Chugiak wins fifth Birchwood Bowl in eight years

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 10:50
Eagle River takes top spot for AHA fundraising
  • Chugiak’s Kade Worley puts a shot up against the defense of Eagle River’s Bryson Rollman.
  • Chugiak’s Kaletty Faamatuina holds the Birchwood Bowl after the Mustangs’ 65-34 win over cross-town rival Eagle River.
  • Eagle River High School senior Vave’ Graf leads the cheerleaders at halftime
  • For the cause of combating heart disease, two rival mascots — Eagle River’s Bruiser (Grace Harder) left, and Chugiak’s Morise (Emma Kohler) — walk arm in arm at Eagle River High School at halftime of the Birchwood Bowl.Photos by Michael Dinneen for the Star

Chugiak High boys’ basketball took the big round trophy bowl home Tuesday night from the Eagle River High School gymnasium earning its fifth victory in the eight-year long Birchwood Bowl cross-town rivalry game.

While previous games featured close scores, the 2016 game ended as a bit of blowout with Chugiak’s more experienced boys’ varsity basketball team dominating the ERHS team comprised mostly of eager freshman by a score of 65-34.

“Keep it safe, keep it warm,” Brian Mitchell, ERHS announcer and science teacher, said at the end of the game. “We are coming back after it next year.”

ERHS won the 2015 Birchwood Bowl by a score of 70-50 when composition of the two boys’ varsity basketball teams was reversed: CHS had the young, unproven freshman and ERHS had a team of experienced seniors. Last year marked the third time the ERHS Wolves won the coveted birch bowl. Between 2009 and 2012, the trophy belonged to CHS.

The annual game represents the friendly rivalry afforded by the presence of two major high schools in the local area.

The mascots representing the two schools danced together during half-time and walked off the court arm-in-arm.

Teachers and administrators mingled on both sides of the court keeping watchful eyes on the two opposing rambunctious cheering sections as many three-point shots — the bulk from CHS hoopsters — swished through the net.

Chances of ERHS catching CHS were fading fast when Vave Graf of the ERHS cheer team lifted the Wolves spirits with a tumbling pass of endless somersaults from one end of the court to the other and back during a time-out.

The ERHS spirit fingers waved in the air whenever one of the Wolves was at the free-throw line.

On the other side of the court, Paul Straub — a CHS junior — wore a pair of Incredible Hulk boxing gloves painted blue for the Mustangs. He was in the midst of the cheering for the girls’ varsity game that played at 6 p.m. – an hour before the boys’ Birchwood Bowl.

“We are having a great time for a great cause,” Straub said in reference to the game’s other contest – a fundraising competition between the two schools with proceeds benefitting the American Heart Association.

It is why the normally silver and gold clad Wolves played in white tee shirts with red lettering and the Mustangs opted for black shirts with red lettering, “It’s Your Life” on the front with the American Heart Association logo on the side.

2016 is the third year in which the two schools opted to add a fundraiser to the annual Birchwood Bowl. The ERHS gymnasium walls sported numerous student-made posters announcing various heart-related information and statistics.

Allie Ortiz, a CHS junior, said she enjoys going to the games and cheering for the Mustangs but the fundraising aspect of Tuesday night’s cross-town rivalry brings the two schools together.

“We are rivals, yes, but we are also still one family,” she said of the Chugiak-Eagle River community.

Drew Sivil, an ERHS senior, decided sporting a New England Patriots jersey featuring Tom Brady’s No. 12 might help the Wolves.

As he looked up at the scoreboard to see the scoring gap between the two teams widen, he quipped, “I figured if I wore a shirt from someone that is a champion that somehow we would become champions too.”

Victory for the Wolves on the court wasn’t meant to be, but according to Sunni Danielowski, Youth Market Director for the Anchorage AHA, ERHS takes top honors in fundraising.

Her half-time announcement that, “Eagle River High School is the number one fundraising school in Alaska for the American Heart Association,” was met with thunderous applause from both sides of the court.

Soft numbers on fundraising efforts at both schools, as per Danielle Lewis and Erin Sullivan, student government instructors at ERHS and CHS, respectively: A total of more than $2,500 with $1,320 from ERHS and $1,120 from CHS.

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