Winning Region championships is only a recent habit for the Lady Kings. Juneau has dominated the Region with 22 Region titles since 1984. Kayhi has only 12. Since 2014, Kayhi has reversed that trend and has won six straight Region titles, one shy of Juneau’s streak of seven consecutive from 2002-2008. It all started with a core of underdogs that changed the culture for the Lady Kings.
Catching up with the Starters
The point guard was Charley Edwardson. She was the “floor general” of the team and was “unpressable” according to coach Kelly Smith. She would always get the ball down the court and make sure her players were where they needed to be.
Edwardson coached the Lady Kings JV/C team in 2018. She is now focused on herself and her studies.
Eliah Anderson was a dominant forward, a crafty player, and an impact player. She attacked the basket and finished very well. By the end of her senior year Anderson surpassed the 1000-point mark.
Anderson is currently a senior at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan studying psychology, neuroscience and french. Her career goals are to pursue a PhD in School Psychology with a specialization in neuropsychology.
Anderson’s goals in her high school days were to go and play college basketball but could not because of a herniated disc in her back. She has since had back surgery but unfortunately her days of competitive sports are over. She hopes to maybe coach one day but right now is focused on her studies.
What Anderson misses most about playing basketball is the environment that Kayhi and the community brought.
“I miss playing in such a supportive atmosphere. I don’t think there is any other place in Alaska or even the country that supports girls basketball like Kayhi does. The pep band, pep club, cheerleaders, highlights, fans, [they] all contribute to make it a truly magical environment,” said Anderson. “It was special to be a part of and it is special to go back at Christmas and watch the traditions continue.”
A.J Dela Cruz was a year younger than the other four starters and became the important bridge between the core of four that started the streak, and the future that continued it. She was the shooter/backup point guard. Dela Cruz was confident with the ball, gave the team a second ball handler but everyone knew she could shoot the ball, she was quick and had a shot both outside of the three point line and a couple feet inside.
Dela Cruz is a junior at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. and is majoring in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience. Dela Cruz ended up being the only one of these five starters to cut down the net all four years of high school.
“I don’t think there are any words adequate enough to describe what it’s like to win a Region V title. After the first one, you just want to keep it going, especially at home,” said Dela Cruz. “That feeling of cutting down the net really never gets old.”
Lexi Biggerstaff was a dynamic forward, she worked both inside and outside the paint. She attacked the basket very well just like Anderson and it was hard for her defender to guard her.
She is currently a senior at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington where she plans on graduating college in the spring of 2020 with a degree in Communications (Concentration Media in Society).
After high school she continued her basketball career for two years at Everett Community College and finished her last two years of college basketball at Northwest University.
Biggerstaff said what made this group of five girls so special was how close they were prior to high school and their common mind frame and goals.
“We had a tight bond, because we played, traveled and trained with each other for years before high school even began. We understood what it took to make it how far we did. We had resilience and a lot of exposure to how much effort and hard work it takes,” said Biggerstaff “We all had one goal. We were a family.”
Courtney Kemble was the voice and rock of this group, the “hypeman” according to Dela Cruz. She played the post, but stretched defenses with her 3-point shot. Her clutch free throws in overtime against Thunder Mountain helped deliver the second-straight title for the Lady Kings in 2015.
Kemble is currently a senior at Washington State which is located in Pullman, Washington. studying accounting. She plans on graduating in December 2020.
After high school Kemble continued her basketball career at Centralia College for two years then decided to focus on her studies and transferred to Washington State.
Kemble said that it was easy playing for the girls next to her because of the hard work they had put into it.
“We spent so much time working hard together, it was easy to play for the girl next to you. She had gone through the same stuff you had.”
No one believed that this group could have won regions especially as young as they were when they did.
“Everyone said it was going to be Thunder Mountain, and that a bunch of sophomores were not going to stop them,” said Kemble. “After that win, we set the expectation to keep winning. We had to work hard to keep the standards high.”
After this core five group graduated everyone had their doubts about the Lady Kings program but Kemble and her crew knew that the Lady Kings program would be just fine.
“When we left, I know a lot of people had their doubts,” said Kemble. “I can speak for all of us seniors, we never did.”
Advice to younger girls
“Focus on supporting one another on and off the court. Everyone has an equally valuable role on the team and true greatness is achieved when everyone does their job and helps bring out the best in their teammates. The scoreboard doesn’t measure heart and teamwork so no matter the outcome, you guys should be proud of continuing the legacy of Lady Kings basketball.” – Eliah Anderson
“Honestly, work hard, trust each other, and have some fun. There’s going to be distractions and people are going to talk, but none of that should matter when you step onto the court.” – A.J. Dela Cruz.
“The best advice I could give to you is do the dirty work. Get in the gym more than anyone else, because inch by inch it’ll pay off in your individual game, your team and in life. Push through, be gritty and keep going even if your mind says to stop.” – Lexi Biggerstaff
“Play together and for each other. Don’t let the pressure get to you. Have fun, and work as hard as you can. You’re going to miss this, so take it all in.” – Courtney Kemble
Lady Kings Region titles by year
(1985,1993, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)