The Northern Lights Conference Championships was supposed to begin today at Colony High School.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament is not happening. I thought it would be fitting to look back at one of the most significant wins in the history of the Kodiak girls basketball program. 

Of course, no game can compare to the 1981 and 2014 state championship game victories, but the Bears’ triumph in the 2009 NLC tournament third-place game was pretty sweet. 

Kodiak’s 49-27 victory over Soldotna at Kodiak High School earned the Bears a berth to the state tournament, snapping a 21-year stateless drought. 

“I don’t even know that I can put it into words,” Kodiak coach Brett Larsen told the Daily Mirror in 2009. “It’s just one of those points — I can’t even explain it. I’m excited —  I don’t know whether to yell or cry.” 

Kodiak’s road to state didn’t come easy. The Bears — the North Division’s fourth seed — entered the tournament with a 2-8 conference record, then lost to Kenai in the first round. The girls didn’t get rattled, staying alive with victories over Homer (48-32) and Palmer (45-37) to reach the third-place game for the first time since 1994.

Kodiak held a four-point lead at halftime and, after a 7-0 run, pushed the lead to 10 midway through the third. The rout was on after that. 

Soldotna only scored six points in the second half as Kodiak players celebrated in front of their fans. 

“In the past, we have had a history of having a really good defense, and we just wanted to prove that we still have it,” senior Addie Jones told the Daily Mirror.

Kodiak used balance scoring — four players with more than six points each — to score in double-figures every quarter. 

Emily Garner led the way with nine points, while Joanna Garcia had seven and Rhonda Yamat and Rachel Norton each added six points. 

Earlier in the day, Betsie McCarty drained a team-high 11 points to eliminate Palmer 45-37. 

Norton erupted for 16 points to help the Bears knock out Homer 48-32 a day earlier. 

“I had my doubts, 

but I had faith we could do it and pull it together,” McCarthy told the Daily Mirror. “We knew it would be a long road, but we did it.” 

Megan Grupp, Julienne Gregory, Loretta Timpke and Puni Tusitinio also contributed to the wins. 

A week later, making its first state appearance since 1987, Kodiak lost to Colony 41-22 and Dimond 51-44 to finish tied for seventh.  

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