Practice makes perfect. Well, it breeds improvement at least.
After shooting 33 percent from the field and going 12-of-23 from the line in Friday's semifinal loss to Skagway, Cook Inlet Academy immediately left the Sullivan Arena for a practice at Grace Christian High School where each girl shot 50 free throws.
On Saturday, the Eagles went 7-of-8 from the line, shot 46 percent from the field and put up 39 points in the first half en route to a 57-34 shellacking over Northway in the third-place game.
"Our shooting was phenomenal today," Eagles head coach Rustin Hitchcock said. "We had the interior passing going."
The Eagles shot nearly 41 percent from the field for the game. CIA was 8-of-12 from 3-point land and made 64 percent of its free throws. Northway was 12-of-51 from the field.
The Eagles wanted to come out hard on Saturday, CIA senior captain Amie Smithwick said.
"We felt like yesterday we played in the championship game," she said. "It was just a hard loss. Today was kind of a redeeming game."
After Friday's loss, it would have been easy to come out flat, but CIA had something to prove on Saturday, Hitchcock said.
"After the loss, we had a game plan for what we wanted to do," he said. "We needed to send a message how strong we truly are."
"We were ready to come out and make our statement why we belong here," said CIA freshman Megan Bauder.
As a first-year starter, Bauder said she had some jitters heading into the state tournament.
"I was a bit nervous," she said. "Amie Smithwick really helped me out.
"It's been a really great experience and I'm really excited for years to come," Bauder added.
The game came down to determination, Hitchcock said.
"We wanted it more," he said. "The whole team played up for our seniors."
Smithwick and Sadie Arneson are CIA's two seniors.
After Northway's Katherine Albert hit a 3-pointer to bring the score to 8-6 in favor of CIA early in the first quarter, the Eagles went on a 22-0 run. Four different players contributed to the scoring during the string of points.
Seven different Eagles tallied points in the game. All 11 girls saw playing time.
Smithwick, who was named player of the game, paced CIA with 15 points and seven steals. Bauder had 11 points and six steals, five of those coming in the first half. CIA had 17 total takeaways.
Tiffany Smith and Tiana McGahan each chipped in 10 points for the Eagles. Desiree Demit had a team-high 11 points for the Warriors.
About his first season coaching CIA's girls, Hitchcock said he was proud of the effort his team gave all season.
"If I totaled up all the bad minutes, it wouldn't add up to an entire game," he said. Hitchcock said his girls played with unity and heart all year.
For Smithwick, who's played at state four consecutive years, this year marks her best finish. The Eagles took fourth place in 2007 and 2008, and went two and out last year.
"For me, it was a good way to go out," Smithwick said. "I'm happy, but not satisfied. Never be satisfied, as Rustin always says."
Eagles 57, Warriors 34
Northway 6 5 9 14 -- 34
CIA 19 20 7 11 -- 57
NORTHWAY (34) -- J. Dillard 1 0-1 3, S. Albert 0 0-0 0, T. Emry 1 0-0 2, D. Demit 3 4-9 11, T. Demit 3 0-2 8, K. Albert 3 0-2 8, E. Hendren 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 12 4-14 34.
CIA (57) -- T. Smith 4 2-4 10, T. McGahan 3 4-4 10, L. Bauder 2 0-0 4, M. Bauder 4 0-0 11, S. Arneson 0 1-2 1, D. Bunts 0 0-0 0, A. Smithwick 5 2-2 15, K. Powers 2 0-0 6, K. Brush 0 0-0 0, A. Tieaskie 0 0-0 0, K. Leaf 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 20 9-14 57.
3-point goals -- Northway 6 (Dillard 1, D. Demit 1, T. Demit 2, K. Albert 2); CIA 8 (M. Bauder 3, Smithwick 3, Powers 2). Team fouls -- Northway 11; CIA 15. Fouled out -- Emry.
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