Lady Whalers roll to crown at Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic
Barrow head coach Chad Bunselmeier wasn't really too sure what to expect from his team going into the Mt. McKinley Bank Holiday Classic. The holiday break had forced some of his players to miss practice and left the team with three new starters when they tipped off play on Thursday.
The results, the Lady Whalers stunned almost everyone, including their veteran head coach.
"We had three new starters due to people being absent over break and lack of practice time," said Bunselmeier, who has guided Barrow to back-to-back trips to the Class 3A state basketball tournament. "Everyone stepped up and played their role."
Barrow, which is off to a 4-1 start to the 2017-18 season, kicked off its appearance in the Fairbanks tournament with an eye-opening defensive effort against the Seward Lady Seahawks.
Although the Lady Whalers were never in danger of losing, Bunselmeier said the team struggled to get its defensive game untracked against Seward. The Lady Seahawks followed the play of Coral Petrosius and Ashley Jackson to 23 points in the first half.
Barrow worked out its problems at the half. The Lady Whalers limited Seward to just six points in the third quarter.
"We started slow defensively, but in the second half we held Seward to only six points," he said.
Barrow salted the game with a dominating performance in the final eight minutes. Barrow outscored Seward by a staggering 18-0 margin in the final quarter of action.
"I was proud of how we played defensively and how we really finished strong," he stated.
Kuutuuq Danner, who was later selected the tournament's most valuable player, was Barrow's leading scorer with 19 points. Lewanne Brower also reached double figures, netting 14.
As a team, the Lady Whalers had nine players score in the 30-point win.
Barrow stepped up its play in their ensuing outing. They unzipped Grace Christian's man-to-man defense in the semifinals en route to claiming a 47-26 decision.
"Grace played a very aggressive man-to-man defense, but we defended well," Bunselmeier said.
Martha Kagak helped the BHS girls weather Grace's efforts early on with a solid defensive showing. She took two charges in the game and helped the Lady Whalers grind out a 24-12 halftime lead.
Danner, despite playing just three quarters, led all Barrow scorers in the contest with 18 points.
Olivia Leavitt helped cap the Lady Whalers' win late in the fourth quarter. She came off the bench and contributed a clutch 4-point play by throwing in a three-point shot and then tacking on a free throw.
Barrow wrapped up the tournament championship on Saturday by upending Monroe Catholic by a staggering 43-18 clip.
Monroe Catholic scored the first basket with a three-point shot. That turned out to be the Lady Rams' biggest highlight .Barrow held Monroe Catholic to only five points for the remainder of the first half.
"We are beginning to play much better team defense, which is exciting for this early in the year," said Bunselmeier. "Everyone is coming in and contributing and working to improve."
Brower, a freshmen, came off the bench and provided a huge spark on defense for Barrow.
Danner was the leading scorer for the final game, netting 19 points, including five from the free throw line.
Becca Gerke and Brower were also selected for the all-tournament team.
Barrow will play South Anchorage at home this weekend.