One win on home court was all the Cook Inlet Academy girls needed Wednesday to book a spot in Friday night’s championship game at the 2019 Peninsula Conference basketball tournament.
The No. 2-seeded Eagles dominated Birchwood Christian 49-21. Cook Inlet now awaits the winner of today’s semifinal matchup featuring No. 5 Ninilchik and No. 1 Nikolaevsk at 5:30 p.m.
The Ninilchik girls were the upset winners over No. 4 Lumen Christi on Wednesday afternoon. The Wolverines went winless in conference play this year, including two close losses to Lumen, but won when it mattered most with a 31-27 triumph over the Archangels girls.
The CIA girls were led by the 22 points from senior Adara Warren, who fueled the Eagles in the third quarter with 10 points, outscoring Birchwood by herself in a 16-6 third quarter. Warren said the early nerves by the team went away once the Eagles established a comfortable lead.
“We’ve been feeling very strong,” she said. “I think our team is looking forward to playing in the championship.”
With Warren and fellow senior Anna Cizek orchestrating the offensive attack, the CIA defense kept Birchwood in check. The Warriors struggled to keep a solid handle on the ball against the Eagles’ ferocious press and couldn’t record more than six points in any quarter of play.
CIA head coach Josh Hawley said the defense will need a similar showing if the Eagles wish to win Friday’s title game, which also represents a spot at the Class 1A state tournament.
“Defense is everything for us,” Hawley said. “We know we’re not the greatest offensive team, so we have to live through our defense, being disruptive and everything that we can.”
CIA led 8-4 in the first quarter before stringing together 10 unanswered points in the early minutes of the second quarter to help distance itself from Birchwood.
A 3-pointer by Birchwood’s Elesheva Tiner and a jumper Jordan Denny helped claw back some of the gap, but CIA ended the first half on a 9-1 run to grab a 27-10 lead at halftime. The Eagles got seven points from Anika Castenholtz during the late run.
Warren then broke it wide open in the third quarter with eight points in a 12-4 run by CIA that all but iced the victory.
Ninilchik girls 31, Lumen Christi 27
The No. 5-seeded Wolverines picked a good time to pick up their first conference win of the year, topping the No. 4-seeded Archangels in the first round.
Ninilchik faces top seed Nikolaevsk in a semifinal today at 5:30 p.m., while Lumen Christi faces Birchwood in the second-place bracket at 2:30 p.m. today.
The rematch of last year’s conference championship game saw the Archangels take a 6-3 lead after a quarter, but Ninilchik, looking for a fourth straight state berth, came back to take a 15-12 lead at halftime.
The game was all square at 19 entering the final eight minutes. Ninilchik had lost numerous nail-biters in the fourth quarter this season, but was able to prevail in this one.
Isabella Koch had 11 points to lead Ninilchik, while Jamie Martin paced Lumen Christi with 10 points.
Ninilchik boys 52, CIA 24
The No. 3 seed Ninilchik boys dispatched of peninsula rivals Cook Inlet Academy in Wednesday’s opening round to advance to the Peninsula Conference tournament semis.
The Wolverines take on No. 2 Lumen Christi tonight at 7 p.m. for a shot at Friday’s championship game. The Eagles drop into the consolation bracket, starting with a 1 p.m. contest today against Kodiak ESS, and will need to win four straight games to make it to the state tournament.
The Wolverines were led by senior Garrett Koch, who punched in 20 points, while teammate George Nelson hit four 3s on the way to 12 points and Jake Clark tapped in 10.
Ninilchik head coach Dick Hawkins praised the efforts of all phases of Ninilchik’s game, allowing Hawkins to get his bench players some game time.
“This is one of the better games we’ve had all year,” Hawkins said. “Garrett was critical for us, he leads the team and when he’s on his game, he helps bring the guys up.”
CIA was led by Mason Zeigler with seven points, while Josh Boyd added six. Eagles head coach Ryan McMilin lamented the second-chance opportunities Ninilchik received.
“We couldn’t hit any open shots,” McMilin said. “And we couldn’t keep Clark off the glass. You lose the rebounding battle, you lose the game many times.”
The Wolverines made the Eagles suffer by scoring the game’s first 12 points in the opening three minutes. It only got worse in the second quarter as Nelson got things started with a corner 3-pointer to push Ninilchik’s lead to 17-4. Nelson was followed by Jacob Mumey’s putback effort and another triple from Koch, a mini run that padded the lead to 22-6 with 4:16 left in the second quarter.
CIA desperately tried to stay close with a trey by Jiabao Leaf and a driving layup by Josh Boyd that helped keep the deficit to 10 points by halftime, with Ninilchik on top 23-13.
The Wolverines finally put the game away with an 8-0 run in the third quarter, starting with a steal and layup by Koch on the first possession of the second half. Koch chipped in seven points in the 11-4 run that began the third quarter as Ninilchik opened up a 34-17 edge.
Thursday’s semifinal holds plenty of intrigue. Ninilchik lost twice to Lumen in the regular season with scores of 68-57 and 57-52. Hawkins said the Wolverines will need a bigger effort to have a shot of making it to state.
“This is for all the marbles,” he said. “It’s tournament time, it’s time to get tough.”
Nanwalek boys 54, Birchwood 50
In the late game, No. 5 Nanwalek rallied from a 15-point deficit to topple No. 4 Birchwood and stamp its way into tonight’s 4 p.m. semifinal against No. 1 Nikolaevsk. The top-seeded Warriors beat Nanwalek twice in the regular season with scores of 56-48 and 67-55.
Birchwood plays the loser of Friday’s semifinal between Birchwood and Lumen.
Nanwalek defeated Birchwood with help from Uriah Huntsman, who poured in 22 points for the Eagles. Nanwalek teammate Ben Botero chipped in 14.
Nanwalek used a remarkable comeback to get the win, trailing 33-18 at halftime after scoring just six points in the second quarter. The Eagles outscored Birchwood 36-17 in the second half, keyed by Huntsman’s 15 points.
Bradley Nunley led the Birchwood boys with 21 points, but had only eight after halftime.
Lumen Christi boys 72, Kodiak ESS 28
In Wednesday’s other first-round game, the Lumen Christi boys walloped No. 7 Kodiak ESS. Andrew Howard led the Archangels with 20 points while teammate Brendon Gregory had 19. The win advanced Lumen into Thursday’s semifinals against Ninilchik.
Eagles 49, Warriors 21
Birchwood 4 6 6 5 —21
Cook Inlet 10 17 16 6 —49
BIRCHWOOD (21) — Rose 2, Clark 1, Becker 3, Becker 2, Tiner 5, Kaas 2, Denny 4, Cox 0, Sullivan 2, Elkins 0.
CIA (49) — Nelson 3, Hyatt 0, S. Nelson 0, Dohse 5, A. Nelson 2, Castenholtz 8, Cragg 0, Cizek 9, Hammond 0, Warren 22.
3-point FG — Birchwood 1 (Tiner); CIA 1 (G. Nelson).
Team fouls — Birchwood 11; CIA 11. Fouled out — none.
Wolverines 31, Archangels 27
Lumen 6 6 7 8 — 27
Ninilchik 3 12 4 12 — 31
LUMEN CHRISTI (27) — Estes 6, Thorsness 0, Warren 4, Dupras 7, Martin 10. Totals — 11 5-22 27.
NINILCHIK (31) — Re. Okonek 0, A. Calabrese 2, Robuck 3, Corey 5, Koch 11, Cooper 8, Denboer 0, Ofstad 2, Ra. Okonek 0. Totals — 11 6-17 31.
3-point FG — Ninilchik 3 (Robuck, Koch, Cooper).
Team fouls — Lumen 15, Ninilchik 15. Fouled out — none.
Wolverines 52, Eagles 24
Ninilchik 14 9 16 13 —52
CIA 4 9 8 3 —24
NINILCHIK (52) — Nelson 12, Presley 0, Hadro 4, Koch 20, Clark 10, Moore 0, Devila 2, Lemons 0, Moto 2, Mumey 2.
CIA (24) — Moos 5, Boyd 0, Johnson 2, Cragg 0, Leaf 3, Walsh 1, Anderson 0, Peterson 0, Zeigler 7, Boyd 6.
3-point FG — Ninilchik 7 (Nelson 4, Koch 3); CIA 1 (Leaf).
Team fouls — Ninilchik 9; CIA 8. Fouled out — none.
Eagles 54, Warriors 50
Nanwalek 12 6 18 18 —54
Birchwood 18 15 8 9 —50
NANWALEK (54) — Botero 14, Tanape 6, Wilson 0, Bales 6, Joseph 4, Moonin 2, Huntsman 22, Evans 0, Moonin 0.
BIRCHWOOD (50) — Reich 4, Swanberg 18, Cramer 0, Nunley 21, Hanson 2, Rodgers 0, Brission 0, Palmer 5.
3-point FG — Nanwalek 2 (Botero 2); Birchwood 5 (Nunley 3, Swanberg 2).
Team fouls — Nanwalek 8; Birchwood 13. Fouled out — none.