Anchorage Christian's Anna Simmers and Nikiski's Hannah Thompson battle during the opening tip-off during a game earlier this season.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Ward Romans divides the basketball season into thirds.
“Pre-conference, conference and postseason,” the Nikiski girls’ coach explained.
With the way the first two installments have gone, there’s little reason to believe the final third will be any different.
Owning a 19-3 overall record and the top 3A ranking in the state, the Bulldogs are primed to capture one of the two state tournament berths on the line when the Southcentral Conference tournament gets under way today.
“The first two-thirds have been outstanding,” Romans said. “I’m real excited with where we’re sitting for the district tourney.”
The scenario couldn’t be any better for the Bulldogs.
A 9-1 conference mark earned them a bye in the first round before they take the court on Friday at 5:30 p.m. against the winner of today’s 2:30 p.m. matchup between Seward (2-8) and Houston (5-5).
“The hard part of having a bye is we sit around and watch the other teams play,” he said. “But we earned the right to have (today) off. We’ll watch the tourney for Friday.”
But there’s more good news for the defending Class 3A state champions.
The tournament’s in their own backyard.
“Having it at home, you know the girls are really excited about that,” Romans said. “Not having to travel and being able to play on home our floor, there’s no way around it, it’s a nice thing.”
Also playing at home will be the Nikiski boys (0-12), who will take on Heritage (9-3) at 7 p.m. today.
The Seward boys, who own a 6-6 conference mark, play ACS at 1 p.m. today.
Romans and his girls aren’t looking too far ahead just yet, though.
Despite Nikiski’s lone conference loss coming against SSC co-champion ACS who the Bulldogs could meet in Saturday’s final Romans said his team isn’t thinking about advancing to the state tournament for the 17th consecutive season.
“We don’t talk about stuff like that,” he said of repeating as state champions. “That’s the neat thing about this team ... is we focus on the moment. Otherwise, if we talk about the season we’ve had, we can miss out on something that’s happening now.”
While the scoring has been spread around throughout the season, Romans knows he’ll still need solid contributions from seniors Becca Carlson and Hannah Thompson, who are averaging 13 and 11 points per game, respectively.
“I’m really proud of these seniors with how they’ve stepped up and how they’ve led the team, both by their effort and by their attitudes,” he said.
And while he won’t concede the first state berth to his squad, Romans did say the second spot could be a crapshoot.
“I really think Grace Christian, ACS, Seward and Houston have things about them that are awkward and challenging and on any given day they can qualify,” he said.
“I will say this, though, I will take our team.”
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