The Nikiski girls basketball team qualified for the state tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage and drew a very familiar foe in the first round.
When the eight-team tournament tips off March 23, Nikiski, seeded third, will face No. 6 seed Grace Christian, coached by former Nikiski coach Ward Romans. The game starts at 6:30 p.m.
The teams have played three times this season. The Bulldogs won the regular season matchups 34-32 and 40-36, while the Grizzlies triumphed 33-27 in the Southcentral Conference semifinals Friday. Nikiski’s leading scorer, Bethany Carstens, went down with a knee injury early in the game and did not return. Her status for state has not been announced.
The semifinal loss forced Nikiski to rely on its Winning Percentage Index to earn the one at-large berth to the Class 3A tourney.
As expected, none of the other 3A or 4A schools on the Kenai Peninsula earned at-large berths, so the Nikiski girls squad will be the only 3A or 4A peninsula team at state.
The Nikolaevsk and Ninilchik girls and boys will represent the peninsula at the 1A level.
The Ninilchik boys, the defending Class 1A champions and undefeated at that level this season, got the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Ninilchik opens with Aniak at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Nikolaevsk is unseeded and drew the No. 3 seed Noatak at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
On the girls side, both Ninilchik and Nikolaevsk are unseeded. Ninilchik plays Kake on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., while Nikolaevsk plays Nunamuit on Wednesday at 5 p.m.