FAIRBANKS — The Interior Youth Basketball Association Grizzlies captured the eighth-grade girls division title Monday in the Northwest Championships tournament in Seattle, capping up a 26-1 season for the team from Fairbanks.
The Grizzlies hoisted the first-place trophy after winning 51-44 against the Eastside Basketball Club of Redmond, Wash., a Seattle suburb. Ruthy Hebard, 6-foot-1 and the division’s Most Valuable Player honoree, led the Grizzlies with 26 points in the final at Seattle’s Salvation Army Community Center.
Kiana Moore contributed 11 points in the victory that was emotional for Grizzlies head coach Mason Campbell, who coached most of this year’s players last year in the Under One Roof Tournament in Reno, Nev., where the team finished 0-4.
“Traveling to Seattle, we didn’t have a lot of expectations,” Campbell said Monday from Seattle. “I thought we would be better (than in Reno) but we were not expecting to win the majority of our games.
“To find ourselves in the championship game was very exciting,” he said, “and to play against a team in the championship game that beat us earlier in the tournament was very special for us.”
Monday’s victory redeemed Saturday’s 48-39 loss to Eastside in a pool play at the Salvation Army Center.
“It was our only loss of the season and a chance to play them again was special,” Campbell said.
“All the hard work they put in and all the commitment and sacrifices they made to really see the goal (achieived) at the end was really emotional for me,” he continued. “It made them realize that they can play on this level not only in the state of Alaska, but in the state of Washington because they’re the champions of the Pacific Northwest tournament.”
The Grizzlies were among 150 teams, ranging from fifth graders to high school players, in the three-day tournament that took place at various sites in the Seattle area. There were only two girls divisions, seventh and eighth grade.
The Grizzlies opened Saturday with a 30-24 win over the Seattle All-Stars White at the Vista Center in Seattle. Moore led the IYBA squad with 19 points.
That win preceded the Grizzlies’ first encounter against Eastside. Hebard paced the Fairbanks team with 20 points while Moore scored 10 and Taylor Hasting added seven.
The Grizzlies wrapped up pool play Sunday with a 54-5 romp of Athletes British Columbia at the EX 3 Center to advance to the semifinal round later.
The Grizzlies got a balanced attack, led by three players in double figures — Hebard (13), Moore (11) and Desiree Palacios (10). The team’s four other players contributed, as Alexis Shipman and Kyja Campbell had six points apiece and Hasting and Rachel Jordan added four each.
The Grizzlies prevailed 54-47 win against the Seattle All-Stars Blue in an intense, physical semifinal. Mason Campbell said his team was prepared for the Blue because Eastside had played a similar style Saturday.
“They (Blue) were boxing out, pushing under the boards. It really affected us,” said Campbell, whose team trailed 15-7 in the first quarter. “But we learned from the first game (against Eastside) and the players really adapted.”
Hebard poured in 26 points, Moore provided 18 and Hasting had eight to pace the Grizzlies in the semifinal.
The Grizzlies also won this season in three tournaments in Alaska — one in Valdez and two in Wasilla, including the eighth-grade state competition.