Chugiak girls look to March

New rule instituted for automatic state tourney berths


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Chugiak’s Alistie Aguilar, right, and Mackenzie Matthis battle for the ball during practice before this season.

STAR PHOTO BY MIKE NESPER

Missing the state tournament last year has Chugiak High’s girls basketball team more motivated for this season. But it won’t be easy getting there this year.

Only the top two Cook Inlet Conference teams will earn automatic state berths. Other automatic Class 4A berths include two from the Northern Lights Conference and one from the Southeast and Mid Alaska conferences.

The final two spots will be determined by Winning Percentage Index standings. This is the first time WPI will be used to determine who goes to state.

Though getting to state will be tougher, the girls want it more this year, second-year head coach Ryan Hales said.

“We’re coming back with a lot more desire to get to that next level,” he said. “They didn’t enjoy sitting out of state last year.”

Eleven of Chugiak’s 12 varsity players are upperclassmen. The Mustangs have six seniors, five juniors and one freshman, Hales said.

“That brings a lot of experience to the floor,” he said.

To reach their goal of making state, Hales said, the team knows they need to play as a unit.

“They’ve decided they need to come together as a team,” he said.

A key to the Mustangs’ offense will be junior point guard Alistie Aguilar, Hales said.

“She’s really worked on her game,” he said. “The offense has run smoothly because she’s on the floor.”

A multi-talented player, Jessica Tramp will be a versatile player for Chugiak, Hales said.

“She has the ability to catch and shoot,” he said. “She’s kind of the jack of all trades.”

Hales said senior Jessi McMullen will provide a challenge to opposing teams, as she’s one of the top posts in the state.

“She’ll be really tough to contend with,” he said.

The team practiced over the summer and isn’t the same Chugiak squad as last season, Aguilar said.

“People shouldn’t define our team as last year,” she said.

When the season starts, their hard work will be evident, Aguilar said.

“We have a good, strong five,” she said. “Once games start, we’ll click.”

Having played a full season under Hales will make this year easier, Aguilar said.

“We all know his expectations,” she said.

The team’s 11 upperclassmen is another benefit for Chugiak, Aguilar said.

“You know what to expect going in,” she said. “There is a big difference between varsity and JV.”

McMullen agreed.

“It’s really nice to have experience,” she said.

With more than half the team being made up of returners, McMullen said, the Mustangs are already on the same page.

“We have a lot of chemistry,” she said. “I feel like we have a lot of potential.”

Chugiak has an abundance of speed in the lineup, McMullen said.

“We have a really quick team,” she said. “That’s our biggest advantage this year.”

Working hard will be essential to return to state, McMullen said.

“We want to put everything we have into it at all times,” she said. “We have really high hopes this year.”

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