One of the villages participating in the district basketball tournament in Bethel this week lost a teammate just last month. Eighteen-year-old Quintin “Muggie” Peter was a member of the Kipnuk Falcons. He and his mother were on the Yute Commuter Service plane that crashed last month, killing both of them and three others. The Falcons say that this tournament is for Muggie.
On the night of Feb. 6, one of Muggie’s teammates and best friends, Kayden Handley, was hanging out in his mom’s room, just playing around on his phone.
“And my gram started crying,” Handley said. “I was wondering what was wrong. I just went back to my phone, and she came in and told me they were in a plane crash. I didn’t want to talk or do anything or say anything. I just stayed in my room.”
Another teammate, Chase Martin, described his reaction to the news that Muggie, his mom, and two others from Kipnuk had lost their lives.
“Everything felt dark that day,” said Martin. “Couldn’t believe what happened. Felt just like a dream.”
Falcons head coach Benjamin Farber gathered up his team. He told them that it was okay to grieve, that it was a time to be vulnerable. Farber says that he also talked to the team about the games ahead.
“On Tuesday, when we had practice, I had a little talk with the boys about how we should walk in Muggie’s footsteps because he always was positive no matter what was happening in the situation,” Farber said.
“He would always make people smile,” said Muggie’s friend, Russell John. “Even if he was in pain.”
And Muggie did hurt often. The day of the crash, he was coming back from a medical appointment for his kidney condition, something he often made trips for. Teammate Chase Martin says that Muggie fought through his pain, and the rest of the Falcons have learned to fight through theirs.
“We worked even harder after what happened,” Martin said. “Because we wanted to go to state for him.”
John says that the team brings Muggie’s number 21 jersey to every game, and he sits with the team on the bench.
“And we play hard for him,” John says.
Muggie is not the first teammate that Kipnuk has lost. Last year, Keo Aliralria passed away from cancer. Muggie’s cousin, Anna Kashatok, says that she feels that both are watching over them.
“This tournament, we want to do it for Muggie and for Keo also,” Kashatok said. “And we’re going to stay Muggie Strong and Keo Strong.”
Both the boys and girls teams from Kipnuk will be playing this week to get to the state tournament, and they feel that Muggie and Keo are right there with them.