ASAA State Basketball Championship Preview

Quarterfinals begin Wednesday
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 7:30 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The ASAA state basketball tournament starts tomorrow. Both 3A and 4A brackets will have quarterfinal games Wednesday. Five interior basketball teams will be in the Mat-Su Valley.

Starting with tomorrow’s girls games, the Monroe Catholic Rams come out of the Aurora Conference with a 21-5 record and won their conference tournament two weeks ago. The Rams are strong on both sides of the ball averaging 48.5 points and allowing 27.1 points per game. Monroe opens with seventh seeded Kenai Central Kardinals. The Kardinals are 16-12 out of the Peninsula conference. This game starts at 11:00 a.m.

The 17-10 Lathrop Malemutes girls won the 4A Mid Alaska Conference title, and they’ll face a tough team to open. The Malemutes meet the 22-4 Wasilla Warriors who are the second-best team behind Anchorage Christian. These two met earlier this season, and the Warriors won, 74-48. This game will take place at 12:30 p.m. on the main court.

Now for the boys. The Delta Huskies were given the eighth seed after finishing second in the 3A Aurora Conference. They too will have a tough opening matchup. The Huskies will play an early, 9:30 a.m. game with top-seeded Grace Christian out of Anchorage. On average, Grace Christian scores 11.2 more points per game than the Huskies.

Two teams represent 4A. The Monroe Catholic Rams received an at-large bid following their second place finish in the Mid Alaska Conference in the regular and postseason. Monroe enters the tournament 20-5. Three of those losses came from the top-seeded West Valley Wolfpack. The Rams open with Colony -- a team they beat by twelve in mid-January. Defense will be a key for the Rams to make the semifinals. The Knights average more points per game, but Monroe stifles teams on defense only allowing 38.8 points per game. This game will be the latest opening day game for the interior, starting at 6:15 p.m.

“They have two really good guys,” commented junior guard, Billy Bast on the Knights. “We just have to stop them. We always seem to play really well against Colony. So, we’re excited.”

The final team is the aforementioned, number one seeded, West Valley Wolfpack. Coach Colten Growden has led his team to a 24-1 overall record. Back-to-back Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year, Stewart Erhart, is their leader on the court leading on offense and defense. The Wolfpack can score with ease, averaging 66.6 points per game, and suffocate on defense too allowing 37.4 points per game. They have an 11:00 a.m. game with Juneau-Douglas. The Wolfpack beat the Crimson Bears by twenty two times this season.

One senior, Koltin Thompson, stated his team is better this year. “We weren’t as good of a team as we were this year. We’ve been in the gym five days a week for three hours with the same dudes. It really brings us together as a team... To show what we can really do.”

Malachi Bradley has been an instant compliment to Stewart Erhart and the rest of the Wolfpack. Even though he wasn’t a member of last year’s squad that got sent to the consolation bracket losing in the opening round, he still has key insights to what the Wolfpack need to do and are capable of doing this weekend.

“Honestly, I feel like if we stay calm, cool, and collected, we can take care of the job,” said Bradley. “If we are sharp in practice, focused, locked in immediately, then we’ll definitely get the job done.”

Stewart Erhart remembers the bitter taste in his mouth from last year’s tournament. The senior guard echoed the importance of taking it one game at a time, but if the two best teams in the state make the championship, it’ll be a rematch of the best game of boys basketball this season. West Valley and Dimond.

“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting,” started Erhart. “Whatever team we play, we’re going to try and go out there and execute our game plan and not look past anybody. Not even look towards the next game until we win the first game, second game, and the third. But, I am looking forward to competing with Luke and Dimond.”

If both Monroe and West Valley boys win their quarterfinal games, the two interior foes will play one another in the semis on Friday.