The Cook Inlet Academy girls watched the UAA women’s basketball team get their hearts broken Friday night at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. Saturday morning, the Eagles repeated the act.
CIA lost 44-43 in overtime to Wainwright in the opening round of the Class 1A state tournament, relegating the Eagles to the consolation bracket.
The Seawolves also lost by a single point on Friday, 64-63, to end their season. Similar to the Seawolves, CIA started slow but rallied to take a late lead, only to see it end in a loss.
Fortunately for CIA, the season is not done quite yet, although their state championship hopes are. CIA begins its run through the consolation bracket with an 8 a.m. Monday morning matchup with Minto, which lost to defending 1A champions Newhalen on Saturday morning.
For first-year coach Kenny Leaf, the loss stung a little more for CIA, a team that was more than just happy to be there. The Eagles were eyeing a state title run, to go with their championship trophy from 2013.
“You have to recognize that the ball bounces this way or that way, sometimes against you, and that’s the game,” Leaf said. “We talked about that before the game, because we watched UAA claw their way back, working their tails off. We said before the game that whatever happens, keep your cool and stay together, and we’ll win this with consistency.”
Senior co-captain Madison Orth led CIA with 16 points and 16 rebounds, while fellow senior co-captain Ashleigh Hammond added 11 points and 17 boards and Richelle McGahan had 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the floor.
Wainwright’s biggest threat came from junior Kai Nashookpuk, who scored 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting, including 13 in the second half and four-minute overtime period. Molly Nayakik netted 13 as well.
Wainwright coach Edna Ahmaogak said she was confident in her team’s defensive play, which proved to be the difference in the final two minutes of overtime as Nashookpuk and Nayakik laid in two transition buckets off a rebound and a block.
“What we’ve done in practice is talk about defense scenarios that could occur in a game,” Ahmaogak said. “The girls knew they would have to come in harder during the second half because CIA would come back harder. The girls knew they were up for a challenge. They’ve learned to not give up.”
The Eagles also finished 7 of 23 from the free-throw line, something that coach Leaf recognized as a detriment for CIA on Saturday.
“It wasn’t what we wanted to shoot,” Leaf said. “That’s a frustration for the girls, because they can shoot free throws, and it just didn’t happen today.
“But we win as a team, and we lose as a team.”
After trailing by as much as 12 points in the third quarter, the Eagles slowly began to find a rhythm on offense and more importantly, stopped the Huskies on defense.
Wainwright hurt CIA early from the 3-point line, hitting 4 of 9 shots from long range, led by sophomore guard Molly Nayakik. The Eagles also struggled on offense, shooting 21 percent that resulted in a halftime deficit of 22-13.
But after a trey from Nayakik with 6:27 to play in the third quarter put the Huskies up 27-15, the Eagles dug deep and began to chip away at the lead by upping their shooting to 50 percent from the floor. Orth scored seven straight points by herself to close the gap to five, and by the end of the frame, Wainwright led 32-28. In the early seconds of the fourth quarter, CIA was in the midst of a 14-5 run.
A hook shot by Nashookpuk with 4:50 to go in the game put the lead back to 36-29, but Orth and McGahan teamed up for an 8-0 spurt that was capped by layup by Danielle Hills with 1:04 to play, giving the Eagles their first lead of the game at 38-36. Hills put the ball in after catching the rebound.
However, Nashookpuk collected the ball from a teammate’s rebound on the final Wainwright possession, ran downcourt and put the ball up for the game-tying bucket with 12 seconds left. It ultimately forced overtime with the score tied at 38 apiece.
In the overtime period, McGahan struck first for CIA with a second-chance jumper for an early lead, but Nayakik answered with a steal and a tying layup. After Orth hit one of two free throws for a one-point edge, Nayakik caught the rebound and scored the game-winning layup with 1:39 to play. The dagger came with 15 seconds left when Samantha Kippi denied McGahan at the rim with a big block and found Nashookpuk open for the bucket on the other end.
Ahmaogak said she was most pleased with her team’s ability to stay composed under the late pressure and finish the job.
“They took it to heart and finished,” she said.
CIA worked hard in the final 12 seconds of play for an open 3-point shot, but Orth could only manage a close range shot with five seconds left to close the lead to one, and CIA failed to get the ball back by fouling on the next possession.
Leaf said he was proud of his squad, and that the group would spend the off day on Sunday going to church and watching game film to try to finish on a high note.
“There’s no pressure now,” Leaf said. “Let’s go out and play, finish the year strong for our seniors, let’s have fun with what we’re doing.”
Nikolaevsk girls 51, Akiak 21
One year ago, the Nikolaevsk girls were knocked out of the running for a state crown before the real action even began.
This year, the Warriors safely got past the first round at the 1A state tournament with a dominating victory over the Akiak Thunderbolts, advancing into the winner’s bracket. The Warriors will face Selawik at 5:10 p.m. Monday in the state quarterfinals.
Nikolaevsk coach Bea Klaich said Akiak coach Kimberly Smith told her she was surprised the Warriors did not appear as excited as the assumed they would be.
“I think’s because right now, our motto is one game at a time,” Klaich said. “We know we have more work to do.”
Getting out of the first round was just the first step. Nikolaevsk needs to win Monday’s and Tuesday’s games to get back to where they were in 2013, the state final, which is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.
“The comment the girls made was, ‘We’re already ahead of last year!’” Klaich said. “I think the girls are more confident now.”
After falling victim in a 43-42 upset loss to Buckland in 2014, Nikolaevsk made absolutely sure of getting past Saturday this year with a dominating effort full of steals, rebounds and solid shooting. Exactly what Klaich was looking for.
Serafima Kalugin led the offense with 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting, while Megan Hickman added 10 points on pinpoint 5-for-7 shooting. Nadejda Gordeev controlled the glass by bringing down 12 rebounds, and bench player Chelsea Johnson had a perfect day with eight points on 4-for-4 shooting.
Overall, Nikolaevsk cleaned up the boards with a 69-25 rebounding advantage over Akiak, giving the Warriors precious few second-chance opportunities.
“I was very pleased because I got a lot of bench time in, I didn’t have to overwork my starters,” Klaich said.
Klaich said her team had a game plan. Feed the post players.
Transition buckets resulted in an early 19-6 lead for the Warriors after one quarter, and a 31-14 lead at halftime. With accurate dishes from Kilina Klaich, Vera Fefelov and Gordeev, Hickman and Kalugin ran rampant on Akiak’s defense. In the first half, Nikolaevsk shot 15 for 22 from the floor on two-point field goals.
In the third quarter, while the offense continued to hum, Nikolaevsk held Akiak to only two points, resulting in a 43-16 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Huskies 44, Eagles 43, OT
Wainwright 15 7 10 6 6 —44
Cook Inlet 6 7 15 10 5 —43
WAINWRIGHT (44) — Nayakik 5 0-0 13, Morry 0 0-0 0, Nashookpuk 9 0-0 20, Ahmaogak 3 0-0 6, Kippi 1 0-0 2, Aguvluk 1 0-0 3, Panik 0 0-0 0, Driggs 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 0-0 44.
CIA (43) — Hills 2 0-4 4, Brush 0 0-0 0, Lyons 0 2-2 2, Hammond 4 2-7 11, McGahan 5 0-2 10, Orth 6 3-8 16. Totals 17 7-23 43.
3-point goals — CIA 2 (Orth 1, Hammond 1); Wainwright 6 (Nayakik 3, Nashookpuk 2, Aguvluk 1). Fouled out — none.
Warriors 51, Thunderbolts 21
Nikolaevsk 16 15 12 8 —51
Akiak 6 8 2 5 —21
NIKOLAEVSK (51) — Ki. Klaich 1 0-1 2, Kr. Klaich 1 0-0 2, Fefelov 1 0-0 2, Johnson 4 0-0 8, Kalugin 8 1-3 17, N. Gordeev 1 0-0 2, E. Gordeev 1 1-4 3, Dorvall 1 1-2 3, Hickman 5 0-0 10, Jones 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 3-10 51.
AKIAK (21) — Ivan 0 0-0 0, Williams 1 0-0 2, Jasper 0 0-0 0, Williams 0 1-2 1, Sigler 1 0-3 5, Egoak 1 1-2 3, T. Williams 2 0-1 4, D. Ivan 0 0-0 0, Demientieff 2 1-2 5, B. Ivan 0 0-0 0. Totals 8 4-11 21.
3-point goals — Akiak 1 (Sigler). Fouled out — none.