The Kenai Central girls basketball team nabbed the at-large berth to the Class 3A state tournament as the Alaska School Activities Association announced the full brackets for the state tournament Sunday.
The Kardinals, making their first appearance at state since 2002, will be joined by Kenai Peninsula squads Soldotna girls, Soldotna boys, Nikiski girls, Cook Inlet Academy girls, Nikolaevsk girls and Nikolaevsk boys. All the other squads earned automatic berths.
The Kenai girls finished 18-9. Coach Cary Calvert, who earns a state berth in his fourth year as coach, said the main competition for the at-large berth was 19-9 Hutchison.
“Obviously, we really didn’t know,” Calvert said. “We were looking at Hutchison all day long trying to figure out where we stood.”
The at-large berth means seniors Jaycie Calvert, Brooke Satathite, Hayley Maw and Maddie Gallaway live to fight another day. The Kards didn’t have a selection party, but quickly caught up via text once the berth was announced.
Cary Calvert knows what the berth means after watching his daughter’s reaction.
“I know Jaycie’s been up all night running all of the numbers,” Cary Calvert said.
The Kardinals also picked up the No. 5 seed, meaning they play No. 4 Mt. Edgecumbe at 12:30 p.m. on March 21 at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
“The 5 seed is great for us,” Calvert said. “Mt. Edgecumbe is a lot like us.”
The berth comes the year the Kardinals moved from Class 4A to 3A due to increasing enrollment, but Calvert said that didn’t diminish the accomplishment. He pointed out conference foe Anchorage Christian Schools is the best team in the state, regardless of class, while another league foe, Nikiski, recently defeated Class 4A qualifier Soldotna.
The Bulldogs got into the tournament with their automatic berth, earned the No. 3 seed and play Valdez at 8 p.m. March 21.
“There’s no way in the world Nikiski’s a 3 seed,” Calvert said. “They’re a 2 seed. They had that wrong.”
The Soldotna girls are the No. 4 seed in the Class 4A tournament. They play West Anchorage at 9:30 a.m. March 21. The Stars boys are the No. 5 seed and play West at 11 a.m. March 21.
The Class 1A tournament opens for Class 1A schools CIA and Nikolaevsk on Wednesday. This tournament features an opening day that determines whether a team goes to the championship or consolation tournament.
The Cook Inlet girls play Kake at 8 a.m., the Nikolaevsk girls play New Halen at 12:30 p.m. and the Nikolaevsk boys play Sand Point at 11 a.m.