With Western Alaska schools Unalaska and Bristol Bay, Lumen Christi in Anchorage, and five schools -- Seldovia, Community Christian School in Homer, Nikolaevsk, Ninilchik and Cook Inlet Academy -- on the Kenai Peninsula, District 3/2A boasts one of the most diverse regions in Alaska high school athletics.
The District 3/2A championship basketball tournament brings it all together under one roof, with the common denominator being basketball.
"That's why we're here -- we love basketball," said Ninilchik boys player Steven Miller.
"We watch quite a few of the other games, most of them. We miss the first game because we have to go to one period of school. The teams that we are going to play, we look at, and the other teams, we just try to enjoy."
In fact, the Ninilchik boys aren't the only ones filling up the stands to take in the four-day tournament hosted by Cook Inlet Academy. The school's bleachers were packed all day, with both family and friends of tournament participants as well as fans of basketball.
"I love to see the other teams," said CIA boys player Jacob Peterson. "I do a little scouting, but I'm a basketball fan, and I love to watch basketball. It's a really exciting time.
"It gives 2A basketball some exposure. I think this is a great showcase to show people that small schools can play. It's nice that people take an interest."
Miller said that interest in the boys team from Ninilchik has doubled.
"We've got a lot of crowd behind us this year -- twice as much as last year," Miller said. "It's a lot of excitement with all the fans."
With schools coming from across the state and from diverse communities, the tournament is about more than just basketball.
"You do make some friends," Miller said. "You talk to them a couple times a year, but you realize they're just like you -- they love basketball. It is pretty social."
Peterson said the opportunity to get to know opponents off the court is special.
"You really get to bond with other teams," Peterson said. "Usually, it's just go, play the game and leave. Here, you get to see them as more than just an opponent. I think it's fun, and it's where the best basketball comes out."
"You have a real interesting cross section of Alaska," said Ninilchik girls coach Dan Leman. "It's neat that we can get together and have something like this. There's lots of talented teams. I think we represent the state well in our region."
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