Hopes high for ERHS girls hoops squad

New-look team begins season next week at East


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Eagle River’s Shekinah Young goes up for a layup during the Wolves’ practice Dec. 6. Eagle River opens its season Thursday, Dec. 20 at the East Thunderbird Classic in Anchorage.

MIKE NESPER

Eagle River High’s girls basketball program has managed only one win over the past three seasons. And that’s just where the Wolves are keeping that record — in the past.

“We have a new mindset this year,” sophomore point guard Lauren Frost said. “We don’t even look back to last year.”

That’s not the only new addition to the team.

Princella Jones has taken over the head coaching duties from Terra Bingham, who served in the role for three seasons.

Her immediate focus is on conditioning, Jones said. Eagle River needs to be in shape to compete with the best of the Cook Inlet Conference, she said.

“I’m working them hard,” Jones said. “It’s gonna pay off.”

Senior Mikayla Smith-Douglas agreed.

“We need to get our bodies in shape so we won’t be tired in games,” she said.

Despite their record, Jones said, the Wolves will turn a few heads this season.

“A lot of people are going to be surprised,” she said. “I have high expectations for the squad as a whole.”

Eagle River opens its season Thursday, Dec. 20 at the Thunderbird Classic at East High.

Frost, who wants to finish .500 this year, said that goal is attainable.

“We’re already better than last year,” she said. “I honestly see bright things.”

Frost is one of four returners who saw significant playing time last season. The others include Dana Panfil and Smith-Douglas, both seniors, and junior Sam Coy.

The Wolves have 11 players this year, up from just seven on the 2011-12 roster.

In her final high school season, Smith-Douglas said she’s committed to changing the perception of Eagle River.

So far, the team has responded well to Jones, Smith-Douglas said.

“She knows the game of basketball,” she said.

Smith-Douglas said her new coach’s rule is simple: “When we walk in this gym, be ready to work.”

Jones said she focuses on fundamentals.

“I’m real firm on the basics,” she said.

Jones wants Eagle River to boast a strong defense.

“I’m a defensive fanatic,” she said.

The Wolves’ offense doesn’t need much work, Jones said.

“Shooting is not our weakness,” she said.

Jones said she wants her team to begin the season — and each game — with intensity.

“We’re gonna come out with a strong presence, and we’re gonna play,” she said. “We don’t lose unless we decide to lose.”

The Wolves’ success will stem from their attitude, Jones said.

“They have to believe in themselves,” she said. “What you put into this is what you’ll get out of it.”

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