The easy, breezy part of the state basketball tournament is over for the Anchorage Christian girls. It's time to play Barrow again.
The Lions cruised past Sitka 71-33 in Friday's semifinals to reach the Class 3A title game, where they will meet Barrow, a big, bruising team that disposed of Hutchison 55-37 in the other semifinal.
Like many of its games this season, ACS gained command early Friday and quickly turned things into a rout. It didn't matter that high-scoring Dallas Dickerson was benched for much of the first half with three fouls -- the Lions had plenty of firepower from other sources, and at any rate, Dickerson finished with a game-high 22 points even though she sat as much as she played.
ACS has seldom been tested this season, even at state, where it outscored its first two opponents 134-54.
The exception has been Barrow. The teams have split two meetings this season -- Barrow beat ACS by four points at a Valdez tournament, and ACS beat Barrow by three points at an ACS tournament.
"After eight quarters, they're up one point," ACS coach Darrin Powers said.
Saturday's 1:30 p.m. title game will come down to which team can dictate the tempo, Powers said. Barrow has size and a potent inside game. ACS isn't nearly as big, but it's deep and it likes to run.
"If we play 94-foot basketball, we'll be in the game," Powers said. "If it's a 20-foot game where they beat is in the paint, we'll be in trouble.
"We want to make it a track meet."
ACS showed its depth against Sitka by getting points from nine players, rebounds from 11, steals from eight and assists from eight.
Sarah Gaegel was good for 20 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals, Hollie Duncan added eight points and Abby Crayton furnished six points and six rebounds.
Ellie Cagle's 10 points led Sitka, which trailed 34-15 at halftime and 53-21 after three quarters.
Despite the shortage of closely contested games this season, ACS has found ways to stay sharp.
"We look at it like golf," Powers said. "We're playing against the game. How well can we shoot the ball? How well can we execute? How well can we play the game?"
Barrow 55, Hutchison 37
Big games from Lynette Hepa and Hilary Lowery powered a semifinal victory that put Barrow into the Class 3A girls basketball state championship game for the second time in three years.
The Whalers, the 2011 state champs, shot nearly 50 percent and piled up 13 steals while racing past Hutchison 55-37.
Hepa, a 6-foot-4 senior center, racked up 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Lowery, a 5-8 senior forward, poured in 19 points and helped spark a pivotal second quarter for the Whalers.
Lowery and Angela Miguel combined for 13 points in the second quarter, when Barrow broke open the game.
Hutchison bolted to a 6-1 lead early in the first quarter and was up 12-10 when the quarter ended, but it was all Barrow in the second quarter.
Miguel, scoreless in the first quarter, scored seven points, Lowery added six, and defensively the Whalers limited Hutchison to one basket and a pair of free throws for a 27-17 halftime lead.
Barrow was 21 of 45 from the field, an effort that included Hepa's 8 of 14 effort, Miguel's 5 of 9 and Lowery's 6 of 13.
Hutchison hit 25 percent of its shots (11 of 45) and put two players in double figures -- Mimi Wood (14 points) and Elly Veazey (10).
The Whalers scored 21 points off 20 Hutchison turnovers. Miguel finished with six steals and Lowery four.
Valdez and Houston each recovered from first-round losses to claim solid consolation-round wins behind two of the most impressive individual performances of the tournament Friday.
Valdez' 77-63 demolition of Nome included 41 points and 16 rebounds from Marian Wamsley.
Houston's Nene Hale hit for 25 points to account for more than half her team's winning total in a 48-32 win over Seward.
By BETH BRAGG