Seldovia High School girls basketball coach Sara Nichols wasn't even sure that her team would be on the floor for the ASAA State 2A Basketball Tournament when she looked around the gym at the first practice of the season, way back in December.
The Ninilchik girls weren't positive they'd be back in the state final after losing to Klawock in last years' title game, but they made it a primary goal at the beginning of this season.
And once both teams made it to the state tournament, they sort of had one of those feelings that they'd see each other again.
"We didn't assume anything," said Ninilchik's Theresa Chihuly after her Wolverines defeated the Sea Otters 55-31 in Saturday's title game.
"But if there was going to be one other team at state, and if we made it, we figured it was going to be Seldovia."
"Everybody in the region knew that Ninilchik was No. 1," Nichols said. "No. 2 was up in the air."
Seldovia established itself as No. 2 -- but the Sea Otters are still gunning for No. 1.
The Wolverines and the Sea Otters tangled for the sixth time this season, playing for the state title one week after Ninilchik downed the Sea Otters for the District 3 title. And while the Wolverines won each of those six games, Ninilchik coach Dan Leman would call those wins anything but easy.
"That's the sixth time we've matched up against them, and none of them were easy," Leman said while drying off after his squad ambushed him with water bottles outside their locker room.
"It's so much harder -- I really think we should have been the underdog -- trying to find different ways to beat a team as good as Seldovia is difficult."
"Every time we play them, we get to know them that much better, and they make it that much harder," Chihuly said. "We know each other inside and out, and it makes playing each other that much more difficult."
The Sea Otters, on the other hand, are learning a little more about the Wolverines, and themselves, every time out.
"They don't (get any easier)," said Seldovia's Michelle Gruber, "but we're not going anywhere, either.
"It's really tough losing to them again. We played really tough -- we're proud."
"We knew we would see them again in this game," Seldovia's Jaime Geagel said. "We knew it was coming. We still gave them everything we had. I'm sick of losing to them.
"We'll be back next year."
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