In high school basketball, with kids shuffling in and out of school every four years, it's hard to set up an operation of complete, long-term domination.
In Class 2A basketball, it can be even tougher because schools have between 50 and 100 kids, meaning when stars graduate there is less of a pool available for restocking talent.
The Ninilchik girls basketball team has been immune to the above problems. When the District 3/2A basketball tournament begins today at Homer High School, the Wolverines will be looking to take their ninth straight district title.
The Wolverines lost Class 2A state player of the year Theresa Chihuly and first-team all-state player Tasha Leman to graduation after winning their third state title in the past five years last year, but this year, as usual, they have been able to reload.
Region II District 3/2A Basketball Tournament at Homer High School
Game 2 -- Wings Christian Academy vs. Cook Inlet Academy, 2:30 p.m.
Game 4 -- Bristol Bay vs. Community Christian School, 6 p.m.
Game 6 -- Seldovia vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 8 -- Ninilchik vs. Game 4 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 10 -- Game 6 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 8:30 a.m.
Game 12 -- Game 2 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 10 a.m.
Game 14 -- Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 6:30 p.m.
Game 16 -- Game 10 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 3:30 p.m.
Game 18 -- Game 14 loser vs. Game 16 winner, 10:30 a.m.
Game 20 (Championship) -- Game 7 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 3 p.m.
Game 1A -- Ninilchik vs. Nikolaevsk, 11 a.m.
Game 1 -- Lumen Christi vs. Bristol Bay, 4:15 p.m.
Game 3 -- Community Christian School vs. Seldovia, 12:45 p.m.
Game 5 -- Wings Christian Academy vs. Cook Inlet Academy, 7:45 p.m.
Game 11 -- Game 3 loser vs. Game 5 loser, 11 a.m.
Game 13 -- Game 1A loser vs. Game 1 loser, 12:45 p.m.
Game 7 -- Game 1A winner vs. Game 1 winner, 4:15 p.m.
Game 9 -- Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7:45 p.m.
Game 15 -- Game 7 loser vs. Game 11 winner, 11:30 a.m.
Game 17 -- Game 13 winner vs. Game 9 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 19 -- Game 7 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 8 p.m.
Game 21 -- Game 15 winner vs. Game 17 winner, 5 p.m.
Game 23 -- Game 19 loser vs. Game 21 winner, noon
Game 25 (Championship) -- Game 19 winner vs. Game 23 winner, 4:45 p.m.
Note: If the championship game loser has just one loss, a rematch will be played at 7 or 9 p.m. to determine the tournament champion.
They enter the double-elimination district tournament as the No. 1 seed, and along with No. 2 Seldovia, have a bye in the first round of the tournament. The top two teams from the tournament advance to the state tournament in Anchorage.
Ninilchik has an 18-2 overall record this year, including 7-1 in the district. Seldovia beat the Wolverines when they were without Whitney Leman, a first-team all-state player last year.
"We played a few games -- a three-week stretch -- without Whitney and that helped us because other people were stepping up and doing things they normally don't do," Ninilchik coach Dan Leman said. "Overall, it made us a more balanced and dominant team."
Also toughening up the Wolverines is a regular-season schedule that Leman calls "one of the toughest in a while."
Ninilchik played Class 4A schools Kenai, Skyview and Homer and Class 3A schools Kotzebue, Susitna Valley and Unalaska. The Wolverines only loss to the tough competition came to the Kardinals, who qualified for the Class 4A state tournament.
Leman and Molly Bosick will key the team in the district tournament, but coach Leman said he also will call on Jessica Russo, Brieanna Leman and Kourtney Hansen for balance.
Seldovia, which lost six times to Ninilchik last season, lost just one starter from that team. The Sea Otters will be looking to get revenge and break up Ninilchik's string of district championships.
While the Seldovia and Ninilchik girls sit back and enjoy their byes, here is a look at today's first-round matchups:
n Cook Inlet Academy boys vs. Wings Christian Academy -- The Eagles had been to state four years in a row before Bristol Bay and Seldovia took the district's top slots last year.
Even though Cook Inlet Academy comes into the tournament with a 9-1 district record, Eagles coach Tim Keener knows a state berth will be hard to come by.
"I've been grilling the team all week that the tournament is a whole different story," Keener said. "When you go in seeded No. 1, you walk around wearing big targets.
"Everybody's shooting for you, and with good reason. If they beat you, they know they've accomplished something."
CIA should be keyed by point guard Chet Nettles, who leads the team in points and assists. Keener also thinks the playing time Calder Hillyer, Justin Franchino and Stephen Staton received last year as underclassmen should pay off at the tournament.
Wings, a team located on Kalifornsky Beach Road, will be playing in its first district tournament.
n Seldovia boys vs. Community Christian -- The two teams split in the regular season.
"We're pretty well-matched teams," Seldovia coach John Gruber said. "I think we have to rebound better than we did. They're a big team like we are. We play similar styles."
The Sea Otters were expected to be one of the best teams in the district, but they lost senior guard Jeff Swick to injury eight or nine games into the season.
Gruber said 6-foot-3 senior Jeremiah Dillon and 6-4 sophomore Tom Bowdon need to play well inside for the Otters during the tournament.
One advantage Community Christian should have over Seldovia is experience. The Knights have five seniors on their roster and also have experience underneath in 6-1 junior Joshua Veldstra.
n Bristol Bay boys vs. Lumen Christi -- The Angels come to the tournament looking for a return trip to state. The team, especially 5-7 senior Chad Anderson, is noted for raining 3-pointers on the opposition.
n Ninilchik boys vs. Nikolaevsk -- The Wolverines defeated the Warriors twice this season, but the last time they hooked up Ninilchik won a close game.
"We played them fairly well," Warriors coach Steve Klaich said. "It was real close at the end."
Klaich said his team must be more consistent, especially on the glass, in order to top the Wolverines.
Leading that rebounding effort will be 5-11 junior Kiril Martushev and 5-8 sophomore Denis Basargin.
"We aren't very big," Klaich said.
Klaich also said he needs good shooting from brothers Tim and Fedosa Efimov.
As for the Wolverines, coach Bernie Clark said his team has a lot of potential. The squad showed that potential by handing CIA its only district loss of the season.
"We've got a lot of talent," Clark said. "We just don't always use it."
Ninilchik rotates eight or nine guys in and out of the lineup. Clark said the recent addition of 5-7 senior Chris Kruzick and 6-1 junior Jesse Hostetter should help the team. The two were out due to injury.
n Cook Inlet Academy girls vs. Wings Christian Academy -- Cook Inlet was scheduled to play Wings twice this season, but Wings had to forfeit both times because it did not have enough players.
"From what I heard, they are real young and building," CIA coach Jeff Hultberg said of Wings.
Hultberg said his team rides into the tournament with a big confidence boost due to its play this year against Seldovia. The Eagles lost to the Otters in overtime and then beat them by four points.
"Our girls finally realize they can play with them," Hultberg said.
Hultberg said 5-11 sophomore Sara McLeod, 5-4 junior Chantal Reese and 5-6 senior Kristen Zimmerman will have to have big tournaments in order to earn a state berth.
n Bristol Bay girls vs. Community Christian -- The Knights come into the tournament with the No. 4 seed while the Angels come in seeded fifth. The winner of the game must face Ninilchik.
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