Immediately following Seldovia's second-place finish in the Peninsula Conference tournament 10 days ago, Levi Harkness said advancing to state has been the ultimate goal since his freshman year.
The 6-foot-6 senior made the most of his first trip.
Hitting 11-of-30 shots, Harkness netted a team-high 25 points and pulled down nine rebounds in leading the Sea Otters to a surprising 69-47 triumph over previously undefeated Angoon in the opening round of the Class 2A state basketball championships at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Tuesday.
According to Seldovia coach Russ Radliff, it was the school's first state tournament victory in its previous three trips, including its last state appearance in 2000.
"We played well and they didn't play so well. We handled them pretty well," Radliff said via cell phone. "We moved the ball around and the kids really passed the ball well and got the ball to Levi inside.
"We're playing good," he added. "I didn't know we'd take them that easy. They kind of sat back in that zone and we went at them. We were bigger and stronger."
Fresh off a pair of dominant performances in the conference tourney, where he dropped 19 and 24 points in two different games against Cook Inlet Academy, the mohawk-capped center even canned an uncharacteristic 3-pointer Tuesday, rebounding the ball near the bench before letting it fly.
"The 3-pointer he made was something else, too," Radliff said with a laugh.
"He just kind of turned and fired. He's got that kind of mentality."
Conscious of how pivotal Harkness can be inside, his teammates constantly worked the ball into him, with no other Sea Otter recording more than nine shots.
And despite contending inside with Angoon's 6-foot-3 senior John Croasmun, who also scored a team-high 25 points on 10-of-26 shooting, Harkness had little trouble.
"We felt just looking at them, that they didn't have the size to contend with him, so we pushed it inside as much as we could," Radliff explained. "When he's using the backboard, he's pretty tough.
"Defensively, they didn't have anybody else who can play with Levi."
Seldovia jumped out to a 17-8 lead after the first period, during which the Sea Otters hit 50 percent of their shots, and owned a 29-19 lead at halftime.
A trio of 3-pointers in the third helped Seldovia close the period leading by 20 before the Sea Otters outscored the Eagles, 21-19, in the fourth in sealing the victory.
"We came out and made some quick shots. They stayed close with us. It was a good first quarter," Radliff said. "The second quarter we took a good lead. The third quarter, we really came out after them, jumped on them and put the game away basically. We just had to take care of the ball in the fourth quarter."
Leading that effort was senior Griffin Swick, who scored 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting while going 6-for-9 from the charity stripe.
He also added eight rebounds and six assists.
Sophomore Darin Baines came off the bench for Seldovia and nailed a pair of treys in scoring eight points in only 13 minutes of action.
Fellow classmate Matthew Gain netted nine points, junior Jordan Geagel chipped in eight and six boards and senior Timothy O'Leary yanked down six rebounds and dished out seven assists.
In the end, though, it all came back to Harkness.
"He opens things up for the other kids," Radliff said. "They start sucking in and the younger kids can start shooting those 3's. It makes everybody happy."
The Sea Otters now look to advance to the state finals with a win over Galena at 8:30 p.m. today at Sullivan Arena. The Hawks advanced to the semifinals with a 51-50 victory over defending 2A state champion Noorvik.
Seldovia and Galena didn't meet this season. And while they no longer have to face Noorvik, who topped the Sea Otters earlier this year, Radliff knows it still won't be easy.
"It's going to be a battle."
SEA OTTERS 69, EAGLES 47
Seldovia 17 12 19 21 69
Angoon 8 11 9 19 47
SELDOVIA (69) Kroll 0 0-0 0, Baines 2 2-2 8, Swick 4 6-9 15, Geagel 2 4-6 8, O'Leary 2 0-0 4, Gain 3 0-0 9, Harkness 11 2-2 25. Totals 24 14-19 69.
ANGOON (47) J. Croasmun 10 3-3 25, M. Croasmun 1 0-0 2, Demmert 0 0-0 0, Howard 1 8-12 10, See 1 0-0 2, Jack 0 0-0 0, Silva 1 3-4 5, Joseph 1 0-0 3. Totals 15 14-19 47.
3-point goals Seldovia 7 (Gain 3, Baines 2, Swick 1, Harkness 1), Angoon 3 (J. Croasmun 2, Joseph 1). Team fouls Seldovia 17, Angoon 17. Fouled out Geagel, Howard.
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