Chugiak center Steven Puterbaugh tries to get a shot up between Service's Kylelle Brown (22) and Darren Muller during Service's 72-34 Cook Inlet Conference win on Feb. 18 at Service.
STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH
There hasn't been much to cheer about lately for the Chugiak and Eagle River boys' basketball teams, whose seasons have been defined more by defeat than dominance on the hardwood.
Let the shouting begin.
The Wolves and Mustangs will take the court to settle their season series and determine which school gets to keep the Birchwood Bowl, which will be presented to the winner of tonight's 7:30 p.m. game between the two schools.
Chugiak enters the contest with just two Cook Inlet Conference wins, while the Wolves have just a single CIC victory to their credit. But that win was a big one, a 73-58 rout of the Mustangs on Feb. 1.
The winner of the game will get to take home the Birchwood Bowl, a traveling trophy given to the victor for the past three seasons. As part of the festivities, fans arriving with canned goods can get in for a reduced price. There also will be a raffle for a signed, one-of-a-kind birch bowl created by a local artist.
The evening kicks off with the girls game at 6 p.m., with the boys to follow.
Chugiak's last conference win came Feb. 11 against Bartlett. Since then, the Mustangs have lost their last two CIC games, including a lopsided 72-34 loss to Service on Feb. 18 in which the Mustangs were missing starting point guard Dylan Fullmer and leading scorer Colby Mitchell to illness. Both are expected back in the lineup tonight. Chugiak did pick up a nonleague victory on Feb. 17, ripping visiting West Valley 70-49.
Eagle River hasn't won a game since their triumph over the Mustangs, although they came up just short on Feb. 18 against South. On that night, the Wolves scored a season-high 33 points in the fourth quarter to nearly stun the Wolverines at the end, eventually falling 73-67.
"We can keep up with any team we come up against," said Wolves forward Dominic Young after that game.
Young scored a game-high 28 points against South, while Nate Yaw added 18. The loss came one night before Eagle River blew a first-half lead against visiting Lathrop, falling 62-53.
Despite the recent setbacks, Young said the team continues to stay positive.
"We've got a real good team unity," he said.
Young believes mental toughness will be key if the Wolves want to pull out a victory.
"If we play basketball, we can beat any team," he said. "But if we make too many mistakes by being too nervous, it all falls apart for us."
Last-place Eagle River's record heading into tonight's game is 2-15 overall and 1-11 in the CIC. Chugiak is currently 7-12 overall and 2-10 in the CIC one spot ahead of the Wolves in seventh. Mitchell and Fullmer returned from their bout with the flu on Feb. 22, but their presence did little to slow the Dimond Lynx, who held the Mustangs to just 17 first-half points en route to a 70-41 win at Dimond.
Mitchell finished with a team-high 14 points for Chugiak, but the senior forward was hampered by foul trouble and played just 17 minutes for the Mustangs.
Ryden Hines scored 19 to lead Dimond.
Eagle River came up just short in its Feb. 22 contest against East in a high-scoring, feisty game that featured six lead changes, 162 total points and 47 fouls.
Young had another monster game for the Wolves, scoring 28 points and grabbing six rebounds, but it wasn't enough as East used a 25-12 advantage in free-throw points to take the CIC victory.
Yaw added 16 points and 10 rebounds for Eagle River, which had four players in double figures. Kyle Taylor scored 15 points and Kelechi Madubuko added 12 for the Wolves.
Jalil Abdul-Bassit scored 26 points and had 17 rebounds to lead the T-Birds.