Nikiski senior Sally Glaze spent nearly all her life getting a basketball education. In late March, she had quite a graduation ceremony.
With the Class 3A girls state championship on the line at Sullivan Arena, Glaze scored 32 points, resetting her own school record, and snatched nine rebounds in helping the Bulldogs to a 60-33 victory over Monroe Catholic.
"We came home kind of shaking our heads," said Patti Glaze, Sally's mother. "It was such a quiet 32 points. No one realized that she scored that well.
"What was more notable was the defense she played in shutting down whoever she was guarding. I guess we didn't add up the points until afterward."
Glaze was 8-of-9 from the foul line and 10-of-21 from the floor in the title tilt, including 4-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc.
"I just went out there," Glaze said. "I didn't feel nervous before the game. I wanted to make the coaches proud.
"Everything I was throwing up was going in."
Of course, games like that don't just happen. There's a long road Glaze took to get to that point, and it starts with her family.
Sally's two sisters, Lindsy and Mary, both enjoyed a ton of athletic success while at Nikiski. Mary excelled in cross country, basketball and track, and Lindsy followed that up with stellar performances in volleyball, basketball and track.
"To fit in the family model, you definitely had to be comfortable in the gym," Patti said. "It was always a landmark time in our family when you were old enough to play with the big kids."
Patti said Sally reached that point at age 12, and she often got mad if older kids didn't guard her hard enough.
"There's a pretty big sibling rivalry between us," Sally said. "To this day, when we play basketball we'll be out there pushing each other and calling each other names.
"When I came to this school, I wanted to break every one of their records. But I have so much respect for them. There are some of their records I can't touch."
The run Sally's sisters had through school also left her with some big expectations. One example was choosing a fall sport. Glaze ended up doing cross country for two years before dropping that to concentrate on basketball.
"There was a lot of pressure," Glaze said. "Mary was good in cross country, and Lindsy was good in volleyball.
"I didn't know what I was supposed to do. I really like playing basketball, and I was going to play as much as I could."
By her sophomore year, Glaze was already turning heads in hoops. Vern Kornstad, a junior varsity coach and varsity assistant at Nikiski, said he remembers Glaze impressing as a freshman on the junior varsity.
"When we were in Kodiak for the Joe Floyd junior varsity tournament, Joe Floyd came up to us and said how good (Glaze) and April (Lofstedt) were," said Kornstad, who also is Glaze's uncle. "It was nice to have one of the respected basketball guys in the state confirm what we had suspected."
After swinging up and seeing some varsity time as a freshman, Glaze moved into the starting point-guard slot as a sophomore. She made the state all-tournament team in helping the Bulldogs to the state title.
About the only trepidation Glaze had that year was some back problems that crept up at the end of basketball and plagued her during track season. However, Glaze received rolfing treatment from Mark Hutton of Soldotna and the problem abated rapidly.
In her junior year, it looked like Glaze and the Bulldogs had a good shot at repeating as state titlists. However, the team was upset in the first round at state by Eielson.
The Bulldogs had a 30-16 lead at the half, but ended up losing 51-47.
"Coach (Ward Romans) said that was one of the best teams as far as talent that he has coached," Glaze said. "We had Laura Berdahl and we were up by 16 at half.
"Then we came out, and I don't know what happened."
Although Nikiski did come back to take fourth place, the loss to Eielson haunted Glaze. She taped the headline from that day's newspaper on her bedroom door and told herself it wouldn't happen again.
Since quitting cross country her sophomore year, Glaze had been a gym rat, taking time out from basketball only for track season. She would come in to the school at 6 a.m. with her dad, Don, to shoot hoops.
With the Eielson loss, however, she said each shoot-around or pickup game took on a new sense of urgency.
Romans said he hasn't seen a lot of players put in that year-round effort in his 12 years as a coach.
"I've been blessed with a few, but I can count the number on one hand," Romans said. "They love the game and want to excel, so they put the time in when nobody's around."
Glaze's work ethic has come in handy in more areas than basketball. In track, she finished fifth in the state as a freshman and sixth as a junior. She also broke her sister Mary's record in the long jump.
In school, Glaze carries a 3.65 grade-point average. She would like to go on to college to study dentistry.
"She's not real confident about her ability, but she works really hard," Patti said. "There are some areas that haven't come easy, but she's never let it slide."
Glaze credits her work ethic partially to working on her family's commercial fishing site.
"Getting up at 5:30 and going to the beach to set nets taught me to work hard," Glaze said. "It also taught me to work with a smile on my face."
The end result of all this, then, came in this year's championship game. Glaze said she's always nervous before state tournament games. But before this game, her stomach was devoid of butterflies.
"I'm a pretty religious person, and before the game I asked God to give me peace," Glaze said. "He took all the worries away from me."
Glaze, who makes sure to thank her coaches for her success, also said her magnificent performance in the title game was due to the absolute confidence she had in her teammates.
"During the region tournament, I realized when I'd start to play bad, they'd all start to play better," Glaze said. "It let me relax. I didn't feel like I had to score all the time."
And thus, the graduation was set to take place.
"I knew she had the potential to do that," Romans said. "What made it really great as a coach was the 32 points were all within the offense.
"It's not like she went out to score 32 points. It came because she was playing team basketball."
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