The Kenai Central girls and boys basketball teams open play this morning at the Class 3A state tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
The Kenai girls, the No. 7 seed at 16-12 overall, play No. 2 Monroe Catholic at 11 a.m. The Kardinals boys, the No. 5 seed at 15-12 overall, face No. 4 Mt. Edgecumbe at 8 a.m.
The Kardinals girls are making their fourth trip to state in five years since moving down to the Class 3A level. Before that, the last time Kenai had been to state is 2002.
Kenai, which won state in 1991 and finished runner-up in 1993, did not face Monroe Catholic this season.
“I know they’ve got a pretty solid squad,” Kenai girls coach Jeff Swick said. “From what I’ve seen, they have some decent shooters. They are the second-ranked team in 3A for a reason. It’s a tough challenge, to say the least.”
Swick said Kenai will have to communicate and get to the corners to cover Monroe’s shooters. The Kenai coach said the three keys in the game are defense, defensive rebounding and a balanced attack.
Swick said it’s no secret anywhere in the state that junior Emma Beck is Kenai’s big scorer. The coach said the key when the team won three straight at the Class 3A Peninsula Conference tournament to finish second and make state was other players stepped up and made open shots.
“I told the girls the big goal is to get three games out of this thing,” Swick said. “If that’s winning three, that’s great. But any combination of playing three games is a good deal. A chance to end your season with a win is all you can ask for.”
The Kardinals boys are making their first Class 3A state trip and their first trip to state since 2012.
Kenai, which was the runner-up at state in 1981, played the Braves twice this season. The Kardinals lost 61-52 in Mt. Edgecumbe on Feb. 22 and 63-50 on Feb. 23.
“Mt. Edgecumbe will be a huge challenge tomorrow morning,” Kenai boys coach Nolan Rose wrote in a text message. “We dropped two games against them in Sitka earlier this season.
“They have great guard play and they play extremely hard.”
Rose wrote the early game will be tough.
“We had some early practices in the buildup to this game to get our bodies used to playing that early in the day,” Rose wrote. “We hope that helps us get going.”
Kenai has a lot of experience on the team, but no state experience.
“We’ll see how we handle the pressure and excitement of a state tournament game,” Rose wrote. “We have nine seniors but we don’t have any state tournament experience.
“If we handle our emotions well, it’s a game we can win.”
Class 3A girls state tournament
At Alaska Airlines Center, Anchorage
Game 1 — No. 1 Grace vs. No. 8 Bethel, 8 a.m.
Game 2 — No. 4 Barrow vs. No. 5 Sitka, 9:30 a.m.
Game 3 — No. 3 Mt. Edgecumbe vs. No. 6 Valdez, 3:15 p.m.
Game 4 — No. 2 Monroe vs. No. 7 Kenai, 11 a.m.
Game 5 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, noon
Game 6 — Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, noon
Game 7 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 loser, 4:45 p.m.
Game 8 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 3:15 p.m.
4th/6th place — Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 11 a.m.
3rd/5th place — Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 10:30 a.m.
Championship — Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 1 p.m.
Class 3A boys state tournament
Game 1 — No. 1 Grace vs. No. 8 Delta, 9:30 a.m.
Game 2 — No. 4 Mt. Edgecumbe vs. No. 5 Kenai, 8 a.m.
Game 3 — No. 3 Houston vs. No. 6 Valdez, 7:45 p.m.
Game 4 — No. 2 Nome vs. No. 7 Barrow, 3:15 p.m.
Game 5 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10:30 a.m.
Game 6 — Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 10:30 a.m.
Game 7 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6:15 p.m.
Game 8 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7:45 p.m.
4th/6th place — Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 9:30 a.m.
3rd/5th place — Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 9 a.m.
Championship — Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 3 p.m.