Chugiak girls enter basketball season 'refreshed'
Believe it or not, graduating six seniors and losing its point guard has benefited Chugiak’s girls basketball team, said third-year head coach Ryan Hales.
“It’s been really refreshing for our program,” he said. “There’s no one big name or one big star coming back.”
Out of the 10 on varsity, half are returning players, Hales said. Those include seniors Madison McAleavey, Kenzie Matthis, Sammi McMullen and Malia McVee and sophomore Brandy Bookout.
The team’s offseason work is paying dividends early in the season, Hales said.
“We’ve had some great practices,” he said. “We’re getting a lot done in two hours.”
Hales attributed that to the team’s positive attitude.
“It’s just a different mindset,” he said. “They’re working harder.”
Maintaining that level of commitment all season is key, McAleavey said.
“If we work hard in practice, that will make us better in games,” she said.
The girls are also coming together faster than last year, Hales said.
“They’re uniting as a team a lot more,” he said. “They’re just all working their butts off.”
“We all work well together,” she said.
Chugiak opened its season with a 51-38 non conference loss to Palmer on Saturday, Dec. 8. The Mustangs led by eight at the half, but Palmer outscored them 19-3 in the third quarter.
Anna Ingraham scored a team-high nine points for Chugiak.
The Mustangs have a solid group of underclassmen to complement their core of seniors, Hales said.
“We have some younger players that have stepped it up,” he said.
Though Alisite Aguilar — who ran the Mustangs offense at point guard last year — won’t be donning blue and black this season, she’ll still be playing in the Cook Inlet Conference for West High.
Chugiak is looking forward to meeting their former teammate on the court, McAleavey said.
“We’re excited to play her,” she said.
Everyone on the floor knows their job, McMullen said.
“It’s a pretty experienced team,” she said.
Those who lack experience are learning fast, McMullen said.
“We’re catching on pretty quick,” she said.
While reaching the state tournament is the ultimate objective, McMullen said, each team member also has personal goals for the season.
“Every time you reach a goal, you set a new one,” she said.
Chugiak has no distractions preventing it from progressing, McMullen said.
“We have no drama this year,” she said. “It’s a pretty fluent team. We flow together.”