King Cove basketball team flies out last minute to play Unalaska after previous opponents cancelled

Within an hour of being invited to play the Raiders, the Rookies had caught a flight from their hometown of King Cove (pictured) to Cold Bay. They later hopped another plane to Unalaska. (Photo by Berett Wilber / KUCB)

Unalaska’s girls’ basketball team (1-6) expected to host Sand Point over the weekend.

But when the Eagles canceled their trip Friday morning – just hours before the game – the home contests were thrown into doubt.

After some quick legwork, the Unalaska City School District found another opponent to fly out and compete.

King Cove’s basketball (10-0) team thought Jan. 25 was going to be a normal Friday. Players expected to have the weekend off. But a phone call around 9 a.m. changed that.

Jalaya Doarte was at the dentist getting a filling.

“I kept getting calls and I had to keep declining them,” Doarte said. “Then [my teammate Elaina Mack] texted me, and I lifted my phone up. She told me we were leaving and I was like, ‘Oh gosh, I don’t have that much time here!'”

The dentist hustled to get Doarte back to school.

That’s where another player — Bethany Brandell — arrived to learn that she had five minutes to pack.

“They didn’t even tell me where I was going or what I was doing,” Brandell said. “They just said, ‘Go home and pack. You have five minutes to get to the airport.’ I went home, packed, and I forgot my black jersey on my bed. Then I hurried up, ran out the door, and the plane actually left without us. He turned around, came back, and landed.”

Within an hour, the Rookies had caught a flight to Cold Bay, then hopped another plane to Unalaska.

The team was excited to play the Raiders again. Unalaska had traveled up the chain to start the season in early January, and King Cove won those games handily. The Rookies took the first 74-49, with Mack outscoring the entire Raider squad with 50 points.

“They’re like the best competition we’ve had yet this season,” Mack said. “We haven’t played many teams, but it’s fun playing them.”

“I agree,” Doarte said. “It’s really fun, because they’re a really aggressive team like us. It gives us a challenge.”

The short notice for last weekend’s contests wasn’t a problem for King Cove Coach Gary Lamar. He said his team had one game plan: nonstop full court pressure.

“Back in Texas, we have a saying: You dance with the girl who brung you there,” Lamar said. “You don’t change around. You stick with the same thing, so that’s what we did. It was a lot of fun. I’ll tell you this, though: This bunch [in Unalaska], they’ve got a great team. They’re going to go somewhere.”

Still, King Cove swept the Raiders in two close contests. On Friday, the Rookies won 55-40. Saturday was a higher-scoring affair for both teams, with King Cove coming back from a first half deficit to win 61-47.

The undefeated Rookies will be back on the road Tuesday for a three-week campaign with games in Dillingham and Anchorage. The team said they take one long trip a year because travel is so difficult.

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Zoe Sobel is a reporter with Alaska's Energy Desk based in Unalaska. As a high schooler in Portland, Maine, Zoë Sobel got her first taste of public radio at NPR’s easternmost station. From there, she moved to Boston where she studied at Wellesley College and worked at WBUR, covering sports for Only A Game and the trial of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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