Story last updated at 3:03 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2002

Ninilchik girls 'three-peat' 2A title
By Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: sports
  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Ninilchik High School girls basketball coach Dan Leman is overcome by emotion after the Wolverines captured their third-straight 2A state title. Molly Bosick, right, scored a game-high 12 points as the Wolverines knocked off Yakutat 35-15 in the championship game.  
ANCHORAGE <> Like some hulking prizefighter facing off against a scrawny unknown, the heavily-favored Ninilchik High School girls basketball team entered the fray at last week's Class 2A state championships at Service High only to find their opponents ducking and dodging, playing slow-ball and keep away.

Showing the mark of a proven champion, the Wolverines would not be denied and ultimately fought to a 35-15 win over Yakutat in Saturday's final, laying claim to their third straight state title.

"I don't think losing was even an option," center Janelle Moerlein said standing outside the team's jubilant locker room while those within screamed "three-peat."

Yakutat did their best to take Ninilchik out of its game, slowing down the pace and putting a deep freeze on the Wolverines' typically aggressive and opportunistic offense. After routinely scoring more than 60 points per game during the regular season, the Wolverines found themselves ahead 15-7 at halftime.

"When your opponent slows the game down like that, you have to knock down your shots," said Ninilchik coach Dan Leman. "And we weren't making our shots."

But the Wolverines opened the second half with a 15-5 run, sparked by the clutch inside play of Molly Bosick and the timely passing of Whitney Leman. It was more than enough to overcome Yakutat, which was confounded by the Wolverines' tenacious defense.

Bosick led the Wolverines with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Leman added eight points and dished out six assists.

"It doesn't matter how high the score is," Whitney Leman said with a grin. "It just matters who's up when the final buzzer goes off."

Immediately after getting a water cooler dumped over his head in the post-game celebration, Whitney's coach and father addressed his team, fighting back tears as he acknowledged the end of an incredible ride for his team's seniors. Dan Leman's niece Brieanna, Bosick and Moerlein will all graduate this spring.

"You don't cry because you win," said junior Whitney Leman. "You cry because you know it's the last time you'll be playing with these teammates."

Leman's appreciation of her team's accomplishments has grown since she first won state three years ago.

"I just didn't know how special it was," she said.

A third straight state title gives the Wolverines a run of success without peer in Alaska basketball. The current Ninilchik dynasty has collected five state crowns in seven years, 10 straight District 3 titles and three undefeated seasons, including this season's perfect 28-0 record.

But the last two games of the 2001-2002 campaign didn't come easy. The Wolverines also met determined resistance from their semifinal opponent. Kake, following its first-round upset of top-ranked Point Hope, successfully employed slowdown tactics in Friday's semifinal with the high-powered Wolverines.

The Wolverines trailed by one point entering the forth quarter, but Molly Bosick knocked down nine of her 16 points down the stretch for a scrappy 38-32 win.