In the 2000 NCAA Final Four, Michigan St. defeated Wisconsin in a slowdown game of peach-basket hoops before outrunning Florida in a run-and-gun final.
Championship teams can play any style of basketball, and the two-time defending Class 2A state champion Ninilchik girls showed Tuesday night why they are considered a favorite to win a third straight crown.
The Ninilchik girls, ranked No. 1 at Class 2A in the state, defeated host Cook Inlet Academy 54-24 before the Eagles boys held the Wolverines to just two points in the fourth quarter for a 58-47 District 3/2A victory.
The Ninilchik girls were hit hard with the flu before Tuesday's game. Starter Molly Bosick didn't play, while Kelsey Deiman and captains Whitney Leman and Brieanna Leman also were a bit under the weather.
Ninilchik normally likes to press and play a tight man-to-man defense, but with the illness and four straight games coming up after Tuesday, Wolverines coach Dan Leman decided to conserve energy by playing zone and not pressing.
Playing a different style, the Wolverines (8-0) were as dominant as ever.
"We didn't know we would be without Molly until this morning," said Whitney Leman, who had 12 points. "A couple of girls got pumped up because they knew they would be getting more minutes. They definitely stepped it up."
Amanda Matson got the start in place of Bosick and scored 10 points down low. Janelle Moerlein, the other post player for the Wolverines, also rose to the occasion with 17 points.
The Wolverines jumped out of the gate to a 9-2 lead when Brieanna Leman knocked down a 3-pointer with 4:16 left in the first quarter.
However, CIA came back with a 5-2 run and cut the gap to 11-7 on a 3-pointer by Chantal Reese with 2:04 left in the first quarter. That was as close as the Eagles would get as Ninilchik went on an 11-0 run, ending with a layup by Moerlein that made the score 22-7 with 5:30 left in the first half.
"They've got so much depth in their shooters," CIA coach Greg Bell said after his team fell to 8-3. "If you cover one that's hitting shots, they'll just get it to another player that can hit shots."
The Wolverines were 23-of-43 from the floor Tuesday night, while Cook Inlet Academy finished 11-of-44. Jessica Hall paced the Eagles with six points.
CIA boys 58, Ninilchik 47
The Wolverines held a 45-42 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but failed to score a basket in the fourth quarter until Jesse Hostetter hit a jumper with 6 seconds remaining in the game.
"We made some adjustments in our zone (before the fourth quarter)," CIA coach Tim Keener said after his team improved to 11-1 overall. "I'm not going to say what all those adjustments are, because we have to play them again.
"But it's pretty obvious we had to find a way to try and shut down (Buck) Kvasnikoff. He's too good of a player to have roaming in the paint unguarded."
Kvasnikoff, who finished with a game-high 18 points, had scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Wolverines turned a 28-25 deficit into a 45-42 lead. He was getting his points by slashing into the lane when the ball was kicked to the wing. Kvasnikoff would get a pass from the wing deep in the paint and lay the ball in.
In the fourth quarter, CIA kept a man on Kvasnikoff in its zone the entire time, and Kvasnikoff went scoreless.
"This is a smart team -- it's one of the smartest I've had," Keener said. "I was impressed with the way they followed through on my adjustments."
Conversely, the Wolverines (6-3 overall) never did follow through with coach Chris Hanson's adjustments. Ninilchik had 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter after turning the ball over 11 times through three quarters. The Wolverines also were just 1-of-7 from the floor in the final eight minutes.
Meanwhile, CIA played an efficient final quarter, except for four turnovers. The Eagles hit 4-of-6 from the floor and 7-of-10 from the foul line.
"We look to Buck for a lot of things, but we should have a lot more offensive weapons we can use when he's not scoring," Hanson said. "We're not disciplined enough to win a big game right now.
"CIA is a really disciplined team and that showed tonight, especially late in the ballgame."
The game was extremely tight all evening, with neither team leading by more than six points until the Eagles broke away late.
Both teams pretty much stayed with their starters the entire game. The Wolverines played with a sick Jason Schollenberg, while the Eagles played without starting guard Bryan Powers, who was sick.
"Blake Gabriel stepped in for Powers tonight and did a great job," Keener said. "(Gabriel is) only a freshman, so those minutes he gave us were huge."
Gabriel, who finished with eight points, was one of the many options the Eagles had in attacking Ninilchik's man-to-man defense. Jacob Peterson led CIA with 14 points, while Calder Hillyer and Luke Myers had 13 points apiece and Justin Franchino chipped in with 10 points.
Meanwhile, Hanson said his team will keep working on discipline.
"It's not an easy thing," Hanson said. "It's something you work on every day, but it's not going to happen in a day, a week or even a month.
"We need to be disciplined by the end of the year."
Both the Ninilchik boys and girls will play Cordova today, Matanuska Christian Thursday, Lumen Christi Friday and Susitna Valley Saturday.
Cook Inlet Academy will play at Community Christian School on Feb. 8.
WOLVERINES 54, EAGLES 24
Ninilchik 16 11 16 11 --54
Cook Inlet Academy 7 5 4 8 --24
NINILCHIK (54) -- Peterson 2 0-0 4, K. Moerlein 0 0-0 0, W. Leman 3 2-4 12, Matson 5 0-0 10, J. Moerlein 8 1-2 17, B. Leman 4 0-0 9, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Deiman 1 0-0 2, McKee 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 23 3-6 54.
COOK INLET ACADEMY (24) -- Zimmerman 1 0-0 2, Bell 0 1-2 1, Reese 2 0-0 5, Zindel 2 0-0 4, Evans 2 0-0 4, Hall 3 0-0 6, Powers 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 11 1-2 24.
3-point goals -- Ninilchik 3 (W. Leman 2, B. Leman 1); Cook Inlet Academy 1 (Reese 1). Total fouls -- Ninilchik 5, Cook Inlet Academy 7. Fouled out -- none.
EAGLES 58, WOLVERINES 47
Ninilchik 12 13 29 2 --47
Cook Inlet Academy 14 14 14 16 --58
NINILCHIK (47) -- Schollenberg 2 1-1 5, Miller 2 2-2 8, Matson 2 3-4 7, Hostetter 4 0-2 9, Kvasnikoff 8 2-3 18. Totals -- 18 8-12 47.
CIA (58) -- Hillyer 5 2-2 13, Peterson 7 0-0 14, Franchino 3 4-6 10, Gabriel 4 0-3 8, Myers 5 3-4 13. Totals -- 24 9-15 58.
3-point goals -- Ninilchik 3 (Miller 2, Hostetter 1); CIA 1 (Hillyer). Total fouls -- Ninilchik 14, CIA 11. Fouled out -- Gabriel.
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