Chugiak girls make state basketball tournament

Monday, March 11, 2019 - 17:43
  • Chugiak’s Eva Palmer looks to move the ball past East High defenders Amari Brown and Angel Ioane during the Mustangs’ 51-33 victory over the Thunderbirds during the Cook Inlet Conference tournament at West High on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN)

After sweating out a state tournament berth Sunday, Chugiak girls basketball coach Ryan Hales said there’s no reason why the Mustangs can’t now put some serious pressure on the rest of the field.

“I really like our chances,” said Hales, whose team learned it had received the second and final at-large bid to the Class 4A girls tournament during a Sunday night special broadcast life online.

Hales said he watched the selection show with assistant coach Chuck Pinckney. Most players watched at their homes, Hales said. Chugiak knew they had a decent shot to get an at-large bid, but in the minutes leading up to the announcement, Hales admitted he was a bit nervous.

Then the Mustangs were announced as the tournament’s eighth team, and Hales’s phone started blowing up.

“I’m doing a lot better now that we’re dancing,” he said.

West — which defeated Chugiak in the Cook Inlet Conference third-place game Saturday, received the other at-large bid.

Chugiak received the tournament’s no. 7 seed and will play No. 2 seed West Valley on Thursday, March 21 at 3:30 p.m. at the Alaska Airlines Center. The winner will face the Bartlett/Wasilla winner in the semifinals.

Hales said he couldn’t be happier with Chugiak’s draw, which kept the Mustangs on the opposite side of the bracket as CIC champion Dimond.

“I think it’s a great spot for us to start,” said Hales, whose team is making its fifth straight trip to state.

Hales said he thinks Chugiak’s difficult regular season schedule helped the Mustangs play their way in. He pointed out Chugiak had regular-season wins over Lathrop and Colony — two teams also in the mix for an at-large bid — and said he thinks Chugiak’s strong showing in the Dimond Lady Lynx tournament may have put the Mustangs over the top.

“That Dimond tournament is so crucial to us getting to the state tournament,” he said.

Now that they’re in the dance, Hales said he thinks the Mustangs have as good a chance as anyone.

“Every team in the state right now is so close,” he said. “It’s going to be a dogfight.”

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