While the Kodiak girls basketball team has captivated the community with their perfect season, their counterparts have snuck under the radar.
Kodiak’s boys wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Maybe it is a good thing that they are having a great season. It does take a lot of pressure off of these guys,” Kodiak coach David Anderson said. “They are more relaxed.”
For the first time since 1985, Kodiak’s girls and boys both will be playing at the 4A state tournament together.
As the No. 8 seed, the boys open play against top-seeded West Anchorage, the Cook Inlet Conference champions, at 5:15 p.m. Thursday at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. The winner advances to a 7 p.m. semifinal game Friday, while the loser drops to a loser-out game at 9:45 a.m.
Kodiak was an eighth seed in its last tournament appearance in 2011 — Anderson’s first year as coach — and hung with top-seeded Bartlett before falling 58-46. The Bears bowed out the next day with a six-point loss to Juneau.
The Kodiak men hope to extend their stay at state this go-around.
“We are the eight seed and everybody loves an underdog,” Kodiak senior Scott Garcia said. “That kind of makes us the underdog.”
It is March Madness and this underdog team is beaming with confidence.
As well they should be.
Kodiak enters state as the Northern Lights Conference champions — a first since the undefeated 2001 team — with a 16-9 record. The Bears beat fifth-seeded Colony three times, took down seventh-seeded East Anchorage in an endowment game and barely lost to third-seeded Service. Kodiak also came close to beating undefeated 3A powerhouse Monroe Catholic.
Anderson said there is not a clear favorite to cut down the nets Saturday night, which is why he believes this team has the talent to win Kodiak’s first boys state title since 2001.
“I have a lot of confidence in these guys,” Anderson said. “I think good things are going to happen … there is going to be an upset this weekend.”
Kodiak’s path to the state tournament started this summer in Washington. Anderson took most of the varsity players on a two-week trip where they played several larger schools in Washington and won a tournament.
“It just has carried over to the season and bringing these guys back together,” Anderson said. “When you talk about peaking and finishing right, we are about right there.”
The summer games taught Kodiak players the value of playing together as a team, something Anderson said is the reason why Bears are one of eight 4A teams still standing.
“There are a lot of great individual players that we have played against this season. A lot of people counted us out in those games, but when you play as a unit it really makes the difference,” Anderson said.
Being on the road as much as Kodiak has helped the team bond. The Bears played only seven of their 25 games at home.
“To win as many games as we did on the road, it has been a great run for these guys,” Anderson said.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at email@example.com.
Thursday, March 20
Game 1 — No. 4 Thunder Mt. vs. No. 5 Colony, 8 a.m.
Game 2 — No. 3 Service vs. No. 6 West Valley, 9:45 a.m.
Game 5 — No. 2 Lathrop vs. No. 7 East Anchorage, 3:30 p.m.
Game 6 — No. 1 West Anchorage vs. No. 8 Kodiak, 5:15 p.m.
Friday, March 21
Game 9 — Loser of Game 2 vs. Loser of Game 5, 8 a.m.
Game 10 — Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 6, 9:45 a.m.
Game 15 — Winner of Game 1 vs. winner of Game 6, 7 p.m.
Game 16 — Winner of Game 2 vs. winner of Game 5, 8:45 p.m.
Saturday, March 22
At University of Alaska Anchorage
Winner of Game 10 vs. winner of Game 9, 8 a.m.
At Sullivan Arena
Loser of Game 15 vs. loser of Game 16, 10:40 a.m.
Winner of Game 15 vs. winner of Game 16, 8 p.m.