By JOEY KLECKA
If there’s anything Cook Inlet Academy girls coach Rustin Hitchcock learned from this year’s Super Bowl, it’s that momentum can change on a dime.
And, like the big game back in February, which was delayed by a stadium power outage, Saturday night’s first-round matchup with Buckland at the Alaska School Activities Association State 1A basketball tournament was delayed for almost an hour due to a hallway sprinkler setting off the West Anchorage High School fire alarm.
The Eagles were able to come back from a six-point halftime deficit to post a 50-37 win over the Sissuani, which advances CIA to a quarterfinal matchup with powerhouse team Klawock on Monday at 1:15 p.m. at the Sullivan Arena.
“Coming into the second quarter, we would’ve welcomed the change, because things weren’t going right,” Hitchcock said. “They were hot, so obviously moving from one facility to the other changed things up, and we picked up the pressure on defense. We embraced the challenge.”
The incident forced the rest of the game to be moved to the South Anchorage High School gym, which meant a 20-minute drive across town for over 150 people.
“I wanted to make sure we were still engaged with what’s going on, do some stretching, and do some hallway runs, and when I was brought in and heard we were going to South, I knew we had to pretty much rush over here and be the first team here so we can get more time warming up,” Hitchcock said.
CIA senior Megan Bauder led the second-half charge with 18 points — 10 coming in the fourth quarter alone — and 25 total. Bauder was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.
“We went into the hall and stretched and we were trying to keep our mind in the game and to not let ourselves get out of it,” Bauder said. “It was hard to keep that mind-set of staying in the game. We got in the car and someone asked, ‘What’s the score right now?’ and it was 22-16, and it was just weird that we were changing locations.”
CIA’s Nicole Moffis also added 14 points and six rebounds.
CIA suffered a sluggish start with only two points in the first quarter on one bucket, while Buckland had 12. The Sissuani also had 12 points of turnovers, while CIA had four.
Buckland was leading 22-16 at the half, spurred by a first-quarter trouncing of Cook Inlet Academy, but after the usual eight-minute break at halftime, the players were preparing to take the court for the second half when the school fire alarm sounded. Both teams and the fans were told to move to the adjacent commons area outside the gym, and water was seen pooling onto the gym floor from the hallway behind the gym.
The decision was then made soon after to continue the game at South.
Once the action picked up again at South, CIA used the delay to its advantage, outscoring Buckland 16-10 in the third quarter to knot the game up at 32 on a layup from Bauder with 11 seconds left in the period.
“We just decided to come out and play a different style of game, I think that first quarter got us,” Bauder said. “We were a little jittery, some of our younger underclassmen don’t have that state experience, so I think it was rough and at the time I didn’t think it was going to be a good situation but it ended up swinging in our favor.”
Madison Orth gave CIA the lead with 6:53 left in the game on a free throw, and from there, it was all CIA. The Eagles outscored Buckland 14-3 by the time the final minute and a half rolled around.
After the two-point performance in the first quarter, CIA reeled off third- and fourth-quarter efforts of 16 and 18, respectively. The Eagles defense showed up, too, holding Buckland to only five points in the fourth. Hitchcock said the rally was due to defense and rotations.
“What has historically been, the last four years our strength, wasn’t working, and give credit to Buckland, they were able to get going early,” he said. “It was slow defensive rotation, and so I had to challenge them.”
The effort showed on the boards as well, as six players grabbed three or more rebounds.
Bauder said Saturday’s game was hopefully an energizing run for the 1A girls championship, a year after the Eagles barely lost the 2A title.
“It’s my senior year and I’ve worked hard all four years, and last year was a heartbreaker to lose the championship, and it felt so close,” she said. “Honestly, since that day we lost that game, it gave me a mind-set that we want to come back here and we want a title.”
Eagles 50, Sissuani 37
CIA (50) — Bauder 6 12-12 25, Moffis 4 4-4 14, Brush 3 0-0 7, Davidson 1 0-0 2, Bunts 0 1-4 1, Hammond 0 0-0 0, McGhan 0 0-0 0, Orth 0 1-2 1. Totals 14 18-22 50.
BUCKLAND (37) — Barger 4 3-4 13, Hadley 0 0-0 0, Hunnicutt 0 0-0 0, Washington 3 1-2 9, Thomas 4 0-0 10, Jones 0 0-0 0, Jones 2 0-0 5, Geary 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 4-6 37.
3-point goals — CIA 4 (Moffis 2, Bauder 1, Brush 1); Buckland 7 (Barger 2, Washington 2, Thomas 2, Jones 1). Team fouls — CIA 11; Buckland 21. Fouled out — Barger, Washington, Thomas.