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4A girls: Kodiak finishes its perfect season

Beth Bragg
Kodiak’s Adriane Horn, front right, is hoisted by teammate Kaydee Hughes following their state championship victory over Colony in the Division 4A championship game on Saturday, March 22, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
Michael Dinneen
Colony's Ashley Turcotte, left, and Kodiak’s Adriane Horn battle for a ball during their Division 4A championship basketball game on Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
Michael Dinneen
Colony coach Jeff Bowker, center, talks his team in the second half of their Division 4A championship game loss to Kodiak on Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
MICHAEL DINNEEN
Kodiak assisant coach Nick Billings, right, congratulates bench players on their Division 4A championship game victory over Colony, Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
Michael Dinneen
Kodiak students, from left to right, Jordan Fogle, Collin Powers, Levi Fried, Levi Thomet and Billy Alcaide cheer on their team during their Division 4A championship game victory over Colony, Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
Michael Dinneen

The last time Kodiak rocked the Sullivan Arena, it was 2001 and Amy Fogle was coaching 7-foot Nick Billings and crew to an undefeated boys basketball season.

Fogle and Billings were back Saturday night, and again the Bears rocked the joint. This time it was a group of Kodiak girls who ran the table, with Billings on the bench as an assistant coach.

Lifted by a vocal crowd and a stunning array of talent, Kodiak showed its explosiveness in a 65-41 victory over the Colony Knights in the title game of the Class 4A girls state basketball tournament. The victory capped a 27-0 season for the Bears.

"They're a very good basketball team," Colony coach Jeff Bowker said. "They beat us today. They're the better basketball team right now, tonight."

It was the first state basketball crown for the Kodiak girls since 1981, and it came in impressive fashion. The 65 points are the most scored in a championship game by a 4A girls team in the 30 years that Alaska's high schools have been divided into more than one classification. The 24-point margin is the biggest in that span as well.

"It's amazing just knowing I won a state championship with my best friends," said Carissa Cannon, one of eight Kodiak seniors. "We've been playing together since we were 7- and 8-year olds in Little Dribblers."

The players have gone to school together forever, she said. One of them, Jerica Nelson, moved away for three years -- to the Valley, where she played for, you guessed it, Colony -- but she rejoined the Bears for her junior and senior years.

Nelson, a 5-foot-4 point guard, and Hannah Wandersee, a 6-1 center, are the big names for the Bears.

"They get lots and lots of pub -- the post and the point guard," said Fogle. "But Carissa had a fabulous season, and Adriane (Horn) and Megan (Pyles), I've got nothing but good things to say about them."

In the title game, Nelson totaled 11 points, six steals and five assists and Wandersee supplied 10 points and 13 rebounds. But the Bears are nothing if not the sum of their parts. Horn was a revelation, hitting half her shots for 12 points, getting a couple of big rebounds and playing tough defense on Colony's Faith Farris, who was held to eight points.

Pyles was good for 11 points and nine rebounds, a constant, steady presence in the paint. And Cannon poured in a game-high 21 points on 10 of 17 shooting while adding five steals and four assists.

Kodiak scored points in bunches against Colony. There was a 9-0 run in the first quarter. A 10-0 run in the second, sparked by 3-pointers from Nelson and Horn on plays that began with defensive rebounds by Wandersee. There was a 6-0 spurt fueled by two turnovers and a 10-1 run fueled by three turnovers in the third quarter.

The Bears outrebounded Colony 41-26, stole the ball 16 times while only committing 10 turnovers and shot 43 percent to Colony's 36.7 percent.

Izzy Tweed led Colony with 12 points. Jennifer Solano added six rebounds, five points and three assists and Farris finished with eight points.

"They had an answer to everything we did," Bowker said.

By the time the fourth quarter started, Kodiak led 56-30 and it was all over but the group hug.

When the buzzer sounded, Kodiak players, coaches and cheerleaders formed a scrum at midcourt. Billings, whose wingspan helped make him a defensive star at Division I Binghamton, was nearly able to embrace the entire team.

When he was a senior, Billings led the Bears to a 28-0 season that ended with an epic title-game victory over East High. Fogle's name was Rakers then -- she has since married -- and though she left Kodiak for a few years, she returned last year and became the girls coach. Billings, back home with a knee injury that derailed his overseas pro career, had already spent a couple of seasons as an assistant.

"The last time I was with him he was in high school," Fogle said. "That 2001 game was such a great game, I'll see people at the store or a cafe and they'll say, 'Best game I've ever seen,' so seeing us back together brings back memories."

Fogle took the Bears down memory road Tuesday, the night before they came to Anchorage. She showed them a video of that 2001 game, plus the "victory video" that commemorates that season.

"It got us pumped up, you know?" Cannon said. "It was great to see, not just the team but the crowd. It got us all pumped up."

Fogle said her team this year is a silly one. When she entered the locker room after the game, the girls were already there. They were all wearing fake teeth -- payback for a prank Fogle played on them earlier in the day.

At a team meeting at the hotel, Fogle -- who is 5-10 and had a record-setting college career at Southern Illinois -- showed up in six-inch platform heels and a thirft-store dress she described as "cut short and cut low." "You think I should wear this?" she asked the players, getting a laugh that put everyone at ease before the big game. Everyone but Fogle, that is. "I was about 6-6 in those heels," she said. "My knees still hurt."

The team is the third team in Kodiak history to complete an undefeated season with a state championship. The other two -- the 2001 boys basketball team and the 2004 boys baseball team -- have been honored in ways that only a small town can honor its champions. Two city street sweepers bear signs that boast of the previous undefeated season, one for the basketball team, one for the baseball team. And two big boulders sit in front of the high school, each commemorating perfection.

"We would be very excited to have a street sweeper," Cannon said.

Third place

West Valley 54, West 29

Ruthy Hebard turned in another dominating performance, racking 26 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocks to help West Valley capture third place with a 54-29 win over West.

The final score almost duplicated the rebounding differnce. Behind Hebard, the Wolf Pack pounded the Eagles on the boards, 53-29.

For West, Chanel Bookert scored 10 points and Theyoung Puoy supplied eight points and five rebounds. Kiana Alacantra accounted for five of West's 16 steals.

Fourth place

Soldotna 52, Dimond 40

A huge game by Katelynn Kerkvliet sparked Soldotna's 52-40 victory over Dimond in the fourth-place game.

Kerkvliet piled up 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Stars. Kelci Benson added 14 points, hitting 8 of 10 free throws. For the game, Soldotna was 22 of 31 from the line.

Tara Thompson and Dejha Cantry each scored a dozen points for Dimond. Rohyn Huss and Justine Anderson each collected seven rebounds, and Huss added nine points.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

 


By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com