There was a journey on a crab boat, a constant view of the mountains and enough turbulence to worry an inexperienced flier.
“A few of our teammates hadn’t been on a plane [and] it was funny to watch them, their reaction,” said Cottage Grove’s Markus Julien, a senior on the basketball team. “It was kind of funny because any turbulence they’d look around and look a little scared.”
This was all part of the Cottage Grove boys’ basketball team’s journey to Alaska over winter break.
After a spot opened up in the 51st annual Joe Floyd basketball tournament in Kodiak, Alaska, Cottage Grove’s first year head coach Nick Finley, who previously coached in Alaska, received a call to see if his new team wanted to join. The trip was approved by the Cottage Grove High School administration and the South Lane school board and the team was off.
What sweetened the deal for the Lions was that through donated air miles from community members in Kodiak, the bill dropped from an estimated $12,000 to around $3,000 according to Finley. The trip was paid for through the CGHS basketball account which earns money through fundraising throughout the year.
The Lions enjoyed their time in Alaska both on and off the court.
On the court, the team went 3-0 including a win against the host school, Kodiak High School, in front of a standing room only crowd and the trip was capped by an Erick Giffen buzzer beater to defeat Lathrop in their final game.
While in Kodiak, the team stayed in the home of Kodiak High School’s athletic director Debbie Rohrer.
“The house right on the waterfront, giant house that housed all of us…. One of her rules, you better make yourself at home or you’re not allowed here. So we get in there and make ourselves at home and every day her mom would deliver three giant things of cookies, muffins, pastries, whatever. And her rule was that by the end of the day they had to be eaten so she could load it back up and she could make more,” said head coach Nick Finley.
“These kids were treated like royalty for a week.”
The team was also treated to a seafood banquet with the other teams at the tournament and were instructed by Rohrer that they had to sit by people that they did not know.
“Me and a couple of the guys on my team went and sat next to the kids from Nikiski and there were a couple from Eagle River which is north of Anchorage. So we got to talk to a whole bunch of new people and meet them. And even now I’m still talking to them. I got some of their numbers and we’re keeping in touch,” said senior Gabe Glenn.
Glenn, who fell in love with the state, will be joining the Air National Guard after high school and is now planning to be stationed in Alaska next year.
“I have never met friendlier people. More welcoming people in my whole life. That was one of the big things for me, just the atmosphere for everything,” said Glenn.
“I’m already talking to my recruiter about transferring my air force base. Today, this morning in first and second period I was taking notes on cost of living there.”