For the first time in nine years, the Lady Mariners, recently crowned as the 2015 Region III champions, are gearing up for the 3A State tournament, which kicks off today at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Over their spring break, the Mariners could be found in the gym, buckling down to fine tune their skills in the lead up to their final weekend of competition, but also having a lot of fun.
“(The Mariners) are in good spirits,” said head coach, Chad Felice. “They’re pretty loose after four months of being with each other… they’re laughing, joking, having a good time, getting ready for business.”
Of all the teams she’s played on in her four years at Homer High, senior Larsen Fellows said this year’s squad “fits the best together.”
Her senior teammate, Shelby Alexander, agreed, attributing the team’s recent Region III championship title to their ability to stick together through the tightest games, against the toughest competition.
“We couldn’t have done it without each other,” she said.
The Mariners will face off against Hutchison tonight, a Fairbanks team that Felice thinks will be an even match-up in size and ability for the Mariners. Homer did not play Hutchison this season, but lost to the Hawks at a tournament last year in Barrow. Felice says his players are anxious to “get another crack at them.”
Hutchison has an all-state guard who is a skillful outside shooter, so to prepare, the Mariners practiced defending some of the Homer varsity boys this week in practice.
“We made them act like guards from Hutchison, so we could key in on what they do, and get ready for them,” said Felice.
The other teams contending for the Girls 3A State Championship title are Barrow, Bethel, Valdez, Sitka, ACS, and Nikiski. Seeding at the tournament was determined by “Wins Per Index,” a complex calculation that Felice feels is not necessarily indicative of ability. Barrow received the first seed, and the Mariners were seeded 7th. Felice says the lower seeding doesn’t bother him; he’s happy to be “the underdog again.”
“I feel like it’s going to be a whole lot like the Region (III) tournament. A very even tournament. There are some teams we haven’t played before, which is always a wild card. It should be a whole lot of fun,” he said.
The Mariners intend to make a statement at the state tournament “that Homer basketball is here to stay.”
“We’re here to put ourselves on the map,” said Felice.
When asked who is the team to beat, Felice’s answer conveyed the composed confidence that has come to define the Lady Mariners’ play this season.
“The team to beat would be us, that’s what I really think,” he said.
Games at the state tournament will be streamed live at www.asaa.org. The Mariners tip off against Hutchison at 8:30pm tonight. If they win, they will face the winner of ACS v. Sitka on Friday at 5:10pm.
Lindsay Olsen is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.
Mariner girls v. Hutchison 8:30pm @ Sullivan Arena