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Newhalen wins back-to-back 1A Girls State Championships

New Halen wins 1A Girls State Championsihpf
Published: Mar. 20, 2022 at 6:25 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Newhalen Malemutes won the 1A girls State basketball title, beating Klawock by just one point 43-42.

Newhalen lead the game most of the way, but it is March which means anything can happen. The Klawock Chieftains fought back into the game, erasing a 10-point deficit and Klawock’s Lea Armour had a great look at the basket to win the game at the buzzer. Armour’s shot bounced around on the rim but ultimately fell to the side, giving the Malamutes back to back state titles

“Oh my gosh I was really hoping it didn’t go in because it was like bouncing around like my heart just dropped when she put it up” Newhalen’s Johanna Nannalook said.

While Newhalen did win last year, the girls on the team didn’t consider it a true state title. Last year, games had to be played in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough due to COVID-19 restrictions, and only a limited amount of fans were allowed to attend.

“All I could think of was this is where it counts and you’ve got to finish it off, so all I could think of was box out and go for the ball, box out and go for the ball that is all I could think” Newhalen’s Aileen Lester said.

Aileen Lester finished as the player of the game for Newhalen and Kenai Holien was the player of the game for Klawock.

“This feels a lot different last year it was, we always said that last year didn’t count,” Lester said. “We are going for the state title, that one doesn’t count. We didn’t run through the smoke, we didn’t get to play in the Alaska Airlines Center.”

Lester is just a junior and while Newhalen will be losing some key seniors, they still have a fairly young team and will be a strong contender for a three-peat next season.

“It is so much more exciting, in Palmer last year there was only maybe about 100 people allowed into the gym, so it’s a lot different and we were hoping to get it again in this big gym because it is a different experience,” Nannalook said.

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