Another potential state championship run by the Nikolaevsk girls came to an abrupt end Monday evening at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Turnovers and poor shooting led to a 41-37 defeat to the Selawik Wolves in the Class 1A state tournament quarterfinal round. But Nikolaevsk’s season is not over yet, as the Warriors continue today with a 9:40 a.m. matchup against Shishmaref, with the winner advancing to Wednesday’s fourth-place game.
After making it to the 1A final two years ago and falling in a first-round upset last year, the Warriors are still finding a state title elusive. But Nikolaevsk coach Bea Klaich put to rest any thoughts that this season was a bust.
“I feel like last year was really a missed opportunity, no question about it,” Klaich said. “We peaked (last year) and I liked our chances then, but this year, I have to say that I am happy we are at state to begin with.
“We didn’t want to be just satisfied to be here, but, Serafima (Kalugin) said at the beginning of this year that she didn’t even expect us to go to state.”
After losing two crucial seniors to graduation and another player to a school transfer, Klaich said this year’s squad displayed a tendency to start slow in games, but ultimately were able to build momentum.
Monday in Anchorage, early offensive struggles were not followed by an expected comeback.
“Unfortunately I think they came out tentative tonight and got themselves down and had to dig themselves out again,” Klaich said.
Junior guard Megan Hickman led Nikolaevsk with 11 points and eight rebounds, while Kalugin added eight points and seven boards. Jasmine Ticket led Selawik with 13 points and 11 boards.
Overall, Nikolaevsk suffered a 25 percent shooting night, hitting 13 of 51 field goals, and committed 28 turnovers, resulting in 19 points for the Wolves.
Selawik burst out with a 13-5 run to start the game, led by Justene Henry scoring all seven of her game points in the quarter. Sloppy play hindered Nikolaevsk, as the Warriors turned the ball over 16 times in the half to Selawik’s seven.
Trailing 25-13 at halftime, Nikolaevsk came out with an 8-2 run to start the second half, but a trey from Shyla Johnson with 30 seconds left and a buzzer-beating jumper by Jasmine Ticket essentially nullified that, as Selawik held a 32-21 lead after three quarters.
The final push for a late rally nearly came to fruition for Nikolaevsk. Two consecutive layups by Hickman and second-chance buckets from Vera Fefelov and Kilina Klaich suddenly had the Warriors trailing the Wolves 34-30 with 5:10 to go in the game.
Meanwhile, Selawik was dealing with its own problems. Late in the third quarter, Lataihya Hingsbergen went down with a leg injury and was benched the remainder of the game with a bag of ice and temporary brace on her lower left leg. Then, with 5:57 to play in the fourth quarter, Shaylynn Ticket received her fifth foul, also putting her out of the game for good.
But, somehow, the Wolves stopped the Nikolaevsk rally with help from more turnovers and transition buckets, including two possessions in a row by Jennifer Smith. The Wolves pushed their lead back to 41-31 with 46 seconds to go, and a pair of triples by Klaich and Fefelov in the final 38 seconds were not enough to bridge the gap.
“It seemed like there was a momentum shift, but we just couldn’t finish,” coach Klaich said. “We couldn’t hit the shots we needed to hit until it was too late.”
Nikolaevsk will not be able to match its best state result of second place in 2013, but the Warriors are guaranteed a second-best finish of fourth if they can win two more games in the tournament.
Minto girls 40, CIA 36
For a second time in three days, the Eagles rallied from a double-digit deficit only to be denied at the end.
Monday morning at the Alaska Airlines Center, CIA cut a 20-point gap to one, but still came up short in the 1A girls consolation bracket with a 40-36 loss to Minto, ending their season on the spot.
“(We had) high hopes, but really, we did not finish, which is uncharacteristic of us,” said CIA coach Kenny Leaf.
CIA captains Ashleigh Hammond and Madison Orth — playing in their last game as seniors — led the Eagles with 10 and nine points, respectively, while junior Kendra Brush brought down a team-high 13 rebounds.
Returning to the court less than two days after seeing a shot at a state championship slip away is never easy, but Leaf said his team looked chipper in pregame warmups.
“We watched film yesterday, the girls were up and at it at 7 a.m. today, they were ready to go,” Leaf said. “But there’s no excuse for the way we started in both of these games.”
Minto scored the first 10 points of the game, then expanded its lead to 18-2 before the five-minute mark of the second quarter. Macayla Alexander led the Lakers with eight of Minto’s first 12 points. Alexander ended up with a game-high 14 points and 16 boards.
By the 3:18 mark of the second quarter, Minto held a daunting 26-6 lead, helped by 9-of-16 shooting in the paint. Alexander herself shot 5-of-6 in the half, helping the Lakers to a 28-12 lead at halftime. Minto also used strong rebounding to get second-shot opportunities with an advantage of 29-14 on the glass.
“Rebounding is largely a heart issue, and I don’t know if we were hanging back or holding back, but they killed us on the boards and second shots,” Leaf said. “On offense, we were getting good shot selection, but nothing was dropping.”
In the second half, Minto led by as much as 34-19 with 2:43 to play in the third quarter. From there, Orth and company began to take over.
The Eagles steadily chipped away at the lead, getting buckets from Orth, Hammond, Brush and Danielle Hills along the way. With 58 seconds left, Hammond received the ball from a teammate on a rebound, set up for the long-range triple and nailed it to force a one-possession game at 37-34.
Hammond caught a steal on the ensuing Minto possession, dribbled down the lane and was fouled, giving her two shots from the line. Hammond converted both of them to close the gap to 37-36 with 43 ticks on the clock.
On the ensuing Minto possession, Kia Wiehl was fouled and hit 1 of 2 from the line with 41 seconds left, but the Eagles couldn’t find the rim on the next possession, getting looks from Orth and Hammond, and were forced to foul again. This time, it was Gabrielle Titus on the free-throw line, and Titus hit both to ice the game with 11 seconds to go.
Leaf, a first-year basketball coach that was presented with Peninsula Conference and girls Class 1A coach of the year honors, said in the end, he was happy to see his team continue the fight in both state tournament games.
“My objective for these girls all season was to not only have a winning season, but to grow these young ladies into godly young women,” Leaf said. “When the dust finally settles, and they’re looking back as this season or tournament as a whole, I want them to have a feeling of gratitude to play and play together.”
Wolves 41, Warriors 37
Selawik 15 10 7 9 —41
Nikolaevsk 9 4 8 16 —37
SELAWIK (41) — K. Ticket 0 0-0 0, Ramoth 0 0-0 0, L. Ticket 0 0-0 0, Smith 3 2-5 8, Hingsbergen 2 0-2 4, Henry 2 3-6 7, Johnson 2 0-2 5, S. Ticket 2 0-0 4, J. Ticket 5 3-4 13, M. Ticket 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 8-19 41.
NIKOLAEVSK (37) — Ki. Klaich 2 0-0 5, Kr. Klaich 1 0-0 2, Fefelov 2 1-2 7, Johnson 1 0-1 2, Kalugin 2 4-5 8, Gordeev 1 0-0 2, Hickman 4 3-5 11. Totals 13 8-13 37.
3-point goals — Selawik 1 (Johnson); Nikolaevsk 3 (Fefelov 2, Ki. Klaich 1). Fouled out — Hickman, S. Ticket.
Lakers 40, Eagles 36
Minto 14 14 6 6 —40
CIA 2 10 8 16 —36
MINTO (40) — Titus 2 2-2 6, Alexander 6 2-5 14, Frank 2 2-4 6, Titus 1 0-0 3, Wiehl 3 5-9 11. Totals 14 11-20 40.
CIA (36) — Delon 0 0-0 0, Hills 3 2-4 8, Brush 2 0-0 5, Lyons 1 0-0 2, Hammond 3 3-4 10, McGahan 0 0-0 0, Orth 3 3-6 9. Totals 13 8-14 36.
3-point goals — Minto 1 (Titus); CIA 2 (Brush 1, Hammond 1). Fouled out — none.