The Kenai Central boys basketball team qualified Sunday for the ASAA First National Bank Alaska Basketball State Championships due to the Kards’ Winning Percentage Index.
Heading into Sunday, the Cook Inlet Academy girls and boys, the Nikolaevsk girls, the Seward girls and the Soldotna girls had already earned the Kenai Peninsula automatic berths to state in conference tournament play over the weekend.
Yet to be determined were two girls and two boys berths to the Class 4A state tournament. Those berths were determined by WPI rankings.
ASAA was supposed to have a selection show on its website at 6 p.m., but due to technical difficulties the show did not start then.
Kenai Central coach Ken Felchle said he learned his team was in the tournament at 8:30 p.m. after finding some brackets on the website.
“It was frustrating to say the least,” Felchle said. “They said it was going to be announced at 6 p.m., then at 7 p.m.
“I just wanted to know one way or the other. I finally found the bracket.”
The bracket shows Kenai, No. 7 in the WPI, taking on No. 2 Dimond at 3:15 p.m. on March 15 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. The Kardinals lost to the Lynx earlier in the year.
In the Class 4A girls tournament, No. 4 Soldotna faces No. 5 Colony at 1 p.m. on March 15 at Sullivan Arena. The Stars own a victory over the Knights this season.
In Class 3A girls, Seward, the Southcentral Conference champions, faces Galena at 3:15 p.m. on March 15 at Sullivan Arena.
In the Class 2A boys tournament, Cook Inlet Academy, the Peninsula Conference champions, faces Scammon Bay at 5 p.m. on March 12 at Sullivan Arena.
In the Class 2A girls tournament, CIA, the Peninsula Conference champions, faces Togiak at 6 p.m. on March 12 at Sullivan Arena. Nikolaevsk faces Tok at 11:30 a.m. on March 12 at Sullivan Arena.
Felchle said he felt pretty good about Kenai’s WPI standing heading into the NLC tourney, but because the WPI was missing five of the Kardinals’ games, he could be sure of nothing.
“Our intention was to beat Colony on Friday night and not worry about the WPI,” Felchle said.
The Kards lost to the Knights 53-43 in the NLC semis, but came back to defeat Kodiak 54-45 in Saturday’s third-pace game.
It was Kenai’s fourth straight year in the third-place game. The previous three years, a victory would have meant automatic qualification, but the Kards lost.
This year, due to the change to the WPI system, third place did not mean automatic qualification.
“AJ (Hull) has been there for all of them,” Felchle said of his senior guard and NLC third-place games. “After the game, he said, ‘Gosh, the one year it doesn’t count for an automatic berth, and we win.’
“It really would have been nice to play for the region championship.”
Felchle spoke Saturday night as he was beginning to fill out all of the forms for state. He said he was happy, especially for his five seniors.
“It feels incredible,” he said. “It’s an awesome feeling.”
The WPI was not as kind to the Kenai girls, who were edged out for a state berth by Palmer. The Kards were 10th in the WPI, while North Pole was ninth and Palmer was eighth.
The Kardinals defeated the Moose 52-40 in the fourth-place game at the NLC tourney Saturday.
“We pull hard for everybody in our building,” Felchle said. “We know they worked their butts off every day. We feel bad for them.”