FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The high school basketball season begins this week, and one of the teams tipping-off first is the Lathrop Malemutes. They will take on Eielson on Friday for the 8th annual Silent Night in honor of late coach Joe Tremarello, a pillar for Lathrop basketball for over 50 years. The crowd will be asked to remain silent until either team scores their 10th point, in which the crowd will erupt afterwards. Both the boy's and the girl's game will be endowment games, meaning the final will not go against either team's record.
Coaches Dave Stewart and Chad Roberts will look to lean on much of the underclassmen this year. Lathrop is welcoming freshman T.T. Tagovailoa to its squad, and returning sophomore Torrin Johnson-Oates, both expected to be big contributors this season. There is also a sprinkle of veterans on the roster, who have helped make the transition into the new season much smoother.
"I think it helps in that they know the offense, they know the defenses that we run, so we can kind of run right into that," Coach Roberts said of the returners. "It lessens the learning time and then they are also there to help the new kids that are here."
One of the returners is senior Lianna Tuck, who will be taking a larger leadership role this year.
"I'm kind of glad the same players came back this year. We're building on our teamwork and team chemistry so I'm glad to end the season with the people that I have on the team right now," Tuck said at practice.
"I think we still need a little more work, conditioning wise, but I think we are going to be ready for the season." she added.
The Malemutes will be looking to replace the production of Olivia Kraska, who moved on to play Division II basketball at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Their season officially tips-off Friday at 7:30 when they host the Eielson Ravens.
The boy's squad is eyeing an appearance to the state tournament after missing out the last three seasons. The Malemutes are guard heavy and will see many players getting significant varsity minutes for the first time. They'll be returning players like Tyriq Luke and Jhon Rones, while moving on from Kyler Hope, who is playing collegiate basketball at the University of Wisconsin Manitowoc. Lathrop will be guided by Head Coach Matt Wilken once again, who talked about the first game coming up in just a few days.
"It's great, it is a special night, it is in honor for Coach T. There is a lot of jitters, it will be nice to get that first game out of the way, but it is fun to watch them in that first game just jump into the season and have some fun." Wilken said at practice.
Rones, the dual athlete who doubles as a wide receiver, will be leading the team as one of the few seniors.
"To be honest, our group this year is pretty good, we have some good players, but we are still working on chemistry," Rones said. "As a senior, I am giving them [underclassmen] advice, like just be cool and stick to practice and stay focused."
Lathrop begins play on Friday against Eielson at 6 p.m. for Silent Night.