Just because the month of March is behind her doesn’t mean Nikiski High School junior Bethany Carstens is done hooping.
Carstens picked up a team championship April 22 with the Alaska Stars at the Elite is Earned Sprint Invitational tournament in Walnut Creek, California. The Nikiski standout represented one of three Alaskan contingents at the tournament, which showcased basketball talents in front of a collection of at least 30 Division I and II college coaches.
The Alaska Stars, an elite program that brings together the state’s top high school players, helps players not only reach their hoops dreams, but also their academic dreams. This year was one of the most successful for the program, as three Stars teams combined for an 11-2 record, highlighted by the Elite team’s title.
Carstens said the opportunity to play at the highest level she has seen in her career was worth it.
“Everyone on that team is one of the best players in the state,” she said. “It was really cool to be part of that and winning it was great.”
As one of only 30 girls from Alaska to compete, Carstens said the action on the court was fast and furious.
“Everything is a lot faster, you’re sprinting and going as hard as you can the entire game and you can’t take a break,” she said. “I wasn’t the go-to person that I’m used to.”
Carstens was joined by nine other Alaska teammates on the Elite team that toppled EBC Elite, a Washington state program, in the championship game 68-44 to claim the U17 title. Carstens said her presence on the boards helped her to bring down rebounds and her shooting accuracy made her a deadly threat from beyond the arc.
Carstens isn’t done yet this year. The soon-to-be-senior will be traveling nearly the entire month of July to play in several elite tournaments, starting July 4 in Oregon and continuing in Chicago, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Rocklin (California) and Orange County.
“I think our clubs are getting a lot better,” she said about the Alaska teams. “Everyone’s getting a lot better, and Alaska may be a little overlooked.”
Financial limitations have put the program and the coaches in a tough situation, but players have helped out by fundraising throughout the school year. Carstens said she has worked to gain sponsorship from local businesses and individuals.
Knowlton drafted into NA3HL
Soldotna hockey veteran Cameron Knowlton took the next step April 18 when he was taken 59th overall in the second round of the 2018 NA3HL draft by the Atlanta Capitols.
Knowlton, a Soldotna senior, was part of a SoHi Stars program that competed at state in 2015 and 2016. Knowlton played this season for the Wenatchee (Washington) Wolves Under-18 AAA team, where he finished with the most team assists. He is currently an affiliate player for the Wenatchee Wild BCHL.