Welcome to The Rewind, a weekly digest that puts a spotlight on the biggest stories and best performances from Alaska’s world of sports.
On the high school sports scene, the 3A/4A state basketball tournament came to a close over the weekend and saw both of last year’s boys runner-ups crowned champions, a repeat winner at the girls 4A level and a first-time champion at the girls 3A level. On the college scene, the University of Alaska Anchorage track and field team opened the outdoor portion of its 2023 season while several local products shined bright on national stages.
Headlines and highlights
Despite losing its entire starting lineup from a historically successful graduating class, the Bettye Davis East high school boys basketball team claimed a record 18th state title Saturday night by upsetting top-seeded West Valley 53-48. The Thunderbirds’ young roster got key contributions from the small contingent of seniors that were on this year’s team but were led in scoring by sophomore Muhammed Sabally’s 20 points in the championship game.
“I’m proud of the kids because of what we have gone through the last month of the season to get to where we needed to get to,” East head coach Chuck Martin said.
[Back on top, Bettye Davis East boys upset top-seeded West Valley in 4A state basketball championship]
Almost exactly a year after suffering a last-minute defeat to Nome-Beltz in the 2022 state title game, the Grace Christian boys returned to the same stage and blew out the very same opponent to capture their first 3A state championship since 2017. In an overwhelming show of force, the Grizzlies outpaced and outmuscled the Nanooks from start to finish to win 64-33.
“We were strong, we played strong and also showed our skill,” Grace Christian coach Jason Boerger said. “We were able to make shots and that was the difference ... We have so many different weapons on this team and different ways that guys can take their game and help us win.”
[Avenging last year’s finals loss, Grace Christian boys roll to 3A state basketball title]
The only champion to successfully defend its title was the Anchorage Christian girls team, which unsurprisingly captured its second consecutive 4A title and sixth in a row overall including their four straight 3A titles prior to getting moved up last year. The Lions were led to victory by one last masterful performance by senior and University of Washington signee, Sayvia Sellers, who recorded a game-high 32 points in the team’s commanding 57-38 win over second-seeded Wasilla.
[Anchorage Christian School repeats as Alaska’s 4A girls basketball champion]
While all of the other teams that came out on top of the finals had been there and done that, the Grace Christian girls made program history by capping a dominant season with a first state title. The Grizzlies defeated Mt. Edgecumbe 49-38 in the finals for their 22nd straight victory and are set up for success for years to come with a young roster that featured just one upperclassman.
[Short on experience but long on talent, Grace Christian girls win Alaska 3A state basketball title]
The UAA track and field teams began the outdoor portion of their 2023 season by having members of the program attending two different meets in Southern California. Senior Collin Sample won the long jump to lead the Seawolves at the Mangrum Invitational on Friday. Junior Kevin Angarita competed at both meets and was named the GNAC Male Track Athlete of the Week after clocking 47.81 seconds in the 400 meters at the Aztec Invitational.
The time was not only the 10th best in the event, it ranks No. 7 on the GNAC all-time list and is the 12th-best mark in Division II this season. He also placed third in the 400 meters and 12th in the 200 meters at Friday’s Mangrum Invitational.
“We had a great end to a long first weekend of competition,” said head coach Ryan McWilliams in a statement. “If we can get some bodies back healthy and continue to build from the start we got here, we should be able to make some really great things happen this outdoor season.”
Alyeska Resort was the host site for the West Region Junior Championships last week, with alpine competitors racing in both the U21 and U18 categories.
While tremendous snowfall limited the number of races that were completed, the top three overall female finishers were Annaliese Frohlich from the Crystal Mountain Alpine Club, Jessica Blackburn from Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and Shelby Willett of Mt. Bachelor Ski Education Foundation.
In the male competition, Winthrop Flaggert from CMAC, Will Kogelmann of SVSEF and Drake Fricke with Bridger Ski Foundation were the top three.
The Alyeska Ski Club’s top finisher was Abigail Kragt, who placed second in the slalom race on Wednesday. Although at age 22, he was not eligible in the junior field, UAA skier and former Alyeska Ski Club athlete Hunter Eid won the men’s giant slalom.
The Anchorage Wolverines bounced back from getting swept last weekend by emerging victorious in two of their three games against the Springfield Jr. Blues over the weekend. Both victories came by three or more goals and they had 10 players record goals with forward Joe Cesario and defenseman Trent Powell leading the way with three a piece.
The Wolverines sit in sixth place in the Midwest Division, just three points out of fourth place and playoff position. Anchorage is also just four points out of third place, which is currently being held down by the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Alaska stars shining Outside
The 2023 U.S. Biathlon National Championships took place in Casper, Wyoming, over the weekend and saw eight biathletes from The Last Frontier overcome 8,000 feet elevation and gusting winds to produce podium finishes.
National champions from Alaska include Elias Watson, Haley Finch and Gema McGrew, coached by Olympian Jean Paquet of ABC, in the U17 divisions. John Lohuis and Talia Day, who both train with Biathlon Alaska, were each third in the U17 divisions, Lohuis in the boys and Day in the girls.
The other three podium finishers with ties to Alaska include 21-year-old Helen Wilson who won the junior sprint and now trains with Team CrossCut in Bozeman, Montana; 20-year-old Eva Weymuller who trains with Alaska Pacific University and Anchorage Biathlon Club; and 23-year-old Zoe Noble who now competes for National Guard Biathlon.
“I’ve trained a lot in gusty winds at the Kincaid Biathlon Range, so I felt confident I would shoot well this weekend,” said Vanessa Wing, 14, of Anchorage in a statement.
She trains with Anchorage Biathlon Club (ABC) and won the sprint and pursuit competitions in the U15 division.
Ketchikan’s Isaac Updike broke a pair of records and qualified for the 2023 USA Track and Field Championships with his victory in the steeplechase at the Raleigh Relays in North Carolina on Thursday. His finishing time of 8 minutes, 25.09 seconds bested a meet record of 8:36.30 set by his Empire Elite Track Club coach, Tom Nohilly, in 1996. Updike also blew past the facility record of 8:31.23 that was set by Fitsum Seyoum of Virginia Tech University in 2021.
The USA Hockey National Championship games took place in Plymouth, Minn., on Monday and while a team of Anchorage girls led by standout goalie Zoie Campbell came up just short to the Shattuck-St. Mary’s of Minnesota girls team 2-0, there were still some players with Alaska roots that were crowned champions. Anchorage’s Lake Bethard was on the girls team that defeated Campbell’s squad and Ryan Embley also of Anchorage helped lead the Shattuck-St. Mary’s boys to glory with an 8-0 win over New Tier Green (Illinois).
Last week’s results
Wasilla 60, Lathrop 33
West Anchorage 54, Thunder Mountain 50
Colony 53, Juneau-Douglas 46
Anchorage Christian 82, Dimond 22
Grace Christian 56, Bethel 27
Barrow 47, Sitka 45
Monroe Catholic 53, Kenai Central 27
Mt. Edgecumbe 49, Valdez 34
Sitka 54, Bethel 29
Kenai 39, Valdez 28
Mt. Edgecumbe 40, Monroe Catholic 35
Grace Christian 61, Barrow 50
Thunder Mountain 53, Dimond 47
Juneau-Douglas 51, Lathrop 42
Anchorage Christian 81, West 43
Wasilla 48, Colony 40
Juneau-Douglas 53, Thunder Mountain 46
Colony 64, West 34
Anchorage Christian 57, Wasilla 38
Kenai 29, Sitka 28
Monroe Catholic 38, Barrow 29
Grace Christian 49, Mt. Edgecumbe 38
West Valley 60, Juneau-Douglas 37
Bettye Davis East 54, Anchorage Christian 30
Monroe Catholic 45, Colony 30
West Anchorage 69, Dimond 63 (OT)
Mt. Edgecumbe 43, Kenai Central 37
Grace Christian 68, Delta 36
Nome-Beltz 65, Barrow 50
Houston 64, Valdez 51
Valdez 47, Barrow 45
Kenai 60, Delta 31
Grace Christian 50, Mt. Edgecumbe 33
Nome-Beltz 68, Houston 63 (2 OT)
Juneau-Douglas 73, Colony 64
Dimond 58, Anchorage Christian 30
West Valley 44, Monroe Catholic 41
Bettye Davis East 62, West 31
Valdez 48, Kenai 44
Dimond 82, Juneau-Douglas 58
West 57, Monroe Catholic 54
Bettye Davis East 53, West Valley 48
Houston 65, Mt. Edgecumbe 59
Grace Christian 64, Nome-Beltz 33
Anchorage Wolverines 6, Springfield Jr. Blues 2
Springfield Jr. Blues 4, Anchorage Wolverines 2
Anchorage Wolverines 6, Springfield Jr. Blues 3
West v Dimond @ The Dome (girls), Tuesday at 8:20 p.m.
West v Dimond @ The Dome (boys), Wednesday at 2:50 p.m.
The 2023 high school soccer season officially gets underway this week with all matches slated to take place at The Dome sports complex. The reigning Division I girls state champion Lynx will begin their title defense against the Eagles on Tuesday night and their male counterparts will face off the following afternoon as the 2022 boys state runner-up Eagles will be looking to notch their first win since falling to South in last year’s finals.
Track and field
The 2023 high school track and field season will also officially be getting underway at the Dome this week with the annual Big C Relays, where schools and top athletes from around the state will square off for the first time this season. It will feature some traditional and nontraditional events and begin Friday and conclude Saturday.
Anchorage Wolverines vs. Chippewa Steele at Ben Boeke Ice Arena on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m.
Coming off a bounce-back performance this past weekend, the Wolverines will be looking to build off their success as they continue to make a push for playoff positioning. On the season, Anchorage is 2-1 against Chippewa and will have a chance to pull further ahead in the head-to-head series lead with a three-game series this weekend. The first and last time these two teams met was for a three-game series in the first month of the season at the Chippewa Area Ice Arena from Sept. 22-24.