ANCHORAGE - The Klawock girls basketball team rode an emotional roller-coaster this week, with most of the week spent dealing with long downhill runs.
But the Chieftains closed the week on an up note, claiming the Class 2A state championship with a 47-43 victory over previously-undefeated Ninilchik Saturday at Service High School.
Tears streamed from the eyes of the Chieftains as soon as the final horn sounded, and the players ran from the court to hug coach Jean Jackson as the team celebrated its fifth state championship and first at the Class 2A level - Klawock won Class 1A titles in 1987-89 and 1996, the first three with Jackson as a player and the last two as coach.
``It was awesome, I couldn't believe it,'' said Klawock's Kalle Sharp, one of three seniors on the roster. ``It's been an emotional week.''
``This is a dream come true,'' Klawock sophomore Jessica Peters said. ``It's been a crazy week.''
The week opened on a rough note for the Sharp sisters - Kalle and junior Molly Sharp - who live about 20 miles out of Klawock in the village of Hollis. One of the village elders died on Tuesday, one Kalle said was like the ``grandma to the community.''
Then, the team found out the baby born to Jackson's sister - Mary Edenshaw - on Thursday had health complications and for the past three days has been touch-and-go. The baby, Jalin Nicole Edenshaw, has heart trouble and Jackson said they weren't sure if the baby was going to be strong enough to perform the surgery needed to keep it alive.
Jackson, who leaves for Seattle today (Sunday) to be with her sister, said the news was a bit better Saturday but the baby is still at risk.
Once the game started, though, the Klawock players said they were able to block out the distractions and focus on the game. Even with the scoring production down for senior Astin Bush and Peters, Klawock still took command of the game and controlled the pace.
``It's exciting, that's the way I wanted to end it,'' Bush said.
``It's teamwork, this is not an individual sport,'' Peters said.
After a couple of early lead swaps, the Chieftains (19-3) grabbed a lead they'd hold the rest of the game. Klawock led 14-9 late in the first quarter, and led 14-11 at the end of the first period and 23-19 at halftime as Molly Sharp and senior Maria Dilts both scored eight points. Klawock led 35-33 at the end of the third quarter, but went on an 8-0 run, keyed by a pair of 3-pointers from Dilts, to run the lead to 43-33.
``I think when Maria hit those two threes, that turned it for us,'' Jackson said. ``Maria hitting 3-pointers I expected, but for Molly to step up the way she did was big.''
``We're used to having a 20-point lead,'' said Dilts, who was a freshman when Klawock won the Class 1A title but took the last two years off after having a baby (Thomas) Dec. 18, 1997. ``I think we were a better team.''
Ninilchik (26-1) tried to make a run at the end of the game, pulling to within four points, 45-41, with 1:20 left. But Bush scored with 1:03 left, and Klawock was able to hold the Wolverines off at the end.
``We knew they were a really good team,'' Ninilchik's Theresa Chihuly said. ``We were hoping to go 27-0. We knew we had to watch Astin and Peters, but we also knew the others were a threat. I don't think we gave up. We're definitely disappointed, but this is definitely second best.''
Dilts scored 14 points to lead Klawock, while Molly Sharp added 12 points and three steals. Peters scored nine points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while Bush scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out five assists and blocked five shots, and Kalle Sharp had four points and three steals. Dilts, Bush and Peters all made the all-tourney team for Klawock. Klawock outrebounded Ninilchik 35-30, which Jackson said was a big advantage.
``We wanted to get it down to our post players, that was using an advantage for us,'' Jackson said. ``We had a balanced game, and Astin didn't have her usual offense so she stepped up on defense.''
Chihuly scored 15 points, dished out seven assists and made three steals to lead Ninilchik, while Tasha Leman added 11 points and three assists, and Patricia Guilleri grabbed seven rebounds.
In the only other game involving a Southeast team Saturday, Levi Johnson scored 18 points, Jason Frank had 14, Guy Hunter had 12 and Walter Kookesh scored 10 as Angoon claimed fourth place in the tournament with a 78-61 victory over Point Hope.
Cook Inlet Academy claimed a 41-38 victory over Anderson in the boys Class 2A championship game. Earlier in the tournament, the Yakutat girls and Skagway boys were eliminated on Friday after going 0-2 in their games. The Yakutat girls won the team sportsmanship award.
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