Chugiak's Mackenzie Matthis drives through a trio of Service defenders during the Mustangs' 47-38 Cook Inlet Conference win on Feb. 18 at Service. Matthis scored four points for Chugiak, which improved to 5-6 in the conference with the win.
STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH
An up-and-down season for the Chugiak's girls basketball team took a turn in the positive direction on Feb. 18, when the Mustangs rolled to a relatively easy 47-38 Cook Inlet Conference win at Service.
"We're focusing more on the little things, and it's been a big difference," said Mustangs coach Ryan Hales after his team used an 18-4 third-quarter run to put the Cougars away.
Chugiak won without getting a single player in double digits, although the Mustangs did get contributions from nine different players.
"Everybody who played tonight scored," Hales said of his team's balanced attack. "That's a big thing."
Erinn Scotland led Chugiak with nine points while Kelsey Heller and Madison McAleavey added eight each.
The win improved Chugiak to just 6-13 overall, but 5-6 in the CIC. Hales said wins late in the season are key because the Mustangs still hope to grab a top-four seed in the CIC playoffs, which begin March 2.
"Every game counts as far as where you're going to sit in that region tournament," he said.
In order for the Mustangs to finish with a winning record in the conference, Hales said the team must do what it did against the Cougars play hard-nosed defense and take care of the basketball.
"We have to cut down on turnovers and I think we did that tonight," Hales said after the Feb. 18 game.
The victory was a big one for Chugiak, which had dropped its four previous conference games since a lopsided win at Eagle River on Feb. 1.
Chugiak will get another chance to boost its record when the Mustangs host Eagle River tonight at 6.
As for the winless Wolves, coach Terra Bingham said her players are continuing to fight the good fight despite a couple more tough losses.
"If you just didn't look at the scoreboard, you wouldn't know from our effort what the score was," Bingham said after her squad dropped a 57-30 CIC game to South on Feb. 18. "They give their all."
Eagle River also fell 57-26 in a nonconference game against Lathrop on Feb. 19 at Eagle River.
In the South game, Eagle River kept things close until a 14-6 run late in the first half helped the Wolverines pull away.
"We've been getting very good defensive efforts in the first quarter," Bingham said.
Sophomore Danielle Crow scored seven points to lead Eagle River against South.
Eagle River dressed just six players against Lathrop, and finished with five after senior Cassie Barsalou fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
Freshman Sam Coy led Eagle River with 10 points against South, Dana Panfiil had six, Barsalou added four and Nicole Carroll and Megan Byman scored two each.
Eagle River has just two seniors, and some of the squad's key players are extremely young Bingham started a freshman, two sophomores, a junior and a senior against Lathrop and the coach said she thinks the experience her players are gaining this year will pay big dividends down the road.
"Having that practice, I think will help them in the long run," she said.
Both Chugiak and Eagle River are coming off lopsided losses entering tonight's showdown at Chugiak.
Keiahnna Engel outscored the Mustangs by herself as first-place Dimond rolled to a 73-23 win at Dimond on Feb. 22.
Mollie Matthis and Erinn Scotland scored six points each to lead Chugiak, which fell to 6-14 overall and 5-7 in the CIC.
Also Feb. 22, Eagle River found itself on the wrong end of a 60-19 thumping by the East T-Birds, which got scoring from 10 different players.
Sam Coy led Eagle River with eight points, while Dana Panfil added seven points and six boards for the Wolves, who dropped to 0-19 on the season and 0-12 in the CIC.
Contact Matt Tunseth at email@example.com or 694-2727 Ext. 215.