Cook Inlet Academy's Brooke Forsi guards the ball during a game against Ninilchik earlier this season.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Cook Inlet Academy girls have proven they can win with only six players.
Now, they’re just hoping Point Hope doesn’t know that.
“That’s exactly what we’re hoping,” senior Melissa Moffis said. “We’re just kind of going to go out there and hopefully shock them.
“I know if I was playing someone like us I’d just kind of look at them and laugh and be like, ‘OK. We got this game,’” she added. “It makes us want to go out and prove ourselves more.”
It’s not like they have to.
With only one substitute, the Eagles overcame a second-round setback to Seldovia in the Peninsula Conference Tournament last weekend and won their next three games en route to a 2A state tournament berth for the first time since 1988.
“It’s really exciting,” junior Brooke Forsi said. “The CIA girls ... no one thinks about us being very good. Our guys team is always really good, but the girls are always kind of overlooked.”
Doubted all season due to a lack of size and depth, CIA will take on Point Hope at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday at Service High School.
“All the coaches are like, ‘They don’t have a bench. They’re not going to make it.’ So, they kind of convinced us that,” Moffis explained. “But we had a talk and we decided as team that we were just going to go out there and try our hardest and not be afraid. So, that’s what we did.”
Having five track and cross country athletes on the team certainly helped.
“What we started doing was trying to hit both the offensive and defensive rebounding and then trying to use our speed off that,” coach Ted Forsi said. “I have four or five girls that are right off the track team. That’s a huge advantage in high school basketball.”
After a bye in the first round of the conference tourney, the Eagles shot a miserable 10-for-61 from the field during a 36-33 loss to Seldovia.
In their second matchup, the Eagles utilized timely rebounding and Moffis and Forsi were 6-for-6 and 7-for-8, respectively, from the foul line during the fourth quarter in beating the Sea Otters by 13.
“Before the game, I think probably six times we got together in a huddle and we just prayed as a team. All our fans were praying,” Brooke Forsi said. “We were all together just praying, really just coming together as a team and just trying to be confident and strong out there.
“It was really cool just to know that we could come out and beat them by more than just a close game, too.”
Coach Forsi is hoping to acquire a seventh member for the upcoming state tournament. If they don’t get one, however, don’t count on the girls to be upset.
“I really like the playing time. It’s a lot of fun,” Brooke Forsi said. “With only six players, you’re like a family, so you work as a team a lot better out there on the floor.”
The CIA boys, on the other hand, are accustomed to success.
Having romped to the 2004-05 state title with an incredible 27-0 record, some of the Eagles know what it takes to do it again.
“I only have like three guys that have been to state before. So, everybody else is kind of new,” said coach Travis Knutson, whose team will take on Noorvik at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Service. “But the three guys, hopefully they can be leaders out there and settle everybody else down.”
A member of last season’s state tournament team that went two-and-out, sophomore Scotty Litchfield believes his team can win this year. But he also learned how difficult it can be.
“It’s really intense and you just come out focused and you have to play your heart out,” he said. “And if you don’t, you’re just going to get blown out.”
Like their female counterparts, the boys also overcame adversity in advancing to state.
The Eagles were pummeled, 87-53, by Ninilchik in the second round of the conference tourney but easily won their next two games and then edged the Wolverines by five in the second-place contest.
“After we lost that (second-round) game, it was basically win or go home,” said senior John Forsi, a member of the last state championship team. “We thought we could pull it off but it took us to just look at the one game we had to play and focus on that and just do the best we could that game and move on from there, cross the next bridge.”
Only one of two seniors on the squad, Forsi sees critical differences between this team and last year’s.
“This is the first year we’ve had everybody gel together as a team. So that’s why I think we’re so good is because everybody’s friends with each other. No one has any problems with one another,” he explained. “We just gel out there and gel on the court. We have a couple bad games here and there but we play good together.
“We had just individual players last year and this year we have a team,” Forsi added.
He also thinks the Eagles are peaking at the perfect time.
“After our last game we showed we could play with anybody,” he said. “It just depends how much we wanna go out there, how much we want the win and if we want it bad enough, we go out there and stick with the other team and pull it off sometimes.”
With three titles in the last eight years, CIA would face defending champion Yakutat in the second round if they upend Noorvik.
“I’m happy to go. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it after our first loss,” Forsi said. “But I was happy and I just told them, ‘Hey, every game counts now and you got to just go out there and you got to do your best for that game and that game only and leave it all out there.’
“Now this is state and everybody is going 100 percent,” he added. “So, you’ve got to just reach in deep and play with heart and go for the best you can do.”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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