Chugiak's Mollie Matthis (14) and Tracie Haken (33) battle Eagle River's Cassie Barsalou for the basketball during Chugiak's 53-28 win on Feb. 24 at Chugiak.
STAR PHOTO by Matt Tunseth
A suddenly hot Chugiak girls team enters this year's Cook Inlet Conference tournament full of confidence following a season-ending 42-40 win over South.
"We just beat the number-two team in the region, so we know we can play with anybody," said captain Kelsey Heller, who had six points against the Wolverines.
The win enabled Chugiak (8-14 overall, 7-7 CIC) to grab the No. 5 seed in the conference tourney, where they'll face East in the tournament's opening round at 7:45 p.m. today. Chugiak lost a pair of competitive games to the T-Birds this season, falling 53-47 in January and 62-55 last month.
The victory over second-place South was the second in a row for the Mustangs, and coach Ryan Hales said his team picked a good time to start winning.
"It's tournament time, so hopefully they're deciding to step up," Hales said.
Eagle River played its first round game on March 2 shortly after the Star went to press. Results of the Wolves' opening-round game against top-seeded Dimond can be found at www.alaskastar.com.
Hales said his team's problem all season long has been taking care of the basketball. That weakness was again evident against South, as the Mustangs coughed up the rock 46 times in the victory.
"We need more timeouts," Hales quipped.
Chugiak's four-year streak of state tournament appearances is on the line at the CIC tournament. Only three of the conference's eight teams will receive berths to the big dance that begins March 17 at Sullivan Arena.
Hales said he believes that the Mustangs have the ability to make a run at another state berth if the young squad (the Mustangs feature just one senior) can keep its focus and take care of the basketball.
"We can beat any team we come up against if we are mentally prepared," he said.
As for Eagle River, a first-round upset over Dimond would mean a berth in Friday's semifinals. The Wolves lost their two games to the Lynx by a combined 119 points this season.
Wolves sophomore Dana Panfil said the team knows its odds of making a run at the CIC tournament are slim. But win or lose, she said she's been proud of the way the winless squad battled up until the end.
"We don't really win, but what I like about our team is we never give up," she said. "There's always encouragement and there's always just a drive from this team."
Chugiak 42, South 40
Chugiak handed South just its fourth CIC loss of the season with a tense 42-40 win at Chugiak on Feb. 26.
The victory helped the Mustangs wrap up the No. 5 seed at this week's CIC tournament.
A third quarter surge by the Mustangs was the difference. South led 20-18 at the half, but Chugiak outscored the Wolverines 11-5 in the third to take command. Chugiak took the lead on a basket by Alistie Aguilar at the 2:20 mark in the third and never trailed again.
Aguilar led Chugiak with 11 points, Mollie Matthis added eight, Kelsey Heller had six and Erinn Scotland and Jessi McMullen chipped-in five each.
Chugiak 53, Eagle River 28
Chugiak completed a season sweep of Eagle River with an easy 53-28 win over the Wolves on Feb. 24.
West 57, Eagle River 28
Panfil scored 12 points and Coy added seven for Eagle River, which closed out its season with a 57-28 loss at West on Feb. 26. The defeat dropped Eagle River to 0-21 on the season and 0-14 in the CIC.