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Mt. Edgecumbe boys basketball team aims to cap off undefeated season with a 3A state title

Mar. 19—Standing in the way of a potential repeat by the Grace Christian boys at the Alaska state 3A basketball tournament is top-seeded Mt. Edgecumbe. The Braves are a perfect 24-0 this year and are seeking to win the first state title in program history.

"We've had a really good season obviously, having not lost a game," said Mt. Edgecumbe head coach Archie Young. "We've had some really good, close, competitive games, so I feel like we're pretty tested and pretty prepared."

Young's team faced off with the Grizzlies in the semifinals at state last year and was blown out by 23 points. They finished in fifth place after narrowly losing to Houston in the third-place game.

He believes this year's team is "very balanced" with good players throughout the roster and starting lineup.

Even though the Braves aren't the reigning state champions, they know that there's an inevitable target on their collective backs as the No. 1 seed and proud owners of an undefeated record.

"People want to be the team to give us our first loss, and we're focused on what we need to do and playing to win each game and not being afraid to lose," Young said.

The Braves rely on five experienced seniors who have previous state tournament experience and what they call "the three H's."

"Being honest about our effort, being humble in our successes, and being hungry to keep winning and continue what we're doing," Young said.

Despite an exodus of talent, Grace Christian boys are poised to contend

While the Grizzlies girls team didn't lose a single player from its state title-winning team, the boys team wasn't nearly as fortunate. It graduated a whopping 10 seniors, taking most of what had been their trademark size with them.

"We're obviously excited for the opportunity to defend our state championship and it's been a really good year," Grace Christian boys coach Jason Boerger said. "We haven't really played some of the other good 3A teams like Nome, Mt. Edgecumbe and Barrow, but we still feel like we have a really good chance."

The Grizzlies are entering the state tournament as the No. 3 seed and like the chances that their new-look group will be able to make a name for themselves.

"Our young players are playing pretty good, shooting really well, and are sharing the ball with each other," Boerger said. "It's been a fun year and in some ways, we do things even better than we did last year, which is fun to see."

Junior captains Kellen Jedlicka and Robbie Annett are the only two returners who had prominent roles on last year's team as either starters or key rotational players.

"I'm not a big talker, so most of it has not been by words but by action," Jedlicka said. "I'm trying to learn to talk a little bit more and that's been good for me because (the team) responds super well."

The loss of cousins Luke and Sloan Lentfer, who were the 3A Players of the Year in 2022 and 2023, caused the Grizzlies to adjust their plan of attack on both ends of the court.

"Obviously we're smaller," Boerger said. "It's hard to beat the Lentfer muscle inside, so we've had learn how to box out a little better and do some defensive fundamentals a little better.

"Our defense is pretty tough, our guys are pretty hungry, and we have more quickness on the floor that we didn't have last year."

They've become a more guard-oriented team this year, relying on skilled shooters who can also penetrate since they don't have the overwhelming post presences they had in the past.

"I'm scoring a little bit more now than I did before, being willing to shoot the ball and being asked to score a little bit more," Jedlicka said. "I'm trying to be a defensive anchor too."

Annett was the Gatorade Player of the Year for Alaska boys cross country and plays an integral role as the starting point guard this year.

"He uses his legs and creates a lot of good baskets for us in transition, and is a really great athlete," Boerger said. "He has a fiery competitive spirit and is definitely an on-floor leader for us."

Given that the majority of this year's roster wasn't on last year's title-winning team, they don't feel as much pressure as a reigning state champion normally would.

"I think they're excited about earning their own way and are a little anxious to earn their own way and make their own mark," Boerger said. "We're on our own journey, and I think we're excited for this chance. In some ways, they don't know what they don't know."

3A Boys Basketball Tournament

At Alaska Airlines Center

Wednesday

Quarterfinals

No. 4 Barrow vs. No. 5 Valdez, 9:30 a.m. (Auxiliary gym)

No. 1 Mt. Edgecumbe vs. No. 8 Hutchison, 11 a.m. (Main court)

No. 2 Nome-Beltz vs. No. 7 Houston, 12:30 p.m. (Auxiliary gym)

No. 3 Grace Christian vs. No. 6 Seward, 7:45 p.m. (Auxiliary gym)

Thursday

Consolation

Loser Barrow/Valdez vs. Loser Mt. Edgecumbe/Hutchison, noon (Auxiliary gym)

Loser Nome-Beltz/Houston vs. Loser Grace Christian/Seward, noon (Main court)

Semifinals

Winner Barrow/Valdez vs. Winner Mt. Edgecumbe/Hutchison, 6:15 p.m. (Main court)

Winner Nome-Beltz/Houston vs. Winner Grace Christian/Seward, 7:45 p.m. (Main court)

Friday

Consolation

4th/6th place, 11 a.m. (Auxiliary gym)

Saturday

3rd/5th place, 10:30 a.m. (Avis complex)

Championship, 3 p.m. (Main court)