Cook Inlet Academy continued its roll through the Alaska School Activities Association Class 1A state girls tournament by defeating Klawock 46-37 on Monday at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
The win avenges a loss at the hands of the Chieftains in mid-January and eliminates the pre-tournament favorite from title contention.
“We just beat the No. 1 team in state,” CIA girls coach Rustin Hitchcock said. “We beat them last year, but they have a 2-to-1 advantage on us since I’ve been coaching. It’s been going back and forth.
“It’s not necessarily an upset because we knew we could do it, but it’s a really good win. Probably the biggest win of the program.”
The game had its ups and downs, but it was CIA that was down nine points with 2 minutes, 6 seconds, left in the third quarter. With the tenacity that they showed in Saturday night’s game against Buckland, the Eagles put together a charge to win it by outscoring Klawock 21-5 in the fourth quarter.
Hitchcock, whose team was the runner-up in state last year, said he had no idea the point spread was that great in the final period.
“I was on the verge of crying from happiness, and also from raging, just in general because that’s who I am,” Hitchcock said. “It was intense, but the girls didn’t feel the same intensity because they were just cool from the free-throw line, they were draining shots. We had senior Darlene Bunts, who ... this is the first year she has gotten real playing time, and she stepped up and rimmed in that 3, and I think that was the turning point in the game.”
Bunts notched seven points, including the big trey with 3:21 left in the game that created a two-possession advantage over Klawock. CIA got help where Klawock didn’t, getting 10 points off the bench while the Chieftains had none.
Senior Megan Bauder received player of the game honors with her 21 points, including shooting 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, and Nicole Moffis grabbed 11 rebounds while tallying eight points.
“We were fearing our man defense throughout the entire season because it just wasn’t that strong, and we were light on our zone, but in this tournament they stepped up,” Hitchcock said. “I don’t even recognize this team, they stepped up to the plate and they won this game.”
The win means Cook Inlet will face the No. 1 seed from the Aleutian Chain conference, Newhalen, on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the semifinals. The winner of that game will play for the 1A girls championship at 2 p.m. Wednesday, while the loser plays for third place at 8 a.m. Wednesday, all at the Sullivan Arena.
The Eagles came out swinging early on, building a 13-5 lead late in the first quarter, but began to struggle with shooting in the second, only hitting one shot and leaving the court at halftime with a 20-17 lead.
Klawock began the third quarter with eight straight points to grab the lead, and CIA didn’t hit its first shot until 3:20 to go.
Facing a 31-22 deficit late in the third quarter, Hitchcock said his team dug down and was able to ignore the pressure.
“I think there was more pressure Saturday (against Buckland) because it had that unique feel, it’s an actual high school, and there’s so much dead air in (the Sullivan), and so the intensity is stronger and there’s the crowd,” Hitchcock said. “As much as they gave their heart in it, you feel like you’re alone on the court, so it’s a really different feel to it, and it all has to come from within.”
After suffering 13 turnovers in the first half, CIA only committed one in the second half, a big stat for a team trying to win a state championship.
In the fourth quarter, CIA was able to force Klawock into making mistakes when the intensity was at its highest, and the Eagles responded by going 11-for-12 from the free throw line in the final quarter.
“Megan had to play the whole game, Nicole had to play the whole game, they’re two first-teamers at state, and we go as they go, and we kept positive and it worked out,” Hitchcock said.
Eagles 46, Chieftains 37
CIA 13 7 5 21 —46
Klawock 9 8 15 5 —37
CIA (46) — Bauder 7 3-6 21, Moffis 2 4-4 8, Davidson 0 0-2 0, Bunts 2 1-2 7, Brush 0 0-0 0, Hammond 2 0-0 4, McGhan 0 0-0 0, Orth 0 6-6 6. Totals 13 14-20 46.
KLAWOCK (37) — Busse 6 4-6 16, Williams 4 5-6 15, Giebel 1 0-0 3, Clark 0 0-0 0, Carl 1 0-0 2, Carle 0 1-2 1, Tomkinson 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 10-14 37.
3-point goals — CIA 6 (Bauder 4, Bunts 2); Klawock 3 (Williams 2, Giebel 1).
Team fouls — CIA 13; Klawock 15. Fouled out — Busse.