When the District 3/3A tournament tips off today at Grace Christian School in Anchorage, the Nikiski boys will be looking to try and get to state despite the absence of star senior guard Jeremiah Taylor.
In a Saturday loss to Anchorage Christian Schools, Taylor broke his leg and will be out for the season. That will make it tougher for Nikiski to earn one of the two state berths up for grabs at the tournament.
Nikiski coach Reid Kornstad said Saturday was an understandably tough night for his squad, but on Monday the team was refocused and ready to go at practice. Nikiski opens the tournament at 12:45 p.m. today with a game against Houston.
"They understand that the statistical loss of Jeremiah causes other players to have to spread out that burden and bear it together," Kornstad said. "They seem fired up to do that."
Meanwhile, the Nikiski girls will be seeking their 14th straight trip to the state tournament. The Bulldogs have won 10 district titles in the last 13 years.
The Bulldogs, the No. 2 seed, open with a game against Susitna Valley at 2:30 p.m. today. Nikiski has not lost to Susitna Valley, Grace Christian or Anchorage Christian Schools all the teams on its side of the bracket.
The Seward girls, the No. 1 seed with an undefeated district record, will be seeking their second district title in three years. Seward has a bye Thursday, then will play the Heritage Christian-Houston winner for the right to go to state.
"We have won all of our conference games by scores in the teens and 20s, but teams have given us a good run in the first half," Seward coach Roger Steinbrecher said. "If teams can put a few of those halves together, we've got our work cut out for us."
Teams usually can't stay with Seward because of its tough defense and incredible depth.
"I don't even know how many people have led us in scoring this year, but it's six or more people," Steinbrecher said.
He said seniors Emma Seigel, Krista Boulden, Lisa Steinbrecher, Elsa Gaule, Jenni Regis and Breanna Bardarson have all had high-scoring honors this year. Juniors Lara Loomis and Teal Hetrick also give Seward key minutes.
Finally, the Seward boys, the No. 5 seed, face a tough road to state. Today, Seward faces Grace at 7:45 p.m. The Seahawks have lost close games to the Grizzlies twice this season.
If Seward can get by Grace, though, it will have to defeat Heritage Christian to get to state. The Eagles are the top seed in the district.
"We start three sophomores and a junior, but we're not looking at next year yet," Seward boys coach Dan Krier said.
"We're looking to put three good games together and fight for a state tournament berth."
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