The girls’ basketball team earns first 1A state championship in program history
Editor’s note: This article was published in the April 2023 issue of the North Star Catholic.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Lumen Christi Catholic High School girls‘ basketball team were crowned state champions on March 18, following a half-week-long rally of victories in the 1A basketball Alaska state championship at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
For the third year in a row, the girl‘s and boys‘ basketball teams of Lumen Christi High School advanced to the Alaska Class 1A state basketball championship, which took place between March 15-18, 2023.
The Archangels provided the Lumen faithful with an exhilarating finish as the girls captured the state championship for the first time in school history defeating Shaktoolik, 32-30.
The girls were led by seniors Emily Ross and Natalie Grubba. Selected for the All-State, All-Tournament team, the dynamic duo combined for 121 points, 72% of Lumen’s total offense throughout the 4-day tournament. Natalie also led the team in rebounds (49), while Emily led the team in steals (15). Sophomore point guard Amara Warren rounded out the offense by scoring 36 points, earning a spot on the all-state, the all-tournament team as well.
Alaska’s 1A class of schools are those communities with the smallest enrollments, with Lumen Christi hovering at about 100 students in grades 7-12. Most of the other teams in the 16-team state tournament field are from small Alaska native villages from all corners of the state, and far from Alaska’s limited road system.
Entering the tournament as the number one seed, the Lady Archangels first faced Akiachak, a Yupik village on the Kuskokwim River, earning a 40-19 win. In the quarterfinals, Lumen got the win, 32-24, over Shishmaref, a small Inupiat village located on Sarichef Island in the Chukchi Sea. In the semi-finals, the ladies battled for a 58-46 win over Buckland, an Inupiat village in the Northwest Arctic Borough.
In the final game, Lumen’s smothering defense held sharp-shooting Shaktoolik to just 16 points after three-quarters of play. As rugged and tough as the Arctic coastline of their Norton Sound village, the Lady Wolverines roared back in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Archangels 14-4 in the final eight minutes of play. The momentum had shifted, and the Wolverines were attacking when Lumen got the ball back with 14 seconds left on the clock. Of her 21 rebounds of the tourney, Amara Warren saved her most important one for the last as she snagged the ball from her own missed free throw with 8 seconds left on the clock and the Archangels held on to get the first girls‘ basketball championship in school history.
First-year head coach Kenny Barker had this to say about the intense final to the Anchorage Daily News, “(The feeling was) excitement. We’ve already been through some of those games and already experienced that (tight games), so we worked through it at the beginning of the season.”
The girls’ championship banner will now be hung in the Archangel gym, alongside the two championship banners of the boys from 2004 and 2021.
Like the girl’s team, the boy’s team will graduate just two seniors, Sam Kaplan, their leader on the court, while Tate Hart led from the bench as injuries limited his playing time for most of the season. In the first round of the tournament, the boys lost, 28-72, to the eventual state champions, Kake. The Tlingit Thunderbirds from southeast Alaska finished their season undefeated. The Archangels then fell to the Shaktoolik boys 40-49, ending their season. For the tournament, the young Archangels were led by freshman Tai Nelson with 19 points and 10 rebounds, sophomore Carson Wingate with 11 points and 15 rebounds, and freshman Bryce Sanders with 10 points and 5 rebounds.
The boys’ team was led by first-year and Lumen alum Patrick Moran. He said this about the season and environment at Lumen Christi: “I had a blast coaching the boy‘s team this year. We have a great group of kids at Lumen that love to compete at a high level and are fantastic ambassadors for the school. I think what makes Lumen unique is the sense of community that has been established and continues to grow. This was most evident at the state games in which the boys and girls teams cheered each other on along with parents, teachers, and community members.”