The last time the Kake boys basketball team appeared in a state championship game was more than two decades ago.
The team was competing in the 2A division and current head coach Anthony Ross, who went by Anthony Dolan at the time, was on the team that came up short in a 10-point loss to Angoon in the 2000 state title game.
In its first trip back to big stage since the turn of the century, Kake ended a nearly four-decade title drought by blowing out the Aniak Halfbreeds 67-49 on Saturday afternoon at the Alaska Airlines Center. The last time the Thunderbirds won a state title was in 1987.
“It feels amazing to make history,” senior Ethan Kadake said.
Last year, Kake was in position to potentially end the program’s title drought at 35 years after qualifying for the 2022 1A state tournament, but after the whole team came down with COVID-19, they weren’t able to make the journey to Anchorage for a chance to claim the crowing achievement.
“We set this goal two years ago but didn’t have the opportunity to come up last year because of COVID, and to (win state) this year, it completely made up for everything,” Ross said.
The resounding win marked their 24th straight and capped off the first undefeated season in program history in dominant fashion.
“Going undefeated was just icing on the cake,” Ross said.
After having to come from behind late in the fourth quarter the night before to beat Tri-Valley and keep their record unblemished and championship hopes alive, the Thunderbirds were expecting a more competitive game. But thanks to Kadake and his 25 first-half points, they were able coast the rest of the way.
“We were expecting a tougher game, but it is what it is,” he said.
Even though he didn’t join his four teammates on the all-tournament team, Kadake did receive player of the game honors. In the final game of his prep career, the senior finished with a game-high 31 points.
“It feels amazing to come out and play in front of all my family and friends that paid lots of money to come here,” he said. “It felt good to get MVP of the game that mattered.”
This whole experience was especially meaningful for Ross, who got to help his son, Dominic, reach a goal that he fell short of reaching 23 years ago.
“If I had to do it all again and lose a state championship again for him to win, I’d do it all over again,” he said. “I couldn’t be more happier for these boys.”
Being on the journey with his father has been a dream come true, but Dominic Ross wouldn’t have had it any other way despite having last year’s chance to contend for a title snatched away.
“It’s been amazing,” Dominic Ross said. “We hoop at night, we hoop in the morning, and we hoop at lunchtime.”
As a junior, he can’t wait to get back to work and prepare to defend their title, and his father hopes that this triumph will be the first of many championships to come.
“There was a standard set in Kake for a long time to being winners and being state champions,” Anthony Ross said. “I think we set the new standard of being a state champion and also being undefeated.”
The Thunderbirds are happy to not only have won a state title for one another but for their Southeast community, who were arguably even more elated than the team when the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“It’s a great feeling for our boys but more importantly for our community,” Ross said. “Being able to take this back after 36 years and hang two banners, regional and state championship, it’s just a great feeling.”
State 1A boys state basketball
Kake 67, Aniak 49
Tri-Valley 73, Scammon Bay 62
Napaaqtugmiut 69, Newhalen 50
Klawock 50, Buckland 40