Daily Sitka Sentinel

State BBall Championship Matchups

    The Sitka High Lady Wolves established three goals before the 2011-12 basketball season opened.
    They wanted to win the regular season title and get a first-round bye at the Region V tournament. Check.
    They wanted to win a 3A Southeast title. Check.
    Now, the focus turns to the final piece of the puzzle: a state championship.
    A Sitka High girls basketball team has never won a state title. The Lady Wolves came close in 1989, when a team coached by Mike Hirai fell in the 4A championship game to East Anchorage 45-33.
    The Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves were the most recent Southeast team to win the 3A girls title, knocking off Anchorage Christian in 2010. Only one other Region V girls team has won the 3A title, with Haines taking the championship over Wrangell in 1985. The Glacier Bears won the game 51-49 in overtime. It was only the second year the state held a 3A tournament. The state adopted the current four-tier classification system in 1984.
    The Lady Wolves were back at practice this morning as they prepare for a game March 15 in Anchorage against the defending state champion Barrow Lady Whalers.
    The game is scheduled to tip off at 9:45 a.m.
    The 4A state tournaments are seeded based on a computer formula that the Alaska School Activities Association calls the Winning Percentage Index. The formula uses win-loss records and strength of schedule to determine the state seeds. And for the first time this year, the state awarded “at-large” bids to state.
    The 3A competitions, however, are based on geographical match-ups.
    There are four regions in 3A basketball and this year Southeast was matched up against Western Alaska. The Aurora Conference, featuring teams in the Fairbanks area, are set to play against Southcentral teams.
    Most observers expected the Barrow girls to win their conference tournament and take the top seed out of the West. But Dillingham had other ideas. The Wolverines knocked off Barrow and the Lady Whalers earned Western Alaska’s second seed after beating Bethel and Nome on the backside of the bracket.
    Also on Sitka’s side of the bracket are Hutchison, a technical school in Fairbanks, and Anchorage Christian.
    ACS is the second seed out of Southcentral. If the Lady Lions beat Hutchison and the Lady Wolves top Barrow it will be the third semifinals meeting between SHS and ACS in four years and the fourth straight state meeting between the two schools.
    The Lady Wolves beat SCS in the first-round last year at state. And SHS made it two in a row against ACS with a win in February at the Whaler Invitational in Barrow.
    The other half of the 3A girls bracket features a game between Dillingham and Craig and another between Seward and Galena.
    MEHS coach Carl Blackhurst said he thought Craig might struggle with Dillingham’s size.
    Blackhurst watched Galena play in December at a tournament on the Kenai Peninsula and said their star Jenna Buchanon is one of the better players in the state.
    Sitka High beat Seward last year in the third-place game at state.
    The Lady Wolves have finished third each of the last three years. They dropped a semifinals game to ACS in 2009 and 2010 and lost last year on a late jumper by Kotzebue.
    Kotzebue fell to Barrow in the state title game.
3A Boys Bracket
    The Region V champion Sitka High Wolves will face Nome at 11:30 a.m. March 15 in the first round at state.
    The game is scheduled to tip off in the morning, but for the first time in three trips to Anchorage the Wolves will not play at 8 a.m.
    In their first season as a 3A school,  the Wolves lost 54-45 to Nome in the first round at state.    
    Nome lost in the 3A championship game in 2009 and 2010. The Nanooks were seventh last year after dropping games to Monroe Catholic and Seward.    
    Also on Sitka’s side of the bracket: Monroe Catholic and Grace Christian. They’ll play at 8:30 p.m. March 15. Monroe comes into the tournament as the favorites. They rolled through their conference schedule and split two games with Dimond, the second-ranked 4A team in the state. Monroe was also favored in 2011, but lost in the final game to ACS.
    SHS coach Andy Lee said yesterday that his team would focus on Nome, with the coaching staff turning one eye toward Monroe. Lee and his players believe they have enough size and athleticism to compete for a state title.
    “I think we have a shot at state,” senior Bae Widmier said after the Wolves beat Mt. Edgecumbe in the Region V championship game in Ketchikan
    Widmier was at a loss for words when asked to describe how it felt to cut down the nets at Kayhi, while fellow senior Mik Potrzuski, a four-year varsity player, said he was happy to finally be part of a team that won a title after three years of watching others climb the ladder at the Region V tournament with scissors in hand.
    “It’s heart breaking to watch that,” Potrzuski said. “It hurts.”
    Now, the Wolves have to win three straight games to cut down the nets in Anchorage.
    Lee said he thinks the Wolves are “peaking,” as the biggest games of the year approach next week.
    Mt. Edgecumbe is set to play Barrow on the other half of the boys bracket at 1:15 p.m. March 15. ACS and Hutchison are also on Edgecumbe’s side of the bracket. Could the Wolves and Braves play for a fourth time this season? That game would be for a state title.
4A Brackets
    The Juneau-Douglas boys enter the state tournament as the fourth seed, with a first-round game against Service High of Anchorage.
    The Crimson Bears won their seventh straight 4A Region V title last Friday at Kayhi. They have not won a first-round state game since 2006.
    Service, seeded fifth, got an at-large bid to state. The Kenai Kardinals, seeded seventh, got the second open bid. Wasilla is the top boys seed, with Dimond and Bartlett next. Colony and Lathrop are also in the tournament.
    In years past, Southeast and Fairbanks each got one bid to state, with the Cook Inlet and North Lights Conferences getting three each.
    The Cook Inlet Conference comprises the large Anchorage schools, while the NLC features teams from the Kenai Peninsula and Mat-Su Valley.
    This year, CIC and NLC got two bids each and the state handed out two at-large bids.
    In the girls bracket, Juneau-Douglas is seeded seventh, with a first-round game against Dimond.
    The Wasilla Warriors, champions in 2011, are the top seed in the girls 4A tournament. Soldotna also qualified from the NLC, with two other conference teams getting the at-large bids: Palmer and Colony. It may be the first time a conference got four teams into the state tournament.
    West Valley and West Anchorage are also in the 4A girls tournament.
    The brackets for each of the eight tournaments, boys and girls 1A-4A, are available at asaa.org.

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