The Mat-Su is the home of the 2021 ASAA state basketball championships, and four Valley teams have been invited to the party.
Colony and Palmer are part of the 4A girls tournament, which starts Thursday at Wasilla High School. Colony and Wasilla are among the eight teams in the 4A boys tourney, which starts Thursday at Palmer High.
“It’s what you work for from the beginning of the season. We put two dates on the calendar, March 20 and March 27. This is the first one,” Colony head coach Jeff Bowker said after the Knights beat Palmer in the Northern Lights Championships girls title game last week. “We talked about perseverance all season and they persevered throughout the season and you kind of go through the lulls, you go through being sick and then you get to this point and we were just talking about that being our goal and they kept improving and the chemistry was there and they executed and played terrific.”
The Knights beat Palmer 62-35 in the final.
Palmer advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2012 thanks to a 65-45 victory over Wasilla in the NLC semifinals.
“They’re really excited. It hasn’t happened for the community in a long time,” Palmer head coach Keith Williams said of the opportunity to play in the state tourney. “It was a beautiful thing to see today.”
Palmer will open the 4A girls tournament Thursday at 3 p.m. against top-seeded Bartlett. The Golden Bears recently won their first Cook Inlet Conference title in 29 years. Colony plays West Anchorage Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at WHS.
There is also a Colony-West match on the boys side with a quarterfinal game Thursday at 8:15 p.m. Following Colony’s win over Wasilla in the region title game, Colony head coach Tom Berg said part of his team’s route to state has been about overcoming adversity.
“We had almost nine weeks of our preseason shut down. We started the season, then we had the season shut down for 14 days and then it was just trying to get games in so we could get to this moment. The level, and this is true of my team this is true of all the teams we’re playing in the Valley, the level of adversity and perseverance that every one of these athletes has shown from no mask to shut down to now we’ve got to try to get back in shape but still wear these, no season have we asked a group of kids to do that so unbelievably resilient for those guys,” said Berg. “I hope we continue and we want to peak when we get to state.”
Wasilla opens its state tourney Thursday at 4:45 p.m. against West Valley.
Attendance is extremely limited due to COVID-19 mitigation and protocol. There will be only 125 tickets for fans available for each team, per game, and those must be purchased online with information provided by respective schools.
The 3A and 4A tournaments start Thursday at Palmer High, Wasilla High, Colony High and Palmer Junior Middle. The 3A boys tourney starts at CHS and the 3A girls tourney starts at PJMS. There will be no third- or fourth-place games in either tournament this year. All four state final games are scheduled at Palmer High on Saturday.
UAA's Alaska Airlines Center has been the home of ASAA's March Madness Alaska, but all of the tournaments were moved from Anchorage due to the municipality's COVID-19 regulations.
For more information about tickets and the brackets, see https://asaa.org/activities/basketball/.
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