Dimond boys knock off Ninilchik for Tip-Off crown

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna's Sam McElroy goes up for a shot against Ninilchik's Austin White on Friday at Soldotna High School.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna's Sam McElroy goes up for a shot against Ninilchik's Austin White on Friday at Soldotna High School.

When Ninilchik coach Nick Finley loaded his schedule with teams from bigger schools, this is what he had in mind.

The Wolverines, from the smallest class in the state at 1A, defeated Soldotna, from the largest class in the state at 4A, 39-37 on Friday in the semifinals of the Al Howard/Powerade Tip-Off Tournament at Soldotna High School.

Saturday, Ninilchik, the defending 1A state champ, came back to earth a little by losing to Dimond, last year’s 4A runner-up, 72-28 in the championship game. Eric Jenkins, the tourney MVP, and Anthony Parker each had 16 for Dimond.

The Lynx had defeated Mt. Edgecumbe 84-47 Friday to reach the final.

Even the best 1A schools typically struggle against 4A schools due to the difference in speed, physically and depth of talent at the levels. But after securing victory in Friday’s semifinal, Ninilchik betrayed little excitement and walked back to the bench like it was just another win.

“That’s what I was looking for when we came to these tournaments,” said Finley, whose team also has tourneys at Class 4A Kodiak and Class 3A Seward. “We put five guys on the floor and they put five guys on the floor.

“We have four seniors that have started for four years. They’re confident and a state championship only increased that confidence.”

Not only is Ninilchik confident, but senior guard Tyler Presley, who paced the team with 17 points, said the Wolverines had something to prove.

“We always hear talk that we’re just going to get rolled against the big schools,” Presley said. “We showed that’s not the case. We’re state champions. We know how to win.”

The Stars took a 14-10 lead after the first quarter, then Ninilchik switched to a two-three zone for the rest of the game. The move slowed the pace and also made it tough to get 6-foot-8 Ninilchik center Austin White, who will play for the University of Alaska Anchorage next season, in any foul trouble. White, who made the all-tourney team, had 14 points and no fouls.

And White changed, blocked or contested every shot around the rim, leading to a huge advantage for the Wolverines that doesn’t show up in the boxscore.

“Against zone, it’s make-miss,” Soldotna coach Nolan Rose said. “You’ve got to make shots from the perimeter to loosen up the defense. Tonight we didn’t do that.”

Rose added that holding the visiting opposition to 39 in a varsity game should result in a win.

Finley has been coaching the current seniors since eighth grade and only used zone three or four times. The Wolverines haven’t practiced the defense in the past two seasons.

“I don’t like running zone, but basketball is about making adjustments,” Finley said.

Class 1A basketball has never been known for its defense, so a 1A school holding a 4A school to 37 points sends a message to those who would try to usurp Ninilchik’s crown.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on — defense and rebounding,” Finley said. “That’s why we were able to go on that run at state.”

White and Soldotna big man Derek Evans, also an all-tourney honoree, battled to a near draw, with Evans scoring 11 to White’s 14. It fell on Presley to make the difference, but early on Presley struggled.

He came to the bench after the first quarter frustrated with SoHi’s physical play and gave Finley a bad attitude. Finley promptly benched him for the first half of the second quarter.

“I don’t like to sit,” Presley said. “I’ve never really sat a lot. I also don’t like it when my coach is mad at me.”

Said Finley: “After that, he went in and played with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder.”

Presley had four 3-pointers and 15 of Ninilchik’s 20 second-half points.

“The game plan was Austin was going to get his but we can’t let the other guys go off,” Rose said. “We lost Presley for three or four minutes and it cost us.

“They got a little bit of a lead and we were not able to come back from it.”

Soldotna 63, Mt. Edgecumbe 34

The Stars got back on track by rolling past the Braves to take third place at the tournament Saturday.

Derek Evans led the way with 19 points, while Kyle Marcuson pitched in 10. Doug Hubbard and Paul Bioff had nine apiece for the Braves.

Eagle River 51, Kenai 49

The Wolves nipped the Kardinals for fifth place by outscoring Kenai 12-9 in the fourth quarter.

Bryson Rollman had 17 for Eagle River, while Savion Wilson had 12 and Daniel Toribo had 10.

Josh Jackman, an all-tourney honoree, had 12 to pace Kenai. Kenai’s Luke Beiser also made the all-tournament team.

Homer 54, Nikiski 44

The seventh-place game was a tale of two halves Saturday. Nikiski won the first half 25-17, but Homer stormed back and won the second half 37-19.

Koby Etzwiler had 25 points for the Mariners, while Justin Ellision had 10. For Nikiski, Ian Johnson and Braden Ellis each notched 10 points.

Kenai 45, Homer 42

The Kardinals pulled off a big comeback Friday to move into Saturday’s fifth-place game.

Homer had a 27-16 lead at halftime, but Kenai won the third quarter 17-10 and the fourth quarter 12-5.

Luke Beiser and Josh Jackman each had 10 points for Kenai.

Koby Etzwiler pumped in 22 points to lead the Mariners.

Eagle River 68, Nikiski 41

The Wolves got 10 points apiece Friday from Aaron Davis and Bryson Rollman in moving into the fifth-place game.

Ian Johnson was the game’s top scorer with 12 points, while Cody Handley pitched in 10.

 

Friday boys

Wolverines 39, Stars 37

Ninilchik 10 9 13 7 —39

Soldotna 14 7 8 8 —37

NINILCHIK (39) — Presley 5 3-4 17, Koch 0 0-1 0, Geppert 2 0-1 5, Clark 0 0-0 0, Bartolowits 0 0-0 0, Mumey 1 0-0 3, White 6 0-4 14. Totals — 14 3-10 39.

SOLDOTNA (37) — Trammell 1 0-0 2, Spence 1 0-0 2, Reutov 2 0-0 4, Sheridan 2 0-0 6, Tuisaula 1 2-2 5, Evans 4 2-3 11, McElroy 2 0-0 4, Marcuson 1 0-0 3. Totals — 14 4-5 37.

3-point goals — Ninilchik 8 (Presley 4, White 2, Geppert, Mumey), Soldotna 5 (Sheridan 2, Tuisaula, Evans, Marcuson). Team fouls — Ninilchik 8, Soldotna 15. Fouled out — none.

 

Wolves 68, Bulldogs 41

Eagle River 18 14 17 19 —68

Nikiski 7 8 8 18 —41

EAGLE RIVER (68) — Toribo 3 0-2 6, Piper 2 2-2 6, Retzlaff 0 0-0 0, Thompson 2 0-1 5, Haskin 3 0-0 6, Wadsworth 3 0-0 6, Davis 5 0-0 10, Wilson 3 0-0 6, Adkins 3 1-2 9, Murray 2 0-0 4, Capozzi 0 0-0 0, Rollman 4 0-0 10. Totals — 30 3-6 68.

NIKISKI (41) — Johnson2 8-12 12, Weathers 1 1-3 4, G. Ellis 1 2-3 4, Kornstad 1 0-0 3, Handley 4 1-3 10, B. Ellis 1 5-9 8, Desienna 0 0-0 0. Totals — 10 17-30 41.

3-point goals — Eagle River 5 (Adkins 2, Rollman 2, Thompson); Nikiski 4 (Weathers, Kornstad, B. Ellis, Handley). Team fouls — Eagle River 21, Nikiski 8. Fouled out — none.

 

Kardinals 45, Mariners 42

Homer 12 15 10 5 —42

Kenai 8 8 17 12 —45

HOMER (42) — Rohr 2 4-4 8, Etzwiler 9 2-2 22, Adkins 0 0-0 0, Ravin 0 0-0 0, Carroll 0 0-0 0, Edens 2 2-2 7, Ellision 1 0-0 2, Beachy 1 0-0 3, Brinster 0 0-0 0. Totals — 15 808 42.

KENAI CENTRAL (45) — Daniels 3 3-4 9, Beeson 1 2-9 4, Hieber 2 0-0 4, Beiser 3 4-6 10, Landry 2 4-4 8, Jackman 4 0-0 10, Gillies 0 0-0 0. Totals — 15 13-23 45.

3-point goals — Homer 4 (Etzwiler 2, Edens, Beachy); Kenai 2 (Jackman 2). Team fouls — Homer 16, Kenai 8. Fouled out — Rohr.

 

Saturday boys

Lynx 72, Wolverines 28

Dimond 10 20 24 18 —72

Ninilchik 5 6 8 9 —28

DIMOND (72) — Helm 3 0-0 8, Boese 0 0-0 0, Osborne 3 0-0 7, Gates-Magnuson 1 0-0 3, Parker 6 4-7 16, Moore 1 2-4 4, Horning 4 0-0 9, Tufaga 0 1-2 1, Jenkins 5 5-7 16, Ainuu 3 0-0 6, White 1 0-0 2. Totals — 27 12-20 72.

NINILCHIK (28) — Presley 3 0-0 9, Koch 0 0-0 0, Geppert 2 0-0 5, Clark 0 0-0 0, Bartolowits 3 0-0 9, Mumey 0 0-0 0, White 1 3-4 5. Totals — 9 3-4 28.

3-point goals — Dimond 6 (Helm 2, Osborne, Gates-Magnuson, Horning, Jenkins); Ninilchik 7 (Presley 3, Bartolowits 3, Geppert). Team fouls — Dimond 9, Ninilchik 16. Fouled out — none.

 

Stars 63, Braves 34

Mt. Edgecumbe 14 6 3 11 —34

Soldotna 14 14 23 12 —63

MT. EDGECUMBE (34) — Merculief 1 1-1 3, Ivanoff 0 0-0 0, Kasayulie 3 0-0 8, Dunaway 0 1-2 1, Rexford 2 0-0 4, Hubbard 4 0-0 9, Dock 0 0-4 0, Samuelson 0 0-0 0, Bioff 3 2-4 9. Totals — 13 4-10 34.

SOLDOTNA (63) — Trammell 1 0-0 2, Spence 2 0-0 5, Reutov 1 1-2 3, Sheridan 2 1-2 5, Tuisaula 4 0-0 8, Evans 8 3-6 19, McElroy 3 0-0 6, Miller 0 0-0 0, Michael 2 1-1 5, Kant 0 0-0 0, Marcuson 4 0-0 10. Totals — 27 6-11 63.

3-point goals — Mt. Edgecumbe 4 (Kasayulie 2, Hubbard, Bioff); Soldotna 3 (Maruson 2, Spence). Team fouls — Mt. Edgecumbe 10, Soldotna 11. Fouled out — none.

 

Wolves 51, Kardinals 49

Eagle River 9 18 12 12 —51

Kenai 10 12 18 9 —49

EAGLE RIVER (51) — Toribo 3 3-4 10, Piper 0 0-0 0, Thompson 0 0-0 0, Haskin 0 0-0 0, Wadsworth 0 0-0 0, Davis 0 3-4 3, Wilson 5 0-0 12, Adkins 3 0-0 7, Murray 1 0-0 2, Rollman 7 3-5 17. Totals — 19 9-13 51.

KENAI CENTRAL (49) — Daniels 3 0-0 9, Beeson 3 2-2 8, Hieber 3 0-0 7, Beiser 4 1-2 9, Landry 1 1-2 4, Baker 0 0-0 0, Jackman 4 3-6 12, Gillies 0 0-2 0. Totals — 18 7-14 49.

3-point goals — Eagle River 4 (Wilson 2, Toribo, Adkins); Kenai 6 (Daniels 3, Hieber, Landry, Jackman). Team fouls — Eagle River 15, Kenai 13. Fouled out — Davis.

 

Mariners 54, Bulldogs 44

Homer 9 8 19 18 —54

Nikiski 10 15 10 9 —44

HOMER (54) — Rohr 2 0-0 4, Cortez 0 0-0 0, Etzwiler 10 0-0 25, Adkins 0 0-0 0, Ravin 1 0-0 2, Carroll 0 2-2 2, Edens 2 0-0 4, Ellision 5 0-0 10, Beachy 2 0-0 6, Swoboda 0 0-0 0, Brinster 0 1-2 1. Totals — 22 3-4 54.

NIKISKI (44) — Johnson 4 2-5 10, Weathers 0 0-0 0, G. Ellis 3 1-2 8, Kornstad 3 2-4 8, Handley 3 0-0 8, Ellis 3 2-4 10, Desienna 0 0-0 0. Totals — 16 7-15 44.

3-point goals — Homer 7 (Etzwiler 5, Beachy 2); Nikiski 5 (Handley 2, B. Ellis 2, G. Ellis). Team fouls — Homer 15, Nikiski 11. Fouled out — Handley.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Ninilchik's Dalton Geppert and Soldotna's Sam McElroy battle for the ball Friday at Soldotna High School.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Ninilchik’s Dalton Geppert and Soldotna’s Sam McElroy battle for the ball Friday at Soldotna High School.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna's Sam McElroy goes up for a shot against Ninilchik's Austin White on Friday at Soldotna High School.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna’s Sam McElroy goes up for a shot against Ninilchik’s Austin White on Friday at Soldotna High School.

More in Sports

Lydia Jacoby, of the United States, reacts after winning the final of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Jacoby wins 2 Golden Goggle awards

Jacoby earned two awards for breakout performer and female race of the year.

Dane, Dylan and Christina Dahlgren.
SoHi’s Dahlgren signs to play football at Dickinson State

Soldotna senior Dylan Dahlgren signed a national letter of intent Monday to… Continue reading

Soldotna's Galen Hecht finishes 16th in the men's Mount Marathon Race on Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Hecht leads peninsula at CIM

Galen Hecht, 26, of Soldotna led the Kenai Peninsula by finishing 237th… Continue reading

tease
SoHi wrestlers 4th at Grizzly Shakedown

Soldotna High School led the Kenai Peninsula by finishing fourth Saturday at… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Reagan Graves gets ready to score a goal while Camden Kovach defends Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, at the Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai hockey edges Juneau in overtime

The Kenai Central hockey team defeated Juneau-Douglas 5-4 in overtime Saturday in… Continue reading

Nick Stevens of the Kenai River Brown Bears tries to squeeze by the check of Bohdan Panasenko of the Anchorage Wolverines on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears, Wolverines split series

Resilience is nothing new for Cole Dubicki and the small group of… Continue reading

Brandonn Campbell of Juneau-Douglas keeps the puck from Dylan Arno of Homer on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, at Kevin Bell Arena in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Hockey roundup: Houston beats SoHi for Big Lake title

The Houston hockey team defeated Soldotna 5-0 in the championship game of… Continue reading

tease
Hockey roundup: SoHi wins, Homer ties

The Soldotna hockey team opened the Big Lake Lions Classic with a… Continue reading

Former Kenai River Brown Bears head coach Kevin Murdock.
Former Kenai River Brown Bears head coach Kevin Murdock.
Former Bears coach Murdock accepts UAA assistant job

Kevin Murdock, former head coach of the Kenai River Brown Bears, has… Continue reading

Most Read