Before the girls Class 1A championship, Kiah Charlie of Scammon Bay told her brother she was going to catch fire in the game. She did just that.
The 5-foot-5 junior hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first quarter to spark a 19-0 Scammon Bay run and give the Eagles the lead for good. Scammon Bay defeated defending-champion Wainwright 66-43 to win its first state title Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center.
Charlie powered Scammon Bay with 30 points and seven steals.
"I was getting all hyped from the crowd," Charlie said. "Before the game I told my brother, 'Watch, I'm going to catch fire.' And then it just clicked and I caught fire."
Charlie went 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and the Eagles shot 10 of 33 from 3-point land as team.
On the defensive side, they forced 26 turnovers and tallied 19 steals with their signature diamond press.
"Offense wins games, defense wins championships," Scammon Bay coach Herschel Sundown said. "We've said that the whole time from day one — defense, defense, defense. We wanted to separate ourselves from everybody."
Wainwright led for much of the first quarter, and the Huskies received a boost at times from senior guard Kai Nashookpuk and her 27 points, but they couldn't recover from Scammon Bay's big run. They could never find the edge that brought them their big 62-36 championship win over Buckland in last season's title game.
"I tip my hat to Wainwright, they come here every year and we have nothing but respect for them," Sundown said. "But we wanted the game more."
Almira Kaganak joined Charlie in double figures with 10 points for Scammon Bay. They were two of the five players to make a trey for the Eagles.
"It takes one shot for our girls to get them going," Sundown said. "Any one of them can take a shot, not only Kiah, all twelve of my girls. We've worked hard to we trust each and every one of them to take a 3, a layup, a free throw — anything."
For Sundown and assistant Jacob Rivers, the championship win was a culmination of a journey that started when the players were children. Between him and assistant coach Jacob Rivers, the two have been coaching the girls since they were in elementary school.
"Our assistant coach coached me when I was elementary, and it was all about defense then," Charlie said. "And then my (head) coach coached me when I was in junior high and it was all about defense too, and pressure, pressure, pressure."
The Eagles ended their season with a blowout championship win in Anchorage, but their season started in Alaska's capital much differently. Scammon Bay opened the season with three straight losses. They ended the season with a 23-0 run.
And now they'll have a new banner to hang in their gym back in their village of just over 500 people near the Bering Sea coast.
"We've talked about it the whole time — winning state — ever since I was a freshman," Charlie said. "And now that it actually happened, words can't even explain how happy we are. I'm just glad a lot of our fans came down to watch and experience it too."