his season average and no other player had more than five points as Chugiak shot just 25 percent from the floor in the second half.
Murphy said it's not time to write the Mustangs' obituary just yet.
"We've got a long road ahead of us," he said.
Unlike Chugiak, Eagle River had to deal with a duo of hot hands South's Tommy Hobbs put in 25 points and Tommy Walker netted 22 in the Wolverines' blowout victory. The loss dropped the Wolves to 0-6 overall and 0-4 in the conference.
Junior guard Kelechi Madubuko was a bright spot for the Wolves, going for a team-high 15 points in the loss. Dominic Young added 12, and Branden Viotto chipped-in 10 for the Wolves, who dropped their first four conference games by an average of 34 points each.