Heading into Saturday night time’s championship recreation of the 2023 Alaska Airways Traditional towards top-ranked Heritage Christian from California, the Grace Christian boys basketball crew knew it was up towards lengthy odds.
The 2022 3A state runners-up had been counted out by many earlier than even taking the sphere for tip-off.
They knew they wanted to play with physicality and confidence to have any likelihood of maintaining with their highly-fancied opponent.
Grace Christian earned its ninth straight win of the season with a 53-50 victory, its third straight event title and the fifth Alaska crew to win the Alaska Airways Traditional since its inception in 1989. The Grizzlies are additionally the primary 3A crew to win since 2006.
“We weren’t afraid to enter this and had no doubts that we may compete with this crew,” senior guard Joshua Ivanoff mentioned. “We went on the market, we had a canine in us and it was a fantastic recreation.”
The groups hit one another all night time. Tied 12-12 on the finish of the primary quarter, 30-30 at halftime, Heritage led 40-38 after the third interval and Grace scored the ultimate 5 factors to upset the Warriors.
“We needed to play with fearless pleasure and we mentioned to ourselves, ‘Why not us?’ Why not? We will do it,” Grace Christian coach Jason Boerger mentioned.
For the second straight week, their last margin of victory was prolonged by a few clutch free throws, besides this time it was all-tournament choice head coach Kellen Jedlicka who was despatched to the charity stripe.
“Kellen got here by within the clutch tonight, Luke (Lentfer) final night time and Sloan (Lentfer) the week earlier than,” Boerger mentioned. “Children step up and do it. “We would not be the place we’re if we did not enhance on free throws this 12 months.”
Jedlicka iced the sport, however it was Ivanoff who knocked down a 3-pointer to drag his crew again inside 51-50 with lower than a minute left on the clock.
“That is my dream,” he mentioned. “Once I was rising up, I got here right here yearly. I keep in mind Dimond enjoying Daishen Nix (initially Fairbanks) at Trinity Prep. “It is wonderful to win this event.”
It wasn’t the primary time he did not reply the decision when the crew wanted a well timed bucket, as he went 4-of-8 from lengthy vary all recreation, tying for the second-most factors on the crew. 12.
Sloan Lentfer mentioned, “He hit virtually any 3-pointer, particularly on the finish of video games.
Lentfer was named event MVP for the second straight weekend and had back-to-back double-doubles with a team-leading 17 factors and 10 rebounds.
“That is one of the best recreation I’ve ever performed and I am excited to see the place I can go the remainder of the 12 months,” he mentioned.
He and his cousin Luke Lentfer had been fairly the dynamic duo within the put up, matching Ivanoff with 12 factors and 9 rebounds shy of his personal double-double.
The Grizzlies usually promised to lean on their overwhelming physicality and gave the Warriors all they may deal with, outscoring them 25-21 and denying the overwhelming majority of their discipline objectives.
“Coming into the sport, our intention was to be bodily,” Boerger mentioned. “We’re larger and extra bodily and that is who we’re. We needed to do this, however we additionally knew that Heritage Christian is so gifted and so gifted that they actually storm within the first quarter. “The large effort was simply making an attempt to regulate the tempo early within the recreation.”
Grace Christian was in a position to maintain Heritage Christian star sophomore Tae Simmons to simply eight factors with 4 factors in every half in Friday’s semifinal loss to Bettye Davis East.
“The one factor we may do for us was choose it up and make them take arduous photographs from the surface and are available again like loopy,” Boerger mentioned. “The umpires allowed us to play right this moment and we had been in a position to get an enormous pitch inside. It was on the finish of the rebound the place we simply dominated.”
When Simmons slowed, senior Giovanni Goree broke free and scored a game-high 20 factors, however didn’t hit a possible game-tying 3-pointer on his crew’s last possession of the sport.
After profitable a number of tournaments final 12 months, most notably the 3A state title behind Nome-Beltz, Grace Christian is hoping the boldness and momentum gained from this newest expertise will propel it even increased.
“I believe we’re nonetheless fed up with the ache of final 12 months,” Boerger mentioned. “Hyperfocus the place you may be good, however we need to be unbreakable and unbreakable, we simply have to concentrate to each element. We maintain one another accountable and we love one another.”
Alaska Airways Traditional
All Match Crew
Sloan Lentfer, Grace Christian (MVP)
Tae Simmons, Heritage Christian
Luke Lentfer, Grace Christian
JJ Parker, Ketchikan
Deshawn Rushmeyer, East Anchorage
Giovanni Goree, Heritage Christian
Julius Adlawan, West Anchorage
Akeem Sulaiman, East Anchorage
Kellen Jedlicka, Grace Christian