ACS Women’s Basketball Team Minimizes Rise to 4A
After dominating Division 3A for more than half a decade, the Anchorage Christian School women’s basketball team is doing the same in its freshman year in Division 4A, the highest level of high school competition in the city. State of Alaska.
“It’s definitely more fun to play at level 4A,” said senior Sarah Sorrells. “We’re thrilled for the state and the regions and we’re excited to hopefully make history this year.”
The decision to move a program up or down a level is not something the school can ask for or refuse. Classifications are determined by the Alaska School Activities Association, which is responsible for sanctioning 36 activities ranging from sports to music, art, drama, debate, language, and student government.
“The biggest difference is that we’re wanted in 4A,” said Chase Dyson, fourth-year head coach and first-year athletic director.
While the previous tier schools are most certainly relieved to see the Lions go, many on the team are excited about the uplift and think it’s long overdue.
“It’s fun and more exciting to get into games, but I don’t think anything has really changed,” said star junior guard Sayvia Sellers. “I thought we should have been raised and it was good that we were finally raised to 4A.”
The Lions haven’t exclusively faced 3A teams in their incredible run at this level and according to Dyson.
“In the past, we’ve played a lot of 4A teams before this year as well,” Dyson said. “We are still playing in the Dimond tournament and have tried to schedule as many home games as possible.”
Dyson said key to the Lions’ tremendous success has been their core values of faith, hard work and selfless culture that emanate throughout the program.
“Everything we have was given to us by God,” Dyson said. “We recognize that, are grateful and are grateful for the opportunity to come out and represent it.”
Another key to the team’s success has been a sense of selflessness which is reflected in the way they play the game.
“We know we have outside shooters who can hit and we know we can count on each other to make big buckets and hit big layups when we need to,” Sorrells said.
Their goal on every possession is to maximize scoring opportunities no matter who gets credited with the bucket because they all work and are capable of finishing. Sellers says kicking the ball to his teammates has become “second nature”.
“We try to play for each other and take the best shot,” Dyson said. “One person’s shot is the team’s shot and we try to take the best shot on the ground with every possession. When he enters, we celebrate as a team.
The Lions’ historic winning streak against competition from Alaska which currently stands at 93 straight games and is six shy of breaking the all-time record of 99 set by the Ninilchick in the early 2000s.
No player on their current roster was on the team the last time the ACS suffered a loss to an opponent from Alaska four years ago in the 2017-18 season. It was a 55-33 loss to the Wasilla Warriors.
“We have girls who are mentally focused and willing to do whatever you ask them to do to make it work in your favor when you’re in close matches,” Dyson said.
The Lions haven’t played many close games in their home state in the past five years, so each year they look for more competitive matchups by taking on Lower 48 teams.
“We like tight games,” Sorrells said. “It tests us and that’s what we train for. We train to play against better teams out of state and we just want to get better with every game.
ACS finished the regular season with a 19-3 overall record with all three losses to out-of-state competition while earning five wins over non-Alaskan opponents.
“This season has been fun,” Sorrells said. “We were able to get out of state a lot and compete with the best schools in the country.”
Two of those wins against out-of-state teams went to overtime, and the Lions had to finish them without their best player. The sellers foul in both, which served as a good litmus test for the young players and gave them the opportunity to step up and make plays.
Sellers is not only the best and most complete player for the Lions, she is one of the best players in the country. She is ranked in the top 30 nationally for the Class of 2023, according to ESPN. She has already received several scholarship offers from top Division I college programs and was named to the Naismith Trophy watch list ahead of the season.
“She’s a leader on and off the floor,” Dyson said. “She can score the ball and has had several games where she can score more, but what I like most about her is that she prefers to pass it first.”
Despite being overwhelming favorites to come out on top almost every time they step onto the pitch for a game, the Lions look past no opponent and always approach every game with a singular focus.
“We don’t go into any game thinking we have to win this game,” Dyson said. “We just try to be a great basketball team and we know if we’re great as a team, success will follow.”
ACS finished its first regular season at Tier 4A ranked first in the Northern Lights Conference with a perfect 10-0 record against conference competition. They will be the top seeds in the conference tournament to be held at Palmer High School March 17-19 and are sure to be the favorites to win the state as well.