Basketball teams aren't made in March but their seasons are.
Chugiak and Eagle River took different paths to their spots at the bottom of the Cook Inlet Conference this season. The high-scoring Wolves were often on the verge of victory before falling victim to heartbreaking second-half collapses; Chugiak, meanwhile, showed potential in a few brilliant wins but often looked like a team on the verge of collapse in lopsided defeats.
"We're like Jekyll and Hyde," was how Mustangs coach Orin Wear summed up his team's play.
But with just two wins in this week's CIC tournament, either team could forget the sadness of the regular season and embrace the madness of March.
"Anyone can surprise anyone," said Wolves guard Kyle Taylor.
Taylor and the No. 8 Wolves drew top-seeded West in the tournament's loser-out opening round, while Chugiak faced No. 2 Bartlett. The games were held on March 2, shortly after the Star went to press. To find out who won, visit www.alaskastar.com. A victory for either team would put them in the March 4 double-elimination semifinals with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
All CIC tournament games are at West High.
Though the team won just two games this season, Taylor said he doesn't think the Wolves should be counted out in the post season.
"I think we have a great chance of going in and surprising one of those teams," he said.
Chugiak knows it can play with the CIC's best. Though they had just three CIC wins, one of those came against the Golden Bears.
Chugiak opened its season 5-2 before falling apart down the stretch, but junior center Steven Puterbaugh said the team has the capability of playing well in the tournament.
"We feel like a lot of times we beat ourselves," Puterbaugh said. "We've got to fix our mental mistakes out on the court, but if we can do that we can compete with anybody in our conference."
South 84, Chugiak 68
A disappointing regular season came to a fitting end as Chugiak dropped a lopsided decision to South on Senior Night at Chugiak on Feb. 26.
The Mustangs lost 11 of their final 13 games to finish 7-13 overall and 3-11 in the CIC.
Like their season, the South game started with promise. The Mustangs led 22-17 after the first quarter behind eight points from Greg Ghramm and seven from Colby Mitchell. But South slowly clawed its way back into the game, and used an 11-0 run late in the third quarter to pull away.
Mitchell finished with 20 points for Chugiak, Ghramm had 13 and Logan Johnston added 12 for the Mustangs.
West 88, Eagle River 70
West ended Eagle River's regular season with an 88-70 Cook Inlet Conference victory at West on Feb. 26. The loss clinched a first-place tie for the Eagles, who won a three-way tiebreaker to earn the CIC tournament's No. 1 seed and a rematch with the last-place Wolves on March 2.
Young and Taylor each scored 20 points for Eagle River, which outscored West 43-39 in the second half. Nate Yaw added 16.
Eagle River finished the regular season 2-17 overall and 1-13 in the CIC.
Contact Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 694-2727.