Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  Cook Inlet Academy's Kendall Toplin drives the ball down the court during a Jan. 24, 2014 game in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Cook Inlet Academy's Kendall Toplin drives the ball down the court during a Jan. 24, 2014 game in Soldotna, Alaska.

CIA girls look to defend state title

The Cook Inlet Academy girls basketball team has little reason to be overconfident heading into the Class 1A state tournament.

But the Eagles also have little reason to feel much doubt.

CIA, in its eighth straight state appearance, has finished third, third, second and first in its last four tries at state.

But even though the Eagles (18-5 overall) topped first-round opponent Yakutat 43-21 early in the season, Cook Inlet will not brush aside the Southeast school without much thought.

That’s because at the Peninsula Conference tournament, CIA lost the championship game 37-20 to Nikolaevsk, and then had to hold off a furious Ninilchik rally for a 33-30 decision in the second-place game.

“I think it was just nerves — us wanting it too much,” CIA junior Ashleigh Hammond said of the conference tournament. “We wanted it so bad and we put in so much effort that we were over-thinking everything.

“I think we learned our lesson.”

But CIA knows it is not the only team that can learn a lesson from a tough loss, and that has the Eagles wary of Saturday’s 5:15 p.m. game at West High in Anchorage.

Hitchcock said he has looked at the film from the Yakutat game, and noted Yakutat missed a lot of easy shots. Hitchcock said he talked to Yakutat’s coach after the game, and the coach said Yakutat had been worried about playing the state champs.

“I didn’t understand it at the time, but as I go back and look at the game, I can see it,” Hitchcock said. “They played a lot tougher later in the game when the nerves went away.”

Yakutat will also see a different Cook Inlet team. Junior Madison Orth points out that sophomore Richele McGahan missed the first few weeks of the season, leaving CIA with just four returners for the Yakutat game.

“We are a way different team,” Orth said.

The Eagles’ lone senior is Nicole Moffis, who started last season and was on the all-state tournament team. McGahan started last year, while Orth, Hammond and sophomore Kendra Brush all played major roles in the tournament run.

Freshmen Jayne Hanna, Kendall Taplin, Danielle Hills and Emma Lyons have improved enough to give the Eagles depth off the bench.

“We know we’ve beaten them before, and we know they’ve improved and we’ve improved,” Moffis said. “We have a lot of young girls and they’ve all been doing a great job this year.

“They’ve all filled in their roles and everyone has stepped up and improved dramatically.”

CIA knows it can recover from the conference tournament to win state because the Eagles finished second at conference only to win state last year.

And they did it by beating the eventual second-place, third-place, fourth-place and consolation-champ finishers.

“There isn’t a tougher way to win state,” Hitchcock said.

In order to make a state run again, the Eagles will have to improve on offense. Hitchcock said the defense is fine.

“We were a little overexcited, especially for the Nikolaevsk game,” Orth said. “Also, it got in our heads because we played at Skyview before and we didn’t shoot well because the rims aren’t very good.

“We just have to focus on our game and not get too overexcited.”

More in Sports

Dylan Dahlgren, Galen Brantley III and Adarra Hagelund at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships in Brookings, South Dakota. (Photo provided)
College: Brantley III, Hagelund earn All-American honors; Jacoby, Longhorns dominate Big 12

Two former members of the Soldotna track and field team earned All-American… Continue reading

Saturday hoops: Lumen Christi boys, Birchwood Christian girls earn state berths

The Birchwood Christian girls basketball team and Lumen Christi boys earned trips… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Samuel Sisik makes a centering pass past Anchorage Wolverines defenseman Brock Devlin on Saturday, March 2, 2024, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Saturday: Wolverines top Bears for 8th straight win

Anchorage Wolverines fans showed their dedication by making the trip to Soldotna… Continue reading

Friday hoops: Lumen girls, CIA boys win Peninsula Conference titles

The Cook Inlet Academy boys and Lumen Christi girls won Peninsula Conference… Continue reading

Friday: Bears fall to Wolverines in shootout

The Kenai River Brown Bears lost 3-2 in a shootout to the… Continue reading

Lumen-Birchwood girls, CIA-Lumen boys to play for Peninsula Conference championships

The Lumen Christi and Birchwood girls, and Cook Inlet Academy and Lumen… Continue reading

Tuesday hoops: Grace Christian sweeps Seward

The visiting Grace Christian basketball teams swept Seward on Tuesday in Peninsula… Continue reading

Soldotna's Ariana Cannava skis her team to third place in the 4-by-3-kilometer relay at the state Nordic ski meet at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Danika Winslow)
State skiing: Kenai girls, boys take DII honors

The Kenai Peninsula had plenty to shout about Thursday, Friday and Saturday… Continue reading

Most Read