ANCHORAGE -- The Cook Inlet Academy girls basketball team concluded the Class 2A state tournament with a dominating performance, but walked off the court wondering: What if?
The Eagles dismantled Tri-Valley 57-17 to earn third place for the second time in as many years Wednesday at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Yet the disappointment of a loss to Skagway a night earlier -- which cost Cook Inlet a trip to the title game -- was evident during a subdued postgame celebration. Skagway won its second straight title by topping Yakutat 34-23 on Wednesday.
"Pretty much just to dominate as much as possible and show the other teams that we could have done better, but we just kind of lost it yesterday," Cook Inlet senior Tiffany Smith said of the squad's mind-set on the heels of Tuesday's 48-29 defeat against Skagway. "We played well as a team today. Last night we were all on different pages. We knew we wanted the championship, but we just couldn't get all together."
Smith, named Wednesday's player of the game, scored 13 points against Tri-Valley in a contest that was never in doubt.
The Eagles used a full-court press on defense from the opening whistle, forcing the Warriors into 42 turnovers and turning them into 34 points -- twice the offensive output of Tri-Valley's entire squad. Windy Gore scored a team-best 10 for the Warriors.
Ten of the 11 players who stepped on the floor for Cook Inlet scored, and five of them had at least five points. The Eagles led 35-11 at halftime and didn't allow a point in the third quarter, eventually building the lead to 40.
"They didn't want to squander this opportunity, because third place is nothing to sneeze at," Cook Inlet coach Rustin Hitchcock said. "They came out fired up and ready to play. They wanted to play for the seniors and play for our fans and play for pride.
"Everybody was running on all cylinders today."
Megan Bauder finished 5-of-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line, scoring 12 points, while Tiana McGahan and Keslie Leaf tallied eight and seven, respectively.
That was more than enough to lift Cook Inlet (23-5). In 2010, the Eagles placed third after losing to Skagway in the semifinals -- just as they did this season.
Hitchcock said it's easy to ponder the possibilities, admitting the tournament could have had a better ending had his squad defeated the Panthers on Tuesday, but the coach emphasized Cook Inlet's accomplishments.
"When it comes down to it, we knew these past two years you had to beat Skagway to win state. We just didn't do it," Hitchcock said. "You can entertain those thoughts, but we want to focus on the positives right now. We came out and ended on a great note and finished the season with our true identity."
Hitchcock said the Eagles were a different team against Skagway on Tuesday, forcing shots, making foolish decisions and playing intimidated.
In regrouping between games, Cook Inlet committed to returning to its style of play -- pressuring on defense and moving the ball on offense.
It call came together against Tri-Valley.
"We definitely took our time to regroup and let everyone reflect on it -- had individual meetings, just kind of talked about everything so we could get rid of any negativity and come today with a whole new mind-set," Hitchcock said. "We were being the attackers on both ends. We weren't awestruck and we came out and got into the lanes, which is something we can do every single game. But when we let an opponent get into our head, we start to play too tentatively."
Cook Inlet entered the tournament as the Peninsula Conference No. 1 seed after it dominated the regular season, going undefeated in league play.
The Eagles lose seniors Smith, McGahan, Bauder and Kelsey Brush, but return a solid nucleus.
Wednesday's win, even if it was a game the Eagles had hoped to avoid, allowed the seniors to end on a high note.
"It was nice to play a good game and play as a team and stay strong," Smith said. "It was definitely hard, but we came out as a team."
Point Hope girls 74, Seldovia 28
A 46-point loss against Point Hope on the final day of the Class 2A state tournament didn't bother Seldovia girls basketball coach Buck Brown.
Not after the Sea Otters, who made their first state-tournament appearance in nine years, defeated Chevak a night earlier behind 37 points from sophomore Sarah Geagel.
"It was her best performance of the year," Brown said. "The best part was she did it all in the context of the offense, it wasn't just a one-man show. The ball was being worked around real well between the other four players on the floor. It was a team performance."
Geagel scored a team-high 12 points in the loss to Point Hope in the game for fourth and sixth place Wednesday at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
The Harpoonerettes overwhelmed the Sea Otters, hitting eight 3-pointers and scoring at least 21 points each of the first three quarters. Donna Nash scored a game-high 20, while teammate Michelle Lane added 18.
Point Hope didn't make a free throw, going 0-for-2 at the line. It didn't matter.
"They are just so strong and so deep," Brown said. "All five people on the court can score. They can do it all."
Brown didn't expect Seldovia to beat Point Hope, saying the Harpoonerettes are one of the top four 2A teams in the state. The coach was happy to earn the win Tuesday, giving the Sea Otters a taste of tournament success after having missed the event each season for nearly a decade.
There are no seniors on the team, meaning a return trip is in the cards next season for Seldovia. Brown believes the postseason experience will pay dividends in 2011-12.
"The tournament went well," Brown said. "We won the game we were supposed to win."
Eagles 57, Warriors 17
Cook Inlet 16 19 12 10 --57
Tri-Valley 6 5 0 6 --17
COOK INLET (57) - Smith 6 1-2 13, Davidson 0 0-0 0, K. Powers 1 0-0 2, Leaf 3 1-2 7, McGahan 4 0-0 8, Moffis 2 0-0 5, M. Bauder 5 2-2 12, Bunts 1 0-0 2, L. Bauder 1 0-0 2, M. Powers 1 1-2 3, Brush 1 1-2 3. Totals - 25 6-11 57.
TRI-VALLEY (17) - Gore 4 2-4 10, Scholten 0 0-0 0, Arbuckle 2 0-0 4, Saxe 0 0-0 0, O'Connor 1 0-0 2, Terry 0 1-1 1, Townsend 0 0-0 0. Totals - 7 3-5 17.
3-point field goals - Cook Inlet 1 (Moffis); Tri-Valley none. Team fouls - Cook Inlet 13, Tri-Valley 12. Fouled out - none.
Harpooners 74, Sea Otters 28
Seldovia 5 11 8 4 --28
Point Hope 21 21 23 9 --74
SELDOVIA (28) - Geagel 5 2-2 12, O'Leary 4 2-6 10, Hilts 1 0-2 3, Romanoff 0 0-0 0, Swick 1 1-2 3, Peterson 0 0-0 0. Totals - 11 5-12 28.
POINT HOPE (74) - Long 5 0-2 10, Nash 8 0-0 20, Koenig 1 0-0 2, Hea. Minix 1 0-0 3, Sears 2 0-0 5, Hel. Minix 3 0-0 6, R. Tooyak 3 0-0 6, Sage 0 0-0 0, Lane 8 0-0 18, C. Tooyak 2 0-0 4. Totals - 33 0-2 74.
3-point field goals - Seldovia 1 (Hilts); Point Hope 8 (Nash 4, Lane 2, Sears, Hea. Minix). Team fouls - Seldovia 3, Point Hope 10. Fouled out - none.
Peninsula Clarion ©2014. All Rights Reserved.