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HomeSportPrep Hoops: Ella Boerger and Sophie Lentfer lead Grace Christian girls to...

Prep Hoops: Ella Boerger and Sophie Lentfer lead Grace Christian girls to 3A state crown

Grace Christian’s Ella Boerger hits the runner over good defense. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

After riding shotgun to the Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year for much of the season, Ella Boerger took the wheel and drove the Grace Christian girls basketball team to a championship Saturday.

Boerger had 14 of her team’s first 20 points in the first half and then assisted on the winning basket in the fourth quarter to lead the Grizzlies to a 35-27 victory over Barrow in the Class 3A girls state tournament title game at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Boerger finished with a team-high 17 points and player of the year Sophie Lentfer added 13 points and 10 rebounds as Grace finished the season 26-3 and repeated as state champions.

“To win back-to-back is very hard,” said Grace coach Pete Johnson.

With nine of 10 players returning next season, the Grizzlies are in a strong position to get more hardware for the trophy case.

3A Girls All-Tournament
Shannel Kovalsky, Monroe Catholic
Aiga Unuto, Barrow
Tessa Anderson, Mt. Edgecumbe
Ella Boerger, Grace Christian
Madison Dill, Sitka
Allie Alexie, Bethel
Kiara Burnell, Barrow
Leila Church, Monroe Catholic
Carliese O’Brien, Mt Edgecumbe
Sophie Lentfer, Grace Christian

Boerger got the party started in the first half, scoring 10 straight points for the Grizzlies as they built a 20-6 lead. The 5-foot-6 junior guard hit a runner, drilled two 3-pointers and converted a layup off a nice bounce-pass assist from Poppy Wiggers-Pidduck.

It was Boerger’s world at that point as she dominated the championship game.

“We have a lot of great players on our team and Ella is one of them. People talk about Sophie and Sophie’s great, but without a guard who can give you the ball,” Johnson said. “This girl’s IQ … she could probably coach the team better than me. I want all the world to know that and all the coaches who put in time with her and all the other players; they deserve the credit. I just get the luxury of having them fit in our system, but this girl is golden.”

Grace extended its lead to 23-11 moments in the third quarter after 6-foot post player MJ van der Horst drilled a 3-pointer.

Barrow finally got going in the second half, piecing together a 9-0 run to get within 23-20. Aiga Unutoa hit a turnaround jumper, Kiara Burnell made a jumper, Faagi Unutoa converted a layup and free throw before Burnell knocked down another jumper as the Whalers made a game of it.

Even though the game was in Grace’s backyard, much of the crowd of more than 3,000 at the Alaska Airlines Center rooted for Barrow.

The Barrow fanbase showed up. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

“I think we knew going into the game that they were going to have a lot more energy, a lot bigger crowd to support them,” Boerger said. “Our coaches told us to listen for the silence. When the crowd goes silent, we know we’ve done something big.”

Lentfer’s corner 3-pointer stopped the Barrow run and gave Grace a 26-20 advantage. Then van der Horst scored on a feed from Boerger to make it 28-20.

Barrow reached the title game after running opponents off the court behind a terrific transition game. But Grace managed to slow down the runnin’ Whalers, holding them to 23% shooting.

“We competed and did what we needed to do on defense,” Boerger said. “We slowed them down which is what we were working towards, so it was really exciting.”

Even with the fastbreak stalled, Barrow found success from the perimeter. Kylen Burnell’s NBA-range 3-pointer followed by Kiara’s Burnell’s free throw got the Whalers as close as 28-26.

But down the stretch, Lentfer made winning plays to demonstrate why she was named player of the year.

Grace Christian’s Sophie Lentfer attacks the rim. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

The 6-foot junior guard scored in the post, made a blocked shot and knocked down two foul shots as Grace’s lead swelled to 33-27.

“We knew we had a chance and I’m just really proud of all my girls,” Boerger said.

Grace snapped top-seeded Barrow’s 10-game winning streak as the Whalers made their ninth all-time appearance in the state final.

“Hats off to Barrow,” Johnson said. “They are an icon in 3A girls basketball.”

BARROW (27) – Ky.Burnell 3, A.Unutoa 6, Ki.Burnell 7, F.Unutoa 6, McFadden 0, Sundai 0, Mila 0, Z.Unutoa 0, Wolgemuth 5, A.Unutoa 0, Tuilautala 0, Brower 0.
GRACE (35) – Helton 0, Evans-Grant 0, Wiggers-Pidduck 0, Jackson 0, Schild 0, Boerger 17, van der Horst 5, Jones 0, Lentfer 13, Salima 0.
Barrow 6 5 9 7 – 27
Grace Christian 12 8 6 9 – 35

Barrow’s Aiga Unutoa with the scoop shot. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Third-Place Game

Shannel Kovalsky crushed it with 15 points and 13 rebounds to help to power Monroe Catholic to a 51-49 win over Mt. Edgecumbe in the third-place game.

Leila Church added 12 points and three assists for the Rams, who won the battle of the boards 38-27 to finish the season 24-5.

Carliese O’Brien pumped in 16 points for Mt. Edgecumbe while Bessie Williams had 14 and Tessa Anderson 10 points and seven boards for the Braves (22-5).

MT. EDGECUMBE (49) – Friske 0, Akaran 2, David 0, Kiunya 0, O’Brien 16, Cedars 4, Williams 14, Anderson 10, Otton 3, Aliralria 0.
MONROE (51) – Rhodes 0, Snowden 0, Bond 8, Kovalsky 15, Crumm 2, L.Cortez 3, E.Cortez 0, Weekley 0, Wilkerson 6, Church 12, Turiel 0, Redfox 5.
Mt. Edgecumbe 17 14 9 11 – 51
Monroe Catholic 13 15 6 15 – 49

Fourth-Place Game

Madison Dill sank 5-of-7 foul shots as Sitka outscored Bethel by seven at the foul line, which proved to be the difference in a 56-53 victory over Bethel in the fourth-place game.

Naia Nelson had 12 points and Adriana Denkinger added 11, including 3-of-4 from the foul line as Sitka (19-9) enjoyed an 11-4 advantage in free throws.

Allie Alexie led Bethel with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Briella Herron had 16 points and Payton Boney contributed 10 points for the Warriors (15-12).

BETHEL (53) – Herron 16, Boney 10, Lieb 1, Harpak 7, Boney 0, Jackson 0, Andrew 0, Leinberger 0, Simon 0, Alexie 19, Lonewolf 0, Fredericks 0.
SITKA (56) – Nelson 12, Mayville 8, Denkinger 11, Mullin 0, Radziukinas 4, Mar.Dill 0, Clifton 2, Blankenship 0, Mad.Dill 15, Brady 4.
Bethel 7 12 21 13 – 53
Sitka 10 9 16 21 – 56

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