ANCHORAGE -- They can't always be pretty.
One team had 26 turnovers. The other shot for barely 26 percent from the field. Saturday, the Nikiski Bulldogs and the Barrow Whalers matched hoop skills for the 2003 Alaska Schools Activities Association Class 3A state title. Nikiski walked away from the fray with their seventh state championship in 12 years.
The Bulldogs beat Barrow 48-41 in a heated, physical nail-biter that Nikiski head coach Ward Romans described as "ugly."
"When your 5-year-old paints a picture, it's not pretty," Romans said. "But the beauty is in the eyes of the parent. It didn't look pretty, but I think it was a beautiful picture."
Romans may have referred to the eight turnovers each of his normally sure-handed senior guards collected, or the five fouls that benched his senior center with less than a minute left in regulation.
Or maybe it also was all the air balls that the Whalers lofted and the countless scrums that ensued on the floor as players from each team struggled for possession. One rebound at the beginning of the fourth period changed hands seven different times inside of 30 seconds as bodies flew thither and yon.
The truth is that downright hardy defense was the marquis of the day, and Nikiski just showed up with more fight and ferocity than the Whalers.
"When it got down to the line, we stepped up and said 'No, this is our championship,'" said Nikiski senior Katie Floyd, who had eight points on the day and was named to the 3A girls All-Tournament Team.
The teams opened the game playing even ball, as Floyd answered Whaler Barb Benson's first score with a 30-foot 3-pointer. Scoring ping-ponged back and forth through the first period and ended at 11 all.
Then Barrow turned up the heat on the Bulldogs. A stiff full-court press and speedy hands began to rattle the Bulldogs as Barrow forced 11 Nikiski turnovers in the first half.
Nikiski's Lunzie Ellis (12) collides with Barrow's Beth Benson, center, and Elizabeth Bodfish, right, during the third quarter of Nikiski's 48-41 win in the Class 3A girls state basketball championship game in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, March 22, 2003.
AP Photo/Al Grillo
"No. 24 (Karen Rabung) and No. 10 (Hisa Miyara). That was our goal ... to stop them and shut them down," said Barrow junior point guard Martina Leavitt.
And the Whalers' focus on the two aggravated Nikiski's rhythm, making it difficult to bring the ball over the halfcourt line or to pass it into the post without some kind of interruption. The Bulldogs even had a difficult time getting into position to make plays.
"A lot of their screens were different," said junior guard Lynzie Ellis of the Barrow defense.
But Rabung said the Bulldogs were well-rounded enough to overcome these obstacles.
"We're all shooters," she said. "You can't key in on anyone of us without other people stepping up."
Nikiski's Katie Floyd (20) drives past Barrow's Elizabeth Bodfish and Martina Leavitt (4) during the third period of Nikiski's 48-41 win in the Class 3A state basketball championship in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, March 22, 2003.
AP Photo/Al Grillo
And step up they did. Ellis logged eight points and five rebounds. Floyd, who later won the 3A girls' 3-point contest, added eight boards to her scoring total, and junior Krystal Gladden pulled down eight rebounds and scored four points.
The Whalers tied with Nikiski at the end of the third period, but were unable to keep up the defensive intensity. A 13-2 Nikiski run early in the fourth quarter slowed down Barrow's defense.
During that run, Miyara and Rabung, both named to the All-Tournament team, were able to fight through the Whalers' defensive profiling. Barrow coach Kevin Sheffler said that the pressure was working.
"But it wasn't consistent enough," he said. "They were still getting too many looks."
Rabung logged a double-double, scoring 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the field, and grabbing 10 boards. Rabung led all players in the tournament with 36 rebounds.
Nikiski's Hisa Miyara (10) tries to shoot against Barrow's Martina Leavitt during the first half of the Class 3A state basketball championships in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, March 22, 2003.
AP Photo/Al Grillo
Miyara scored a game-high 14 points that included highlight-worthy shots in the third period. Most noteworthy was a runner that followed a head fake that stunned several Whalers and a TV cameraman, and a reverse scoop layup she made to finish a fast break.
Add to that Barrow's dismal shooting percentage -- 14-for-55 from the field -- and the Whalers did well to stay close to Nikiski's 45-percent shooting.
"We could've won if we had hit our shots," Sheffler said.
Romans had a different story, however.
"It keeps coming back to mental toughness," he said. "Somebody asked me, 'How do you win so much?' At the beginning of the year, we talked about where we wanted to be. We wanted to be at state.
"Very few people believed we would come back to state. That was our dream, and all of the girls believed. We wouldn't be here if they didn't."
BULLDOGS 48, WHALERS 41
Barrow 11 8 9 13 -- 41
Nikiski 11 10 7 20 -- 48
BARROW (41) -- M. Leavitt 4 2-3 10, Brower 2 0-1 4, Danner 0 0-0 0, Benson 2 4-6 9, Thomas 0 0-1 0, Edwardsen 0 0-0 0, Congdon 0 0-1 0, Seffler 0 1-2 1, Contrades 2 0-0 6, J. Leavitt 0 0-0 0, Bodfish 3 2-7 9, Oyakag 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 14 9-18 41.
NIKISKI (48) -- Miyara 5 4-8 14, Ellis 4 0-0 8, Gladden 1 2-5 4, Floyd 3 0-0 8, Auldridge 0 0-0 0, Rabung 4 4-8 12, Herrin 1 0-0 2, Hitchcock 0 0-0 0, Coveyou 0 0-0 0, Salonen 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 18 10-21 48.
3-point goals -- Barrow 4 (Contrades 2, Bodfish, Benson), Nikiski 2 (Floyd 2). Total fouls -- Barrow 18, Nikiski 16. Fouled out -- Rabung.
Seahawks 49, Ravens 45
The Seahawks rebounded from a first-round loss to Barrow Thursday to defeat Mt. Edgecumbe 42-30 on Friday and beat Eielson 49-45 Saturday for fourth place in the 3A girls' Alaska School Activities Association state tournament.
Seward led by a point, 15-14, after one quarter of play in Saturday's fourth-place contest, but pulled away with a 15-7 second quarter. Eielson chipped away at Seward's lead through the second half, but couldn't quite catch the Seahawks.
Junior center Emma Seigel led all scorers with 17 points. Tara DeRuwe chipped in with 10 points and Ann Linville pulled down 11 rebounds.
Janay DeLoach led the Ravens with 15 points.
SEAHAWKS 49, RAVENS 45
Seward 15 15 10 9 -- 49
Eielson 14 7 11 13 -- 45
SEWARD (49) -- Gaule 0 0-0 0, Hoogland 0 0-0 0, Bardarson 2 0-1 4, Steinbrecher 0 0-1 0, T. Hetrick 0 0-0 0, Boulden 0 0-0 0, W. Hetrick 0 2-2 2, Loomis 0 0-0 0, DeRuwe 5 1-2 10, Linville 4 0-2 8, Seigel 8 1-2 17, Dieckgraeff 3 2-2 8. Totals -- 22 6-12 49.
EIELSON (45) -- Teague 2 2-2 7, Watson 0 0-0 0, Ogden 1 0-0 2, Harris 3 2-7 8, Hill 0 0-0 0, Warren 1 0-2 2, Jones 1 0-0 2, DeLoach 4 7-11 15, Booth 0 0-0 0, McCormick 5 0-0 9, Yarbrough 0 0-0 0, Holcomb 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 18 11-18 45.
3-point goals -- Seward 1 (DeRuwe), Eielson 2 (Teague, McCormick). Total fouls -- Seward 16, Eielson 12. Fouled out -- none.
Petersburg 43, Monroe Catholic 38
The Vikings clinched third place with their win over the Rams.
Kayleigh Short led Petersburg with 17 points while Britni Birchell chipped in with 12 points. Brandy Cole contributed 11 rebounds, nine of them off the defensive boards, to the effort.
Lisa Burglin scored 16 points to lead the Rams.
Petersburg trailed by two points, 19-17, at the half, but led by two, 32-30, entering the fourth quarter.
Bethel 66, Petersburg 58, OT
The Warriors went to overtime before pulling away from the Vikings to claim fourth place.
Four Bethel players scored in double-digits. Teddy Street led the team with 18 points while Russell Pollack scored 13, David Nate chipped in with 12 points and Pat O'Brien finished with 11 points.
Aaron Severson scored 20 to lead the Vikings.
Bethel trailed 27-18 at halftime, but after matching Petersburg's 15 third-quarter points, the Warriors tied the game at 55 with a 22-13 fourth quarter, then outscored the Vikings 11-3 in the extra period.
Heritage 43, Barrow 30
The Eagles claimed third place with their win over the Whalers.
Heritage led 24-21 at the half before taking the air out of the ball in the third quarter, outscoring the Whalers 4-0 in the frame. The Eagles finished up by outscoring Barrow 15-9 in the fourth quarter.
Jason Reando led the Eagles with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Barrow's high scorer was Josh Thomas with eight points.
Craig 70, Valdez 53
The Buccaneers suffered their first loss of the season Saturday, dropping the championship game of the 3A tournament to Craig.
The Panthers led by a point, 26-25, at the half, then outscored Valdez, the state's top-ranked team entering the tournament, 44-28 in the second half.
Raymond Douville led the Panthers past the Buccaneers with 30 points, including a 12-for-13 effort from the foul line, while teammate Eric Hamilton netted 14 points.
Carl Arts led the Buccaneers with 26 points.
ASAA State 3A Basketball Championships
All-Tournament Team: Karen Rabung, Nikiski; Martina Leavitt, Barrow; Janay DeLoach, Eielson; Hisa Miyara, Nikiski; Kayleigh Short, Petersburg; Elizabeth Bodfish, Barrow; Michelle Dieckgraeff, Seward; Evelyn Conwell, Kotzebue; Britni Birchell, Petersburg; Katie Floyd, Nikiski.
Team Sportsmanship Award: Mt. Edgecumbe Braves.
Team Academic Award: Mt. Edgecumbe Braves, 3.63 team grade point average
3-point queen: Katie Floyd, Nikiski
All-Tournament Team: Raymond Douville, Craig; Jordan Savage, Craig; Carl Arts, Valdez; Jack Packer, Barrow; Rusty Gutierrez, Heritage; Mark Banner, Valdez; Teddy Street, Bethel; Aaron Severson, Petersburg; Matt Fisher, Delta; Fred Hamilton, Craig.
Team Sportsmanship Award: Barrow Whalers
Team Academic Award: Anchorage Christian, 3.49 team grade point average
3-point king: Zack Madren, Anchorage Christian
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