With three weeks still left in the regular season, the Kodiak girls basketball team is honoring their four seniors Friday evening on Senior Night.
Joanna Garcia, Megan Grupp, Joyce Juble and Czarina Arbues are all playing in their final home games Friday and Saturday against Skyview.
“It will be tough to watch them play their last home game here,” Kodiak coach Brett Larsen said. “They are going to be missed next year for sure, no question about it.”
The seniors have been part of some magical moments in Kodiak.
Flash back to 2009 at the Northern Lights Conference Tournament. Garcia and Grupp were part of the team that defeated Soldotna in the third/fourth-place game that snapped Kodiak’s 21-year state drought.
Last year, Garcia, Grupp and Juble were part of the team that ended long losing skids to Colony and Wasilla. Garcia hit three free throws with 3.1 seconds left to lift Kodiak to a two-point victory over the Warriors.
But most of all, all the seniors said it’s the crowd that has made their time in Kodiak special.
“From all the other schools that we go to, I think it is different because the community is really supportive compared to all the other schools,” Garcia said.
“We have the craziest crowd in the state,” Grupp said. “Other teams are scared to come play in our gym because we have so many fans.”
Larsen hopes the emotion of the night doesn’t have an effect on the game, which is a NLC conference counting game.
“I don’t think it will because they know we still have a lot of work to do and still have a long ways to go towards our goal,” he said.
Garcia enters Senior Night playing the best she has ever played in her high school career. In her past four games she has averaged 15 points per game. This comes after she went scoreless two weeks ago against Wasilla.
After the game, Kodiak’s coaching staff sat down and issued Garcia a challenge. Garcia has responded.
“The said I need to take control more,” Garcia said. “I realized I really wasn’t, so I took their advice and it really has helped.”
“She is kind of finding her groove,” Larsen said. “She struggled with her shot a little bit, but now she is starting to find it and starting to accept her leadership role and fit into that nicely. I have been waiting for that.
“I think it is just going to keep right on going. The train isn’t going to stop yet.”
Grupp has been a steady force her whole high school career. Last year she averaged 6.8 points and this year is up to 8.9 points.
“She is just blue-collar,” Larsen said. “She comes in and works hard every single day. I love her to death — I love her battle, I love her attitude. She is always giving it her all.”
Grupp said she has worked a lot to improve her game. She and Garcia have both been part of Team Alaska.
“I’m not that good naturally, so I have to make myself good,” Grupp said.
Juble is in her first year starting after being a key bench player on last year’s team that qualified for state for the second consecutive season.
“She is in a different role as a starter so she hasn’t quite found her niche yet,” Larsen said. “She is always out there grunting it out. If she gets hot we will be really good.”
This is Arbues’ first year on the varsity team. She traveled with the team for the first time last weekend.
“She is just in a tough spot,” Larsen said. “She is always here every day and works hard. She just accepts her role and roles with it.”
Mirror writer Derek Clarkston can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.