The Sitka Lady Wolves pose with their second place trophy after falling to the Anchorage Christian Lions in the 2021 March Madness Alaska 3A Girls Basketball State Tournament on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Mindy Bartolaba)

The Sitka Lady Wolves captured second place in the state 3A Basketball tournament in Wasilla last weekend (March 25-27).

The Mt. Edgecumbe Braves, however, were knocked out in the second round of the boys bracket.

The Lady Wolves appeared to have momentum going into the finals against Anchorage Christian School, but as Daily Sitka Sentinel Sports editor Garland Kennedy puts it: “It was the ‘unstoppable force meets the immovable object,’ and ACS is the immovable object.”

The ACS Lady Lions beat Sitka 75-26, holding the Lady Wolves to just a single basket and ten free throws in the first half.

Kennedy says ACS went into a full-court press from the opening tip-off, playing defense down the entire length of the court.

“Their full-court press is the immovable force you want a full court press to be,” Kennedy explained. “They applied pressure consistently and precisely. They forced turnovers, and capitalized on those turnovers.”

The title game was not the only lopsided score for ACS. The Lady Lions beat Homer 69-11 in the opening round, and took down Kotzebue 72-12 in the semifinal. ACS will be moving up to 4A next year, which Kennedy says will rebalance the dynamic in the 3A classification.

(Editor’s Note: The ACS Lady Lions have not lost to an Alaskan team since 2017.)

Lady Wolves standout Tawny Smith might get a chance to test that dynamic next year. The Sitka junior was named third-team All State. Senior Jocelyn Brady, who anchored the Lady Wolves all season, was named first team All State.

En route to the title game, the Sitka Lady Wolves defeated Kenai Central 57-27, and Monroe Catholic 49-36.

On the boys side, it was a similar story, although the Mt. Edgecumbe Braves did not make it to the finals. The Braves beat Kotzebue in the opening round 68-35, but fell to — guess who? — Anchorage Christian School in the semis, 82-63.

Kennedy says ACS used the press to shut down Mt. Edgecumbe’s running game in the first half, and from then on the Braves were playing catch-up.

“Now what we’ve seen with Mt. Edgecumbe so far in the season is often a really good second-half performance, and not the greatest first-quarter performance,” said Kennedy. “I caught up with Mt. Edgecumbe coach Archie Young and he noted that ACS’s high-pressure play was hard on the Braves in the first quarter.”

If there was any sweet revenge for Sitka teams over the weekend in Wasilla, it may have come vicariously, through the Monroe Catholic boys. Whether ACS exhausted its bench applying the full court press over the tournament, or other teams found ways to get around it, the Lions were finally  beaten by the Monroe Catholic Rams in the boys final, 67-52.