Ninilchik seeks fifth straight title

Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Ninilchik girls lost their official game winning streak and their District 3/2A tournament winning streak Friday, but the Wolverines have a chance to continue an impressive streak today, Friday and Saturday at the Class 2A state basketball tournament at Service High School in Anchorage.

Ninilchik starts tournament play today with an 8:30 p.m. contest against Point Hope.

"I don't know anything about them, other than we play them almost every year we go up there," Ninilchik coach Dan Leman said. "In the past, they've been pretty physical and shot the ball well.

"I don't expect any different this year."

The Wolverines have won four straight state championships. However, Ninilchik's aura of invincibility was pierced Friday in the championship of the District 3/2A tournament, when Bristol Bay knocked off the Wolverines.

The defeat stopped a string of 11 straight District 3/2A titles and 94 consecutive wins in official games.

"I don't necessarily think it was a good thing to lose, but we'll definitely make the most of it now that we have lost," Leman said. "I do think the girls felt pressure, but I don't think there's anything wrong with feeling pressure."

The Wolverines will certainly face more pressure at state. In past years, Ninilchik has dominated this tournament. That doesn't look to be the case this year.

"This year, there's a lot more balance throughout the state and within the district," Leman said. "There's not a dominant team as there has been in the past.

"We're a good team amongst a lot of other good teams."

Ninilchik has defeated five of the teams at the tournament Unalakleet, Galena, Yakutat and Skagway. The Wolverines have split with Bristol Bay, and haven't faced Point Hope or Tri-Valley.

Leman said the loss to Bristol Bay may make his team the underdog, but that doesn't appear to be the case. The Wolverines were still ranked No. 1 in this week's prep poll.

The loss to Bristol Bay, and the presence of past stars Whitney Leman, Molly Bosick and Kelsey Deiman at practice this week, has gotten the team focused on a fifth straight crown.

"It wasn't losing to Bristol Bay that was disappointing to everybody on the team," Leman said. "It was that we didn't play well.

"Not playing well and losing didn't sit very well. They're getting hungry again."

Leman said the leadership of senior starters Katie Moerlein, Amanda Matson and Amanda Peterson will be important. Each has been a part of three state titles, although one of Moerlein's was as the manager.

"They're letting everybody know what a big deal this is," Leman said. "They know they can't take this for granted, and they must play as hard as they can play."

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