Wrangell’s boys’ basketball faced the Metlakatla Chiefs at home while the Lady Wolves were away for the weekend. The community crowded the gym Friday to send off Varsity Coach Ray Stokes. Stokes plans to retire at the end of the season.
Long-time friend and referee Jeff Jabusch made opening remarks about Stokes’ 30-year career with the Wolves.
“I remember that in December of 1994, the sawmill closed down. People were out of work, and it was a depressing time in Wrangell’s history. A month later in January of 1995, our boys basketball team won the state championship,” Jabsuch recalled. “It didn’t put people back to work, but it did provide a much needed lift to the community, and there was a sense of pride felt by everyone.”
Stokes gave an emotional speech, thanking friends, past players and the community.
“I just can’t say enough about this small community,” said Stokes after highlighting several close families. “I’ve seen some great things. I’ve seen some horrific things. People that can get together like you guys can and stick together – I’m really appreciative that I got a chance to come to Wrangell, Alaska.”
Stokes came to Wrangell for the 1986-1987 season from Iowa. He said he was sought out by a former school administrator. Stokes remembered getting the call as he was leaving for the summer.
“I was just getting in my car. I went in there and it was Ken Meacham,” Stokes recalled. “He said ‘Hey, I heard you coach basketball down there.’ I said ‘Well, I try.”
Stokes initially declined the position, but received several calls from Meacham in the following days. After accepting the job, Stokes took the Wolves to state 13 times and came out on top once. Several players from the 1995 championship team were on hand for the sendoff.
Stokes also thanked his current senior boys for their time on the team. Sam Armstrong, Tarren Privett, Trent Stokes, Garret Miller, Dawson Miller and Sam Prysunka are set to graduate this year.
The Wolves had a strong showing against the Chiefs Friday. The boys ended the half, trailing by five and almost closed the gap in the third, 37-41. Trent Stokes, who made seven of eight free throws, brought the Wolves within two points with about four minutes to go. But, The Chiefs pulled away and were up 56-48 with under a minute left on the clock
Riley Blatchley was fouled a few seconds later after driving towards the net, putting up two points. He made his free throw, bringing the wolves within five. Metlakatla maintained their lead and ended the game, 58-51. The Wolves made 21 of 66 shots from inside the paint and just three baskets from the three-point line.
The Wolves also struggled Saturday. They were down 16-41 at the half and ended the game 57-75. Stokes put up 44 points over the weekend and Blatchley was Wrangell’s second top scorer with 18 points.
The Lady Wolves were swept by Metlakata over the weekend. They take on Craig Monday and Tuesday.