Northwood coach Larry Bagley is concerned he may have scheduled his team out of the District 1-4A race.
The Falcons (10-10) have made a habit of traveling far from home for tournaments. This year, the destination is Alaska, where Northwood will participate in the Alaskan Airlines Classic in Anchorage. The Falcons first game is Thursday at 12:15 p.m. (Alaskan time).
While the tournament lands between Northwood’s first two district games — the Falcons lost to Huntington at home Tuesday night — Bagley wouldn’t change a thing.
“If I we have an opportunity to go back to Alaska or somewhere else far away next year, I’ll do it in a heartbeat,” Bagley said. “We have always taken trips to practice for the playoffs. Because, if you make the playoffs, you will have to travel to play somebody. Obviously we wouldn’t fly anywhere in Louisiana, but it’s good for the players to go experience new things.”
For the players, Bagley’s scheduled trips have been eye openers. Northwood, which receives money from donors to be able to travel, started by playing in a Little Rock, Ark., tournament four years ago. Three years ago, the Falcons went to a Las Vegas tournament. Two years ago, the team travelled to Orlando, Fla., and last year, the destination was Bermuda.
“We like getting to go out on these trips,” said Terrance Walker, who went to Orlando and Bermuda. “You get to see how people live in other places. In Bermuda, when people are 18, they are pretty much on their own. When you are 18, you are grown. The streets are narrow, and the driving is different. It was all surprising.”
Now, the players are getting to experience Alaska for the first time, a trip many Louisiana residents will never make.
“I know it’s a huge state, and it will be way different than down here,” guard Martavious Washington said. “We’re going to be calm, relax and sleep on the flight. We’re excited to get to go. It will be fun just to look out the window and know we are in a new place.”
Northwood has played a tough schedule so far this season, including losses to Bossier and Comeaux, so Bagley doesn’t expect the competition in Alaska to surprise his team.
“I don’t think anyone playing up there will be better than Bossier,” said Bagley, whose team plays West Anchorage in its first of three games in Alaska. “We are close to being where we need to be. We were in the game against Bossier and Byrd and other teams. We are close.”
Washington’s biggest concern about visiting a new state: staying warm.
“I know it’s going to be cold,” Washington said. “I checked the weather up there, and the last time I looked, it was like 12 degrees. I’m going to have to wear a lot of underclothes and thermals.”
The Falcons will play on Thursday, Friday and Saturday before flying back early Sunday morning. Then they will try to recover from the flight in time for Tuesday’s district game against Fair Park.
“I very well may have ruined our season,” Bagley said. “Nearly all of the talk was about the trip. The players weren’t focused on Huntington. And we might be dead after the trip. So, I very easily might have scheduled us right out of our district. But on the other hand, these kids will never forget this trip.”
Hoover, Ala., Sagemont, Fla., and Northwood are all flying to join five Alaskan teams in the tournament.