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Tikigaq's girls basketball team is primed to defend its 2A state title, knowing 'nothing is given'

Mar. 13—Point Hope is a small community in Northwest Alaska with a strong Iñupiaq culture where whaling is not only a way of life, but requires the whole community to come together.

The Tikigaq high school girls basketball team embodies those values and carries that with them every time they step on the court.

Harpoonerettes head coach Ramona Rock believes that those practices and beliefs have directly correlated to the program's dynastic level of success: They've captured four of the last five 2A state championships, and are now seeking a third straight title.

"This is instilled in our girls," she said. "They had a really tough season again, beating 4A schools in Alaska and out in Las Vegas."

Led by the reigning 2A Player of the Year, junior guard Jennifer Nash, and strong group of seniors that includes three starters, No. 1 seed Tikigaq is primed to pull off a rare three-peat at the 2024 state championship tournament this week, but the team knows that it won't come easy.

"Nothing is given to them," Rock said. "They know they have a target on their back. They work very hard as a team and we are all very proud of the Tikigaq Harpoonerettes."

Along with her relatives Rex and Ryan Rock, they collaborate to coach and hold their players to a high standard of excellence on the court and in the classroom.

"We all have high expectations of our student athletes in school and on the court," she said. "Last year, the girls won the highest GPA award and the most assists."

While each title defense in a given year comes with its own unique set of challenges, consistency in coaching, unselfishness, and mutual respect for every opponent they go up against have been key to their sustained success.

"I just feel like they're ready," Rock said.

Nash in particular is a player Rock credits for stepping up even more as leader, now that she's an upperclassmen.

"I watched when she was a little girl watching our teams at state, and she does her homework," Rock said. "She's always checking and watching games. She works so hard. Her and other seniors are my hardest workers."

Nash's lack of selfishness on the court personifies what Tikigaq basketball is all about. She regularly dishes out the ball to her teammates even though she possesses the playmaking ability to take over most games by herself.

"She spreads the rock and is so fun to watch," Rock said. "She's got a great sense of the full court and could easily score, but she looks for her teammates and is an all-around player."

Even though they're the runaway favorites to win it all again this year, the Harpoonerettes don't underestimate anybody they could potentially face.

"I look at all the teams and believe that they're all strong," Rock said. "We're looking forward to games starting."

Tikigaq's first opponent will be No. 8 seed Haines at 4:45 p.m. Thursday at the Alaska Airlines Center.

ASAA 2A State Tournament

At Alaska Airlines Center

Girls

Thursday

Game 1: No. 1 Tikigaq v. No. 8 Haines at 4:45 p.m.

Game 2: No. 4 Glennallen v. No. 5 Unalakleet at 9:30 a.m.

Game 3: No. 3 Nenana v. No. 6 Hooper Bay at 8 a.m.

Game 4: No. 2 Metlakatla v. No. 7 Susitna Valley at 3:15 p.m.

Friday

Consolation

Loser of Game 1 v. Loser of Game 2 at 8 a.m.

Loser of Game 3 v. Loser of Game 4 at 9:30 a.m.

Semifinals

Tikigaq/Haines v. Glennallen/Unalakleet at 4:45 p.m.

Nenana/Hooper Bay v. Metlakatla/Susitna Valley at 3:15 p.m.

Saturday

Fourth/sixth place

Winner of Consolation 1 v. Winner of Consolation 2 at 8 a.m.

Third/fifth place

Loser of Game 5 v. Loser of Game 6 at 11 a.m.

Championship

Winner of Game 5 v. Winner of Game 6 at 6:30 p.m.

Boys

Thursday

Game 1: No. 1 Hooper Bay v. No. 8 Unalaska at 11 a.m.

Game 2: No. 4 Metlakatla v. No. 5 Unalakleet at 12:30 p.m.

Game 3: No. 3 Petersburg v. No. 6 Ninilchik at 6:15 p.m.

Game 4: No. 2 Cordova v. No. 7 Wrangell at 3:15 p.m.

Friday

Consolation

Loser of Game 1 v. Loser of Game 2 at 11 a.m.

Loser of Game 3 v. Loser of Game 4 at 12:30 p.m.

Semifinals

Hooper Bay/Unalaska v. Metlakatla/Unalakleet at 6:15 p.m.

Petersburg/Ninilchik v. Cordova/Wrangell at 7:45 p.m.

Saturday

Fourth/Sixth place

Winner of Consolation 1 v. Winner of Consolation 2 at 9:30 a.m.

Third/Fifth place

Loser of Game 5 v. Loser of Game 6 at 3 p.m. at 12:30 p.m.

Championship

Winner of Game 5 v. Winner of Game 6 at 8:30 p.m.