Anchorage — New things are in store for fans of the Alaska Quake semi-pro basketball team, including a new local rival.
The Alaska 49ers will make their American Basketball Association debut Saturday at Begich Middle School against the Quake, who are starting their second season. As for other fresh aspects to look forward to, those are a surprise.
"Anyone who came to our games last year, you'll see the difference in the overall appearance of the brand of Alaska Quake," said Quake general manager Robert Harris. "This first game is gonna set the tone for our season, and we want the fans to see the hard work the players and the management have put into this season."
Carol Taylor, who is part owner of the Quake with Shana Harris, is sole owner of the 49ers, and said the new team was created to provide a rival for the Quake and to help with travel costs associated with bringing other ABA teams to Alaska.
The Quake and 49ers, both non-profit organizations with unpaid volunteers for players and coaches, provide airline tickets and accommodations for visiting teams from Outside. Now, teams will have two opponents to play when visiting Alaska, and the Quake and 49ers will not incur any travel costs in three meetings against each other.
Like last year, the Quake will play all 11 of their games at Begich Middle School. The 49ers will play their three meetings with the Quake at Begich, but their remaining eight games at Hanshew Middle School. Ticket prices remain $10 for people six and older, with kids five and younger getting in free.
Last year's opener drew one of the biggest crowds of the season, Harris said, and he expects about 800 fans for this weekend's game, from which a portion of the proceeds will benefit breast cancer research.
"Everyone wants to know who the better team is, so it'll be interesting to see what happens Saturday," Taylor said.
The big stars from last year's Quake were former UAA player Carl Arts and Julius Cumlat and Taylor said both are returning. Lonnie Ridgeway, who played for UAA last season will be new to the Quake, as will former UAA player Chris Bryant.
Adam Lewis will coach the Quake for the second straight season, with his former assistant Harvey Watson taking over coaching duties for the 49ers. Originally, the teams held a dual tryout, but Watson recently held a second tryout to fill holes in the 49ers' roster.
"The majority of our players have been born or raised in Alaska," Taylor said. "We're just showing that Alaska does have talent."
There is already some banter taking place between the two Alaskan teams, Harris said, setting a foundation for a rivalry. The teams also have something extra to play for this season, with the winner of the three-game season series getting to represent the state next summer in a tournament in China.
The ultimate goal for both teams is to generate enough revenue to pay players and coaches, along with expanding the number of games played.
"We wanna get anywhere between 25 to 30 games per season," Harris said. "Next year, we are trying to look into adding in away games as well."
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