Basketball culture propels Seldovia to state

Seldovia is not one of those schools that is going to make the Class 1A state tournament for 10 straight years.

The population of boys and girls in the school can be so cyclical that the Sea Otters are probably going to have trouble fielding a team for 10 straight years.

But when a solid group of boys or girls gets enough time to mesh at the school, look out.

The Seldovia boys will make their first appearance at state since 2008, taking on Selawik at 8 a.m. at South High in the Class 1A opening round.

“This group has been playing with each other since junior high and many have been gym rats since they were 7 or 8,” said Mark Janes, in his third year at the helm of the Otters.

Janes said the core of the team has grown up in Seldovia, and that means a rich education in basketball.

“It’s the culture and the isolation,” Janes said. “There’s not a whole lot of other activities to do when it’s raining out.”

And it’s not only the kids that play ball. At open gyms, young players get a chance to learn at the hip of the adults.

That’s how a group of all sophomores and juniors — and one freshman — was able to make off with the Peninsula Conference tournament last weekend. The Sea Otters start three sophomores and two juniors.

“We have a lot of potential moving forward, but we want to make as much hay as we can right now,” Janes said. “You never know how things are going to change.

“It’s going to be tough climbing back through our conference. Everybody is young, so you never know.”

By beating Nikolaevsk 51-47 in the Peninsula Conference championship, the Sea Otters avoided playing defending 1A champ Klawock in the first round and avoided the play-back bracket at conference.

“That’s one of the things I was screaming in the locker room,” Janes said. “I didn’t want to play another game, and I didn’t want to see Klawock in the first round of the playoffs.”

The Sea Otters enter state with a 13-9 record, but it is deceiving because Janes loaded up the schedule with tough teams to toughen up his team.

“Maybe the teams at state will see our record and think we aren’t any good, but our talent doesn’t reflect the team’s ending record,” Janes said.

The coach is expecting a tough game from Selawik.

The second-place finisher from the Northwest Arctic Conference beat Noorvik, last season’s 1A runner-up, to make state.

Janes said it looks like Noorvik has more height than his team, but that the Sea Otters were able to cope with taller teams all year.

Sophomore Aiden Philpot was the Co-MVP of the conference for the Sea Otters. Sophomore Dylan Waterbury and sophomore Calem Collier are slick ballhandlers that can beat a press, while junior Seth O’Leary can put up points in a hurry even though he is not that tall. Junior Chance Haller gets the other starting nod for the Sea Otters and plays solid defense.

Sophomore Robert Waterbury provides defense off the bench, while junior Souleymane Sidibe, a foreign exchange student from Mali, also provides height with his wingspan. Janes is 6-foot-4, while Sidibe is 6-0, but the coach said he reaches the same height as Sidibe.

“It’s been great seeing the community get behind the team,” Janes said. “Somebody always steps up. Some of the kids don’t have a lot of money, so there are donations to help out with food and travel expenses.”

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