High School Sports

Striving for greatness: Grace Christian’s girls basketball team, while young, is set up for sustained success

Much has been made about the Grace Christian boys basketball team during the 2022-23 season, and with good reason.

The 2022 3A state runner-ups have gone toe-to-toe with several of the top teams from across and outside of the state.

They’ve notched notable wins over top-ranked 4A team Dimond, handed West Valley their first loss of the season and most notably topped Heritage Christian of North Hills, California, at the Alaska Airlines Classic.

However, they aren’t the only dominant basketball team that roams the school’s halls.

The Grace Christian girls team has had a fantastic season up to this point as well.

They boast a 22-2 record, have rattled off 19 straight victories and are coming off a powerful show of force on their way to claiming the 2023 Peninsula Conference regional title.

The Grizzlies will return to state after finishing third last year, where they fell to eventual state champion Barrow in the semifinals.


“I’m super excited to go to state because we want to get first place this year,” sophomore team co-captain Sophie Lentfer said. “We need redemption from last year.”

What has made their tremendous success all the more impressive this year is that their roster is composed of mostly freshmen and sophomores.

“Last year, I think we struggled more because we didn’t have as many skilled people, and this year it took a little bit to (establish) the team dynamics,” Lentfer said. “But once we figured it out with our chemistry, it just became fun to play.”

Like their counterparts on the boys team, the Grace Christian girls have gone up against and bested several teams at the 4A level. They are 3-2 against teams from the state’s highest level this season, with notable wins over Colony and South Anchorage.

“Our girls just play, they don’t really worry about the score,” head coach Pete Johnson said. “We’ve been tested and done well.”

He describes them as “a super great group of girls” and believes that he gets too much credit for their success.

“Anybody could coach these girls and be successful,” he said. “They work hard, they love each other and they want to play hard for each other.”

Junior Olivia Jones is the only upperclassman on this year’s team, and even though she doesn’t regularly start, Johnson said she’s a key contributor coming off the bench.

“She does as well as she does because of those younger girls around her,” Johnson said. “It’s a really good team dynamic.”

Even though they are a young crew, they are all familiar with one another since most of them grew up together playing on the same youth teams.

“It’s a good basketball culture,” Lentfer said. “Everybody has kind of grown up playing around each other from fourth grade and we played (competitively) together,” Lentfer said. “We push each other to get better and that’s partially why we have so much skill on the team.”

Lentfer is excited for the next two years, when the team will have the opportunity to continue to grow and further build upon the winning culture that this group has established.

“It’s great that this is only the first year with them, and the team is pretty much going to be the same plus the younger people coming up, and it’s just gonna be fun to see how good we get together,” she said.

Lentfer comes from an impressive lineage of standout basketball players. Her father, Jeff, was a star at Service and went on to play at Weber State, and her older brother Luke and cousin Sloan are star seniors on the boys team.

“The Lentfer name is well-known here, and once they leave, I think it will be fun to be on my own and have my reputation,” she said. “I’m excited to see how I grow and the team grows throughout the seasons.”

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.