Esther Esbenshade collected a game-high 15 points, Rose Fraker added 11 and defending Class 2A state champion Yakutat overcame a lackluster first half to defeat Cook Inlet Academy, 43-27, on Tuesday in the opening round of the 2A state basketball championships at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena.
After being limited to just 10 points in the first half, Yakutat held the Eagles to even less in the second half and opened the third quarter looking more like the defending champs.
Two quick buckets to start the frame by Esbenshade, one from Ellen Esbenshade and a pair of treys from Fraker highlighted a 17-2 run that handed Yakutat a 27-21 edge.
But a basket by CIA senior Brooke Forsi (eight points) in the closing moments of the third, just the second successful attempt by the Eagles in the quarter, trimmed the deficit to 27-23 entering the fourth.
A CIA turnover and a missed 3-pointer to begin the fourth led to five straight Yakutat points and a 32-23 game. Two consecutive buckets by Esther Esbenshade then capped an incredible 26-4 run spanning the third and fourth quarters and extended Yakutat's cushion to 13 with under five minutes remaining.
Yakutat then closed the game on a 7-4 spurt, four points coming from Justyne Wheeler, as they advanced to take on Chevak today. Meanwhile, the Eagles will play Galena at 1 p.m. today in the consolation bracket.
Cook Inlet fell handily to Yakutat, 69-38, at the Cook Inlet Classic in December. But on Tuesday, Yakutat was without Class 2A player of the year Heidi Esbenshade, who suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury midway through this year's campaign. And early on, Yakutat certainly missed her.
Shooting just 36 percent (4-of-11) from the field in the first quarter, Cook Inlet owned a 12-6 edge at the end of the frame courtesy of 10 points from sophomore Amie Smithwick (12 points), who hit both of her 3-point attempts in the period.
The Eagles extended their lead to 15-6 in the opening minutes of the second on a basket by junior Holly Kopp and carried a nine-point lead into halftime.
YAKUTAT 43, COOK INLET 27
Cook Inlet 12 7 4 4 27
Yakutat 6 4 17 16 43
COOK INLET (27) Smith 0 1-2 1, McGahan 0 0-0 0, Bauder 0 0-0 0, Hardcastle 0 0-2 0, Kopp 1 2-5 4, Smithwick 4 2-3 12, Rang 0 0-0 0, Brush 1 0-0 2. Totals 9 7-14 27.
YAKUTAT (43) K. Fraker 1 0-0 2, El. Esbenshade 1 0-0 2, Wheeler 2 1-2 5, Williams 1 0-0 2, R. Fraker 1 3-7 11, Es. Esbenshade 7 1-1 15. Totals 19 2-6 43.
3-point goals CIA 2 (Smithwick 2), Yakutat 3 (R. Fraker 3). Team fouls CIA 11, Yakutat 14. Fouled out none.
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