Seward coach Dan Krier couldn't recall the last time the Seahawks qualified for the Class 3A state tournament.
It was the 1996-97 season.
However, the boys coach was more than aware that Seward finished second at state during the 1992-93 campaign when the Seahawks came up a single point shy of Eielson in the championship game.
Krier knew that because the trophy from that runner-up finish rests in the school's trophy case, a place he and his team visited following their victory over Anchorage Christian Schools in the regular-season finale on Saturday.
He's hoping that trip will serve as motivation for the 2009 Southcentral Conference tournament, which gets underway today at Grace Christian and continues on Friday and Saturday at Dimond High School with two state-tournament berths on the line.
"I took them up there and made them look at that trophy," he said. "Just kind of basically looked at the guys and said, 'You know what? That could be you.' They're capable of that.
"Just to let them know that they are that good and that they need to play with confidence and get it done."
In any other season, the Seahawks regular-season mark of 16-6 and 8-4 record in the SCC would have been good enough to earn them the top seed in the conference tourney.
This year, though, top-seeded Grace Christian, which beat Seward twice this season, once in overtime, finished 11-1 in conference action and ACS went 10-2, leaving the Seahawks with the third seed and a date with sixth-seeded Nikiski at 4:15 p.m. today.
"I think on paper a lot of people were looking at us early on after we did really well in the Service (Tipoff) Tournament," Krier said of his team's third-place finish in Anchorage. "Our goal actually was to be No. 1 in the conference and we didn't get it done in the regular season. At least we got out of that rut of being a No. 4 seed or No. 5 seed. They're expectations are high and it's kind of a senior-dominated group.
"The boys had goals in mind at the beginning of the season," he added. "First of all they wanted to be one of the top three seeds in the conference and they accomplished that. Their goal is to go to a state tournament and their goal is to go to a state tournament and do well."
Other than viewing the state trophy on Saturday, the Seahawks beat ACS for the first time in Krier's eight years at the helm, another source of confidence he's hoping his team takes advantage of should the two squads meet in the second round, pending a Seahawks win over the Bulldogs and a Lions win over seventh-seeded Su-Valley, too.
"I'm hoping that we don't take them lightly," Krier said of Nikiski, a team Seward beat twice this season. "We've got to come into the game and play hard and do our job that we're supposed to do and take care of business and survive the first day and move on."
Grace, meanwhile, earned a bye in the first round and will take on the winner of today's game between fourth-seeded Heritage Christian and fifth-seeded Cordova.
"If they end up getting Heritage," Krier said of the Grizzlies, "that won't be a cakewalk."
Krier wouldn't say whether he thinks his team will actually qualify for state.
With six seniors leading the way, though, this would be the year to do it.
"Long overdue is right," he said. "We hope to break that."
After not qualifying for the Class 3A state tournament for the first time since 1990 last season, the Nikiski girls have their sights locked on a berth this time around.
With five seniors leading the way, the Bulldogs finished the regular season at 18-4 overall and 6-2 in the Southcentral Conference in earning the second seed and a bye in the first round of the conference tourney today.
Nikiski, whose only two SCC losses came against top-seeded Anchorage Christian Schools, will play at 2:30 p.m. on Friday against the winner of today's game between third-seeded Cordova and sixth-seeded Su-Valley. Nikiski beat Cordova three times this season.
Fifth-seeded Seward, meanwhile, will take on fourth-seeded Grace Christian at 12:45 p.m. today for the right to play the Lions on Friday.
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