Pinoys in Alaska Sports Hall of Fame
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 2, 2019 - 12:00am

An American friend from way back Bob Homans tipped me off the other day on a pair of Filipino basketball-playing brothers who were recently inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame with their Kodiak High School teammates for winning the 2001 Class 4A state boys championship under female coach Amy Rakers Fogle.

The Filipino players are Geoffrey and Alfie Agmata. Their parents Fredo and Nora liked to call them the Dynamic Duo.

It was the 5-5 Geoffrey who was one of the heroes in the title game. Kodiak went up against the heavily-favored East High School Thunderbirds on the road in Anchorage. Geoffrey was the Bears varsity’s starting point guard and hit a three-point shot then stole a baseball pass as the third quarter ended. His heroics brought momentum to Kodiak’s charge.

“I grew up very timid,” said Geoffrey, quoted by Marc Lester in the Anchorage Daily News. “To this day, I kind of have a little bit of trouble speaking in front of everybody.” He learned how to play with his brothers on a playground and didn’t join an organized league until he was in middle school. Lester said not too many Filipino kids got involved in the game at that time and Geoffrey said his family had to do fund-raisers “to help people like us.”

Kodiak defied the odds in bringing down East High, 55-52 and when it was over, Geoffrey got a victory ride from his teammates. He made it a point to embrace Fogle and thank her for the opportunity. “I tried to be her favorite player, just doing everything she says and trying to be as coachable as possible for her,” he said.

Kodiak’s student population was much smaller than East High’s and the disparity seemed to influence the oddsmakers. East High has the largest school population in the state with over 2,000. Kodiak’s population is less than 700. It was unusual for a woman to coach a boys team so that created a buzz in media. Fogle said inspiring confidence in her players was the key. “One thing I like to draw out of kids is ‘have a little more confidence in yourself, you can play a little bit more, you have a little bit more in you,’” she said. In the fourth quarter, Fogle reminded her players to give it their all for the moment. “This is championship basketball, guys,” she said. “Can’t get any better than this.”

When the Bears returned home to Kodiak 410 miles from Anchorage in an airplane, fans filled the terminal to welcome the champions.  For Geoffrey, the recognition was unreal. “Going to those elementary schools, signing autographs, you have those group of Filipino kids coming to you first,” he said. “It just made you realize you did something good for them and the ones to follow. I think we paved the way for those (Filipino) kids.” It was the Bears’ first title since 1959. Today, at least four current Kodiak players trace their roots to the Philippines. 

Fogle recalled it wasn’t a cakewalk in the championship game. For a while, the Bears, who like to play up-tempo, got caught up in the Thunderbirds’ grind-it-out style. “Guys, if you’re going to get beat, get beat playing your game,” she told her players. The Bears took the cue and got back on track. “We competed every single night and we got better every single game,” she said. “And that’s what’s most important. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to prove anything because I was a woman. I felt a responsibility to teach them the game of basketball and to teach them how to play hard. And to win and lose and be respectful about it. You put in hard work and you do it the right way and you play with character and class, good things can happen. And I think that’s true still.”

Geoffrey, now 35, never made it big in basketball and played sparingly for the University of Alaska Anchorage, scoring 15 points in seven games off the bench in 2003-04. He previously played in three games for the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2001-02. Geoffrey lives in Anchorage and works as a service supervisor and operations manager for Ross Aviation, wrote Lester. A Kodiak teammate 7-foot Nick Billings, now 37, played four years at Binghampton University in New York then saw action in the NBA D-League and as an import in Japan, Denmark, Norway, Uruguay and Argentina. Billings ended his basketball playing career in 2011 and recently earned a Master’s degree. He is employed at a treatment facility for troubled youth in Palmer, an Alaska city.

ALASKA SPORTS HALL OF FAME ALFIE AGMATA BASKETBALL GEOFFREY AGMATA
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