Looks can be deceiving. Just take a glance at the long list of opponents the Cook Inlet Academy boys high school basketball team has surprised this season.
More specifically, look past CIA's lanky Calder Hillyer and lean Luke Myers -- guys that look like basketball players -- and take a glance at their teammate doing the dirty work in the post.
"We have a joke on the team that my position is the chubby kid who shoots. I don't look athletic, but I can sneak in a couple jumpers here and there and do my part to contribute," said Jacob Peterson, a four-year starter in the paint for the Eagles. "I'm told I missed my calling -- I should have played football, because I don't have a basketball player's build."
Basketball build or not, things couldn't have gone better for Peterson as his career with the Eagles heads into the home stretch, with the District 3/2A tournament slated for March 19 to 22 in Homer and the 2A state championships a week later at Service High School in Anchorage.
"With of my lack of athleticism -- I can't run the fastest or jump the highest -- I was still able to get a shot here, and I was still able to contribute to a team," Peterson said.
Of course, any story about the CIA squad would be incomplete without mentioning the state championships. The Eagles won the tournament last year, defeating peninsula rival Ninilchik in double overtime. Peterson counts that game as the highlight of his career so far.
"Nothing compares to it, the excitement, the adrenaline, the huge scale of the tournament," Peterson said. "I don't think it hit me that we'd won it until midsummer, when I was able to sit back and say, 'Wow!'
"Last year really was a perfect season, a dream season. To be able to beat the team we lost to in the region finals, in double overtime, it was great for the school, and one of the great experiences of my life."
That magic has carried over to this season, where the Eagles have defeated every 2A team they've faced, in addition to knocking off some 3A and 4A teams -- or at least giving them a run for their money.
"It's been a great season," Peterson said. "The best thing about our team is our balance. One player doesn't have to come out and get it done every night. I don't think we have one player averaging more than 15 points a game -- defenses don't know who to cover.
"I really credit our program for that, our coaches and the different systems we run. We don't have a bunch of talent, just a bunch of guys that have been playing for a while and have mastered the fundamentals."
Peterson said his basketball education began with the Boys and Girls Club program in third grade, and on the playground at Mountain View Elementary School.
"I'd be Michael Jordan, and (Myers) would be Chris Webber. I'd always beat him," Peterson said.
"For a while, he was a little bigger," admitted Myers. "He hit his growth spurt a little before me."
"Around ninth grade, (Myers) became a big stud," Peterson said. "Now he's more like Michael Jordan. I'm still waiting for my growth spurt."
Peterson said his love for basketball was fostered in the Boys and Girls Club program, and he brought it with him when he began attending Cook Inlet Academy as a ninth-grader, where he immediately started competing with Hillyer for the fifth starting spot.
"He's only about 5-(foot)-11, but he's got good post moves," Hillyer said. "That opens up the wings to be able to shoot."
"He's a down-low force," Myers said. "It's nice to have someone there you can depend on. He's got a great head for the game. He's not the fastest, but he makes up for it by knowing where he should be."
But Peterson's game is more than just a few good moves and the ability to sink a 15-footer in the clutch.
"He has a real passion to win," Myers said. "He's really competitive. That's just how he is. He doesn't want to give up."
That combination of drive, dependability and skill has made Peterson an invaluable asset for first-year coach Max Vavilov.
"It's been a blessing to have him on the team," Vavilov said. "It makes it easy to coach. All I have to do is guide, because he wants to work and knows what it takes to win."
Peterson also has been a solid performer in the classroom. He currently serves as the CIA student body president, and he said he'd like to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago next year to prepare for missionary work.
"I have a passion for people," Peterson said. "I like meeting people's need, and making a difference."
Off the basketball court, Peterson said his life is pretty laid back -- just "hanging out with a group of friends, making fun of bad movies, and playing basketball."
Peterson said basketball has been a thrilling part of his life, but added that it was his faith that has given it meaning.
"I'm so thankful for the opportunity to play basketball. It's a privilege I hope I don't take for granted," Peterson said. "Thanks to Jesus Christ. Without Him, it's just a silly game, but with Him, life can be so much more."
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