ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - On what might seem like the edge of civilization to some, a high school hoops team has evolved into a force to be reckoned with.
Photo courtesy of King Cove High School.
King Cove High School, which has just 28 students, has over the years turned into a basketball powerhouse. The girls team's head coach said what's behind the magic is hardly a secret: A ruthless combination of talent and tenacity has this homegrown hoops squad turning heads across the country.
"By far, it's an enormous amount of God-given talent," said head coach Gary Lamar, who has been coaching for decades and moved to King Cove from Texas to coach and serve as school principal as well. "I mean, you have a boys' team that's ranked No. 1, a girls' team that's ranked No. 1, and you pulled them out of a group of 28 students out in the far reaches of southern Alaska.
"You just don't see that type of talent in a small population but maybe once in a lifetime," he said, adding that his players' openness to constructive criticism and willingness to be coached has also helped them improve at a rapid rate.
Two of the tiny town's all-star women's players, who have been hooping together since the fourth grade, said it's all about playing hard and having a good time doing it.
"It's been really fun," said junior Elaina Mack. "We've known each other since we were little. It's all really fun."
Mack is currently leading the state with her scoring average, recording a whopping 34.1 points per game, according to stats from the Alaska School Activities Association.
Jalaya Duarte, another junior - who herself also leads the state, but instead in boards, with 15.4 per game - said they're blessed top be able to show up to games knowing that there's team chemistry and a commitment from everyone to play as hard as they can.
"Playing with the same intensity we always do," Duarte said. "Going into every game knowing that, you know, we're going to come out with a win, and hopefully take a championship these next couple of years."
The Rookies haven't won a state title since 2004. That's the next big one on the list.
After that, Mack and Duarte both said they want to play ball in college, though they haven't quite narrowed down where just yet. But they, along with fellow junior Sadie Newton - whose aunt helped the 2004 championship team as a coach to a state title - have more than assisted in getting the Rookies to what's currently a 24-game win streak this season. Newton is known for hot shooting from the field and already has 24 treys on the season, putting her among the top 15 three-point shooters in the state.
"It's been a great year," Lamar said. "We've come a long way, but this thing was started a long time ago."