With a decisive 63-48 victory over the Nikiski Bulldogs, Anchorage Christian capped a perfect season by capturing a third straight Class 3A girls basketball championship.
The juggernaut Lions (26-0 overall), whose roster features four all-state players, beat the conference-rival Bulldogs for a third time this season.
The Lions were so dominant this season that three teams forfeited rather than face a team led by a star-studded lineup reminiscent of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors — first-team all-state selections Mary Kate Parks, Jordan Todd and Destiny Reimers and third-team selection Mykaila Pickard.
ACS coach Chad Dyson looked at the forfeited matchups as opportunities for the girls to get some much-needed rest.
“It was right in the middle of a five-game stretch," Dyson said. “We ended up getting three forfeits, so we only had to play two in a row. It really saved us from injury. We just tried to look at the positive side and count it as a blessing that we didn’t have to play five games in a row down the stretch of a long season.”
Todd said the Lions approached the championship game the way they approach every game: “Going out there and dominating,” she said.
The Lions smothered the Bulldogs (24-5) with their signature full-court press, racking up steals and creating extra offensive possessions.
Nikiski got off to a rough start when Bethany Carstens, the back-to-back 3A Player of the Year, picked up her third foul with 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
With Carstens sidelined, the Lions feasted, jumping out to a 21-6 lead behind eight first-quarter points from Todd, whose commanding presence in the paint freed up perimeter shooters.
Carstens sat the entirety of the second quarter while the Lions continued their onslaught. ACS forced 19 first-half turnovers, controlled the offensive glass and put up 27 shots to Nikiski’s 13. Sarah Sorrells heated up with three 3-pointers to help ACS to a 42-18 halftime lead.
The long-range shooting by Sorrells was a difference-maker, according to Nikiski coach Rustin Hitchcock II.
“That’s what really turned it into a 24-point game in the first half instead of a 15-point game," he said.
Carstens returned at the start of the seconds half, but ACS kept inflicting damage. The Lions kept forcing turnovers, and Reimers and Jessie Davis livened up offensively, scoring 11 of Anchorage Christian’s 16 third-quarter points.
Nikiski rallied to outscore ACS 16-5 in the fourth quarter, rebounding well and forcing several turnovers in the process, but the deficit was too large to overcome.
“We started taking it point by point and play by play — we started playing ‘our’ game in the second half,” Carstens said.
She said the Bulldogs had to play the best defense they’ve ever played to have a chance against the Lions, who earlier this season beat Nikiski 86-56 on Feb. 22 in Nikiski and 67-52 on March 9 in Seward.
“In the second half, we definitely did that. It was just that first half," Carstens said.
Carstens led the Bulldogs with 15 points, 13 of them in the second half. Kelsey Clark anchored the defense with seven rebounds and six steals to go along with her eight points, and America Jeffreys added eight points as well.
The Lions shot 43 percent from the field (17 of 40) and were led by Reimers’ game-high 15 points and seven rebounds. Todd added 14 points and seven rebounds and Parks pitched in 10 points, five rebounds and three steals.
“It was my last game, so I wanted to go out on a high note,” Todd said.
Anchorage Christian, a six-time state champion, joins Homer as the only school to win three straight Class 3A girls titles. The Bulldogs are seven-time state champs who won two in a row on three occasions; their last state championship came in 2006.
Kenai Central 50, Barrow 42
Logan Satathite drained five 3-pointers to lift Kenai Central to third place with a 50-42 win over Barrow.
Satathite hit five of seven triples en route to a game-high 21 points. Brooke Satathite contributed 18 points and six rebounds for the Kardinals, who shot 36.7 percent from the field.
Lewanne Brower paced Barrow with 18 points, with 15 of them coming behind the arc on 5-of-11 shooting. The Whalers struggled from the field, making 14 of 51 shots for a 27.4 shooting percentage.
Mt. Edgecumbe 53, Galena 46
Brystel Charlie did a little of everything to power Mt. Edgecumbe’s 53-46 win over Galena in the fourth-place game.
She grabbed nine rebounds, scored seven points and had six steals for the Braves, who got 11 points apiece from Catherine Sunny and Autumn Beans. Leticia Skaflestad had a game-high nine rebounds to help Mt. Edgecumbe to a 53-46 rebounding advantage.
Noonoo Green (20 points) and Pearle Green (15 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists) sparked Galena.
Jordan Todd, ACS
Destiny Reimers, ACS
Mary Kate Parks, ACS
Catherine Sunny, Mt. Edgecumbe
Sanora Bell, Mt. Edgecumbe
Bethany Carstens, Nikiski
Brooke Satathite, Kenai
Jenilee Donovan, Barrow
Pearle Green, Galena
Alanna Conwell, Kotzebue