It's not uncommon for a coach to prepare his team to face frenetic, full-court defensive pressure by playing five against six in practice.
4A State Basketball Championships
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Sullivan Arena, Anchorage
n Game 1 East vs. Bartlett, 11:55 a.m.
n Game 2 Ketchikan vs. Palmer, 1:30 p.m.
n Game 3 Lathrop vs. Wasilla, 7:10 p.m.
n Game 4 Colony vs. Chugiak, 8:45 p.m.
n Game 1 East vs. Homer, 8:45 a.m.
n Game 2 Kodiak vs. Chugiak, 10:20 a.m.
n Game 3 Lathrop vs. Dimond, 4 p.m.
n Game 4 Juneau-Douglas vs. Wasilla, 5:35 p.m.
It says something about the respect East's defense has earned that Homer coach Billy Day spent this week in practice preparing for the Thunderbirds' nonstop pressure by playing five against seven.
"East will play tenacious, full-court defense for 32 minutes," Day said. "We've been working on that this week in practice by going five on seven.
"They're very athletic and very quick. When they come at you, it seems like there are seven players out there."
East and Homer are two of eight teams that will begin play at the Class 4A boys state tournament today at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. Homer and East will square off at 8:45 a.m.
Eight Class 4A girls teams, none from the peninsula, also will begin the quest for a state crown.
Homer earned the right to be the peninsula's lone representative at the Class 4A level by shocking Colony last Saturday in the third-place game of the Region III/4A tournament.
The Mariners drew East, which last year won its fifth state title in eight years, due to a new method of seeding the state tournament.
The winning percentage index, which is based on record and the quality of 4A opponents played, put East (20-5 overall) as the No. 1 seed and Homer (14-11) as No. 8.
Of course, the Mariners came into the Region III/4A tourney not favored to do much and made plenty of noise there.
Will Homer fall prey to a familiar trap of teams in its situation and play like they're just glad to be there?
"We talked about that tonight a lot," Day said Tuesday. "One of the things you learn in life is that you can never set your goals high enough.
"One of our goals this season was to get to the state tournament and finish in the final four at the state tournament. We haven't achieved the goal we set at the beginning of the season."
Homer defeated Wasilla, the No. 2 seed at state, this season, so it has showed it can play with the state's best. However, the Mariners have taken some losses and close calls that point to maddening inconsistency.
Day, making his first appearance at state in his fourth season at the helm of the Mariners, is hoping the big victory over Colony will serve as a turning point.
"It definitely instilled a confidence that had been lacking this season," Day said. "It instilled a lot of team confidence, beating a team like that.
"Everybody contributed that was on the floor. I think that just reinforced what can happen when five guys are out there playing together."
Against East, it will all start with 5-foot-8 senior guard Michael Garcia and 5-11 junior Corey Boone, who poured in 22 points with unconscious 3-point shooting vs. Colony.
"He's a big factor because he's responsible for getting the ball up the floor," Day said of Garcia. "He's going to have to face a lot of pressure, along with Corey Boone."
Day also could use big minutes from 6-0 senior Aaron Steiner, who hit 12 points vs. the Knights. In the front court, 6-4 senior Richie Crum and 6-2 senior Sean Haynes, who paced the Mariners with 25 vs. Colony, will be counted on for scoring and rebounding.
"East's a very strong rebounding team," Day said. "They get a lot of second-shot opportunities. The key is to minimize their second-shot opportunities."
East is led by 6-6 senior Peter Bullock (12.4 points per game), 5-10 senior Brandon Edwards (12.2 points per game) and 6-1 junior Jevon Miller (11.1 points per game).
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