One year ago, the Seward girls basketball team made the trip to the state tournament, while the Seward boys did not.
This year, the boys are back in on the action, and the two teams are going together again, like they did two seasons ago in 2011.
The Seward girls played last year to a seventh-place finish in the Alaska School Activities Association Class 3A tournament after two straight days of losses, which left them wanting more. The Seahawks are returning to state for the third straight year.
Before failing to make the cut last year, the Seward boys finished fourth at state in 2011. The Seahawks have twice earned their way to the state championship game, but not since 1993 have they done it.
As if both teams mirroring each other by qualifying for state in the same year wasn’t enough, they also both lost to Anchorage Christian Schools in the championship games at the Southcentral Conference tournament last week. The girls lost to ACS 58-32, while the Seahawks boys lost 76-30.
The Seward boys (12-14 regular season record) will begin their tournament on Thursday with an 8 a.m. matchup with the No. 1 seed from the Western Conference — Bethel.
“We’re feeling like we’re in a good spot, like we’re the underdogs, no matter who we play, and that puts the burden of responsibility on those who expect to win,” said boys coach Curtis Berry. “We’re trying to practice as much as we can in the time slots allotted.”
Berry was the coach of the girls team last year that went to state, and his guidance has put the boys team on the map again.
“Our goal at this point is to enjoy the experience,” he said. “We’re pleased with where we are, because there’s no target on our back.”
Only two current players were a part of the state team from two years ago — senior guard Jeff Buchanan and junior Matt Moore.
“This is a young team and it means a lot to be able to get them there,” Berry said. “Jeff has always been a leader, as a senior we expect more from him and he’s excited to play, and Matt is always good for a fair amount of boards.”
Seward and Bethel met twice this year, with the Warriors sweeping with similar scores of 71-50 and 75-43.
“They definitely have some good shooters, they’re good at keying off one another,” Berry said. “We’re hoping the burden is on them. Our expectation is just to play, we need to control the tempo and play with what we dictate. Hopefully we can make them have to slow it down a bit.”
“It’s basketball and I don’t think anybody’s going to underestimate anybody.”
The Seward girls (10-12 record this year), like the boys, will play the No. 1 seed from the Western Conference, Barrow, at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, and coach Mark Clemens is confident that the team is ready for the task.
“We’re preparing for that one and looking towards the second game, whoever that may be and trying to win that one,” Clemens said. “Barrow’s got a couple of big players inside, and we’re trying to structure ourselves to be ready for that.”
The Seahawks have not seen Barrow this season, but Clemens has studied the Whalers’ style of play on trips to Anchorage and in other various tournaments.
“Defense is what has kept us in the game this year,” Clemens said. “If we continue to work on offense, and can have a few good games, we’ll be really happy. Right now we’re just pleased to have gotten to this level.”
At the Class 3A state tournament in 2011, the Seward girls lost to eventual champion Barrow 70-29 in the semifinals. The Seahawks would go on to take fifth place in their first appearance at state since 2006.
Last year, Seward went two and out, losing to Galena and Craig, but like the boys, the girls squad has tasted success before. Seward has been to the 3A state championship game twice, in 1997 and 1998, winning it the second time 41-34 to Valdez, but not since then.
If key players such as senior Tessa Adelmann, junior Ashley VonBorstel, sophomore Laura Kromrey and sophomore Jasmine Perea can maintain a strong post presence, there’s a good chance of advancing to the semifinal round and beyond.