Alaska basketball players Kamaka Hepa and Matt Hobbs head to NCAA Tournament

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Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska
·2 min read
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Mar. 14—Kamaka Hepa of Utqiagvik and Matt Hobbs of Anchorage are getting ready to dance.

Both play for men's basketball teams that qualified for the NCAA Division I Tournament, affectionately known as the Big Dance.

Hepa is a junior for the Texas Longhorns, who beat Oklahoma State 91-86 Saturday night to earn the Big 12 Title and a spot in the 64-team tournament.

Hobbs is a senior for the Hartford Hawks, who defeated UMass-Lowell 64-50 Saturday to claim the American East conference championship, which also comes with a tournament berth.

Both play sparingly.

Hepa, a 6-foot-9 forward, led the Barrow Whalers to two Class 3A state championships in Alaska before transferring to a Portland high school for two seasons. He has appeared in seven games this season for the 19-7 Longhorns, averaging seven minutes, 2.9 points and 1.0 rebounds.

The Longhorns' run through the Big 12 tournament started with a 67-66 squeaker over Texas Tech. They were set to play Kansas in the semifinals, but the nationally ranked Jayhawks had to pull out of the game when a player tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. That put Hepa and his teammates in the championship game against Oklahoma State.

Hobbs, a 6-4 guard, graduated from South High and then spent a year at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas. He spent one season at New England University before transferring to Hartford for the 2018-19 season.

He's seen action in seven games this season for 15-8 Hartford, which is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance. Hobbs averages a minute per game and hasn't tallied any points or rebounds.

The NCAA Tournament begins Thursday in Indianapolis. The full field and pairings will be announced Sunday afternoon.