Azlynn Brandenburg

Wasilla junior Azlynn Brandenburg tries to drive the baseline during a loss to Sierra Canyon of Chatsforth, California, in the girls' championship game of the 2016 Doc Larson Roundball Classic at Wasilla High. The 2017 tournament starts Thursday.

Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman

WASILLA — Wasilla High School has an early Christmas gift for local basketball fans.

Holiday hoops. And lots of it.

Wasilla is hosting the ninth annual Doc Larson Roundball Classic Thursday through Saturday at Wasilla High School.

The three-day event features an eight-team bracket for the boys, and a four-team round-robin tourney for the girls. The field of teams features four programs from outside of Alaska. Stephenson High School of Stone Hill, Georgia, is bringing both its boys and girls teams to Alaska. There are also two teams from Washington. Enumclaw High School is in the boys’ tournament and Granite Falls High School is among the girls’ team.

The Alaska teams in the field include all four squads that played for a 4A state title last year. Defending boys’ state champion Dimond is part of the bracket and defending girls champ Wasilla is the host. The 4A girls’ runner-up, Dimond is part of the field. Host Wasilla was the 4A boys runner-up last year.

The boys’ field also includes Colony, East Anchorage, Barrow and Thunder Mountain.

“I’m really excited about the field,” Wasilla boys basketball head coach Ryan Engebretsen said Monday afternoon.

Since the tournament was created in 2009, Engebretsen said it’s been a goal to bring quality programs from outside of Alaska for the event. He said organizers spend a tremendous amount of time researching programs to potentially invite. But now, programs are contacting tournament organizers.

“Teams are seeking (us) out,” Engebretsen said. “We’ve already had three teams inquire about next year.”

Engrebretsen said Wasilla High School and the tournament are building a positive reputation.

“It’s based on word of mouth. They’ve heard great things,” Engebretsen said. “The tournament is making a name for itself.”

Engebretsen said connections with past participants in the tournament are creating new opportunities for other teams. He used Stephenson High as an example. The Georgia school has a connection with Carver High School of Montgomery, Alabama, which captured the Doc Larson boys’ title in 2012.

There are also family connections, and a holiday family reunion for the Engebretsen clan. Engebretsen’s older brother, Phil, is the former head coach at Enumclaw, and brought his team to the inaugural Doc Larson tourney in 2009. Phil Engebretsen is now an administrator at the school and no longer coaching, but his twin sons, Bryson and Cale, are juniors and starters on the team. Enumclaw, a 4A program in Washington, is currently 5-2.

Former Enumclaw center Brian Scalabrine won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Enumclaw is located southeast of Seattle and east of Tacoma in Washington.

The Stephenson boys, who earned a region title last year and advanced to Georgia’s Class 6A state tournament, is currently 8-2 and 6-0 in region play. The Stephenson girls, who advanced to the Class 6A state tournament last season, is currently 6-4 overall and 5-1 in region play.

Stephenson High alumni include a handful of NFL players and Donald Glover, a rapper and actor, who has earned Emmy and Golden Globe honors for his work on the FX television series “Atlanta.” Stone Mountain is located east of Atlanta.

The Granite Falls girls are 2-5 overall. The 2A program hails from a school located north of Seattle.

The tournament starts Thursday with two girls games and four boys games. On the girls’ side, Stephenson meets Dimond at 1:40 p.m. and Wasilla hosts Granite Falls at 6:40. The boys’ first-round matchups are: Stephenson-Barrow (noon), Colony-East (3:20 p.m.), Enumclaw-Dimond (5 p.m.) and Wasilla-Thunder Mountain (8:20 p.m.).

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at sports@frontiersman.com.

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