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Missing the state tournament last year has Chugiak High’s girls basketball team more motivated for this season. But it won’t be easy getting there this year.

Only the top two Cook Inlet Conference teams will earn automatic state berths. Other automatic Class 4A berths include two from the Northern Lights Conference and one from the Southeast and Mid Alaska conferences.

The final two spots will be determined by Winning Percentage Index standings. This is the first time WPI will be used to determine who goes to state.

Different year, same problem.

Eagle River High girls basketball again is suffering from low numbers. The 2011-12 team has just six full-time varsity players and two JV swingers.

It’s a problem that’s plagued the Wolves since senior captain Meaghan Byman started playing as a sophomore.

“The problem is we have a new team every year,” she said. “That’s a big key to our unsuccessfulness.”

KeyBank plans grand reopening

The Eagle River KeyBank branch will host a grand opening to celebrate completion of its remodeled Eagle River branch and its new Saturday operating hours on Jan. 21 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. The branch, located at 10928 Eagle River Road, recently underwent a remodeling effort, and has also added Saturday hours from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., starting Jan. 21.

Anchorage Police have identified the driver in a New Year’s Day collision between a pickup truck and two pedestrians in downtown Anchorage as 21-year-old Tex Daniels II of Chugiak.

According to police, Ashley Marie Brotherton and Clayton Tyler Wilbanks, both 24, were walking northbound alongside I Street shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 1 when they were struck from behind by a red 1994 Dodge Ram 1500. Both were taken to local hospitals. On Monday, Jan. 2, police spokeswoman Marlene Lammers said Wilbanks’ condition was fair.

Ever wondered who picks books for Anchorage Public Library? With more than a half million books on the APL shelves, keeping up with what’s there, what’s new, what should be added or discarded is a complicated process, to say the least!

First-year head coach Fred Young doesn’t care that Eagle River High only won two games last year. He doesn’t care that 10 of his 12 players are new to the team.

His sights are set on making the state tournament and changing the attitude of the boys basketball team.

“We’re looking to change the culture,” Young said. “We want to make state and get what we can on the way there.”

The entire team feels the same way, Young said.

“Their work ethic is out the roof right now,” he said.

Even the start of a new sports season can’t erase the way Chugiak High’s 2011 football campaign ended.

Chugiak was forced to forfeit three of its wins due to use of an ineligible player and missed the playoffs. But some of those football players are hoping to use what happened this fall as fuel for the 2011-12 basketball season.

“It’s motivation for us football players to exceed in another sport,” senior Steven Puterbaugh said.

Surrounded by hostile forces in a faraway land, Army Command Sgt. Major Terry Gardner spent Christmas singing with his troops.

“I was able to sit down with them and sing Christmas carols,” Sgt. Maj. Gardner said during a conference call from Afghanistan between he and Col. Morris Goins and Anchorage-area media on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Gardner explained that he visited several outposts in the restive Khost and Paktia provinces during the holiday. At each stop, he asked the youngest and oldest soldiers to choose their favorite holiday songs.

Janie Williams, the owner and director of the Stars Dance Studio, got up for the second time to shut the door as a gust of wind blew it open.

“Our building is a little bit older,” she said. “But it serves its purpose.”

The second floor has done more than that, though, as number 6A has been the home of the Stars Dance Studio — and Williams’ dream — for the past 20 years.

“I never really planned on opening a studio,” she said. “I was actually a legal secretary for a few years.”

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