Third time's the charm: Wasilla girls rally to beat rival Colony and claim 4A state basketball title

Mar. 24—Jeannie Hebert had guided the Wasilla High girls basketball team to six state championships entering Saturday night's title bout with rival Colony. However, the Warriors last title run was in 2017 — seven years ago.

After knocking on the door of "lucky No. 7″ for the past two years only to come up short at the hands of Mountain City Christian, formerly Anchorage Christian School, the Warriors finally knocked the door down by coming from behind to beat the Knights 35-32.

"We've had to battle Mountain City the last couple of years so I'm super proud that they got a ring under their belt," Hebert said. "Our fans were phenomenal and it feels awesome to get that monkey off their backs."

Just as Hebert had predicted Friday when her team punched its ticket to a third straight state finals appearance by beating the two-time defending champion Lions, the lower bowl at the Alaska Airlines Center arena was flooded with a sea of green for Colony and red for Wasilla. The Mat-Su showed out in force to support its two powerhouse programs who were meeting in the state championship for the first time.

"I think every high school kid would love to play in this atmosphere, and I told my kids before the game that there's 22 (schools) in 4A and 20 other ones that would like to be in the position that we're in so take a minute and enjoy the moment and then get down to business," Hebert said.

The state title game marked the fifth matchup between the two rival programs this season and while Colony got the better of Wasilla in the first three during the regular season, the Warriors bested the Knights for the regional and state championships.

"They got us the first three times, but we knew if we put all our games together that we'd get them and we got them in the last two games, the most important ones in my opinion," Hebert said.

Holding a one-point lead at halftime, Wasilla was held scoreless through the first five minutes of the third quarter as Colony regained the lead by going on an 11-0 run during that span.

"Colony made us work and they're a super great team," junior guard Mylee Anderson said. "We were down most of the game and just had to trust in our coach and our teammates."

The Warriors began mounting their comeback in the final minutes of the quarter by closing it out on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit down from 10 to just four heading into the final frame.

"When we play Colony, it usually is a game of runs," Anderson said. "We just have to stay in it and realize that we have the chance to come back and we did."

Wasilla extended its run through the early part of the fourth quarter by scoring its first four points to force a 29-29 tie.

"We were down by 10 and we had to dig ourselves out of a hole but we had to do it one possession at a time," Hebert said. "We weren't going to get it back at the same time."

The Warriors stuck to their offensive game plan and were able to gradually chip away at the deficit until it was whittled down and they were able to take the lead.

"We were able to crawl back into it and then when it mattered in the last two minutes, my kids executed phenomenally on defense and offensively, just put the ball in the basket," Hebert said.

Anderson hit a pair of back-to-back jumpers to tie the game again and then take a 33-31 lead with 2:04 left to play. She knocked down a pair of free throws with 38 seconds left to extend her team's lead to the final margin of victory. The shots capped her second straight night of scoring at least 20 points.

Junior forward Layla Hays, who tied for the game high in rebounds with 11, earned Player of the Game honors.

The future Division I recruit has been playing the last month, including all of the postseason, with a broken foot but that didn't stop her from powering through the pain and continue being a dominant presence in the post.

"I got an X-ray about a week and a half ago and found out it was broken but I said I'm not (going to) not play," Hays said. "I don't usually notice it with the adrenaline but at the end it's pretty painful."

Hebert said her initial injury occurred when the team played West Valley four weeks ago and they kept her workload light in practice so she could go hard in games.

"She's probably going to have to have surgery," Hebert said. "Some days I didn't think she was going to be able to do it but she did and I am so proud of her. It tells me about Layla's character and what she is willing to fight through for one of her dreams, which is winning a state title for Wasilla High School."

As has been the case since she has been playing through it, Hays was on crutches during the postgame award ceremony. She said that playing Mountain City on Friday in the semifinals "really fueled" the team heading into Saturday's title game and it makes earning the crown that much sweeter given they had to go through two of the best teams in the state to accomplish it.

"We saw the bracket and were like 'OK it's going to be challenging' but we practiced hard and we knew coming into this tournament that it wasn't going to be easy," Anderson said. "We definitely can say that we had the hard side of the bracket and we conquered it."

4A Girls All-Tournament Team

Kerra Baxter, Thunder Mountain; Morgan Maldonado, Mountain City Christian Academy; Mylee Anderson, Wasilla; Tonya Karpow, Colony; Keelie Kronberger, Mountain City Christian Academy; Hallie Clark, Colony; Layla Hays, Wasilla; Maile Wilcox, Dimond; Aryanna Watson, Service; Evan Hamey, Dimond.

4A Girls Basketball Tournament

At Alaska Airlines Center



Colony 62, North Pole 33

Wasilla 47, Bartlett 22

Thunder Mountain 58, Dimond 44

Mountain City Christian Academy 59, Service 54



Service 56, Bartlett 23

Dimond 56, North Pole 52


Colony 69, Thunder Mountain 35

Wasilla 54, MCCA 43



Dimond 47, Service 36


Mountain City 52, Thunder Mountain 37


Wasilla 35, Colony 32