The Cook Inlet Academy girls were leading the Class 2A state championship game 45-43 over Tikigaq late in the contest, but a 3-pointer by Amanda Sage with one minute remaining tipped the scales in favor of the Harpoonerettes, who nailed down the title with a 47-45 victory.
“These girls don’t back down from anything, and they are a tough group,” Tikigaq head coach Ramona Rock said. “When the pressure turned up at the end, they stepped up.”
CIA got off to a strong start, leading 14-3 after the first quarter, and halfway through the second quarter, the Eagles were out front by 15 points, similar to the Klawock game Tuesday.
“(Klawock) eventually started catching up, so today Rustin said we can’t let up, and we have to continue executing on defense,” CIA’s Nicole Moffis said. “They just played harder.”
CIA coach Rustin Hitchcock knew Tikigaq would not go down without a fight.
“At halftime, I told them that we know there’s a push coming,” CIA head coach Rustin Hitchcock said. “So we were physical in the first half, and we had to use our speed in the second. Sure enough, they were able to make that push. That being said, with the narrow lead we had, we were still in control the whole time.”
Tikigaq was able to claw its way back into contention, outscoring CIA 15-10 in the third quarter and 15-9 in the fourth.
“I wouldn’t recommend coming from behind, but it just makes you work harder, and tonight our defense did just an outstanding job,” Rock said. “They are very strong-minded and work well together.”
Tikigaq briefly took the lead in the third quarter twice, yet CIA was able to take it back both times.
Tikigaq’s Sage was able to grab an offensive rebound with 1:00 left and sink the 3-pointer that ultimately decided the game.
“I just shot it and it went in,” Sage said. “Our coach said play the ball, get our heads in the game and take a shot when we can.”
Sage had 16 points to lead Tikigaq.
“We’ve been working on scenarios like that,” Rock said. “Being aggressive, boxing out, and other stuff.
“I’m glad they’ve listened to me. No matter what you tell them, if they don’t listen, it doesn’t work.”
For CIA, the loss was disheartening after the preparation the Eagles took to get to state.
“We just got frazzled and caught up in the moment,” junior Megan Bauder said. “I mean the gym went crazy with the shot at the end, and we didn’t execute like we should have.”
Bauder scored eight points in the game, while her teammates Nicole Moffis and Meghan Powers each had 11 points.
In the final minute, Rustin Hitchcock said a combination of factors kept the Eagles from scoring.
“What really got us was that we were trying to increase our foul count, which we should’ve done earlier, and they were looking to double, trying to get the foul, and it’s tough to pass,” he said. “I think we got caught up in the frenetic pace of the game, to where they weren’t playing their position right.”
Hitchcock said his squad pushed Tikigaq to the limit.
“They had to go outside what we prepared for to beat us by two points,” Hitchcock said. “It goes to show the emotional control and dedication these girls have, and we played the right way, but it didn’t turn out like we wanted.”
Moffis said the Eagles had what it took to win, but let the pressure get to them.
“They had shooters and we didn’t get out on them, we were getting flustered, because they’re really fast and really good,” she said.
Bauder said the final play of the game — a missed 3-pointer by the Eagles — was the best option CIA had, but it wasn’t executed well enough to do any good.
“We drew up a play in the final timeout, and our shot was based off that play,” Bauder said. “That was the shot that we didn’t knock down.
“This just makes us hungrier and ready to play for a title again next year.”
On Tuesday, CIA beat Klawock to advance to Wednesday’s final, and the Eagles agreed the experience of that game helped them in the final.
“That game got physical at the end, and that helped prepare us for today,” Moffis said. “They were both teams that prepared us for going hard.”
With the season over, CIA can now start looking ahead to next season, and the Eagles certainly will carry the memory of Wednesday’s game with them.
“Next year, we’re losing an average of 3 inches of height, I think,” Hitchcock said. “But we have some underclassmen that are great players, so we’ll be OK.”
Tikigaq (47) — Minix 1 0-0 3, Tooyak 3 0-0 9, Long 1 0-0 2, Koenig 2 0-0 4, Minix 2 0-1 4, Sage 3 1-4 16, Lane 0 0-0 0, Tooyak 3 3-4 9. Totals 18 4-9 47.
CIA (45) — Davidson 1 0-0 3, Nelson 0 0-0 0, Moffis 4 0-1 11, Bauder 3 0-0 8, Jakits 0 0-0 0, Bunts 0 0-0 0, Orth 0 0-0 0, Powers 1 0-1 2, Hammond 0 0-0 0, Powers 4 2-4 11, Leaf 5 0-2 10. Totals 18 2-8 45.
3-point goals — Tikigaq 7 (Tooyak 3, Sage 3, Minix 1); CIA 7 (Moffis 3, Bauder 2, Davidson 1, Powers 1).
Team fouls — Tikigaq 13, CIA 9. Fouled out — none.