Seward High School junior Laura Kromrey scores against Bethel during their 3A girls consolation bracket game in the ASAA state basketball tournament at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena on Friday. Seward won 37-33. Seahawks teammate Maria Jackson (22) moves into the play.

Seward High School junior Laura Kromrey scores against Bethel during their 3A girls consolation bracket game in the ASAA state basketball tournament at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena on Friday. Seward won 37-33. Seahawks teammate Maria Jackson (22) moves into the play.

Friday Class 3A: Seward girls win; Nikiski girls lose

For the first time in three years, the Seward girls made it to the final day of the Class 3A state basketball tournament.

After a loss to Anchorage Christian Schools on Thursday, Seward had to win or be sent home, and the Seahawks came up with a 37-33 victory over Bethel on Friday at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage to advance into the fourth-place game, set for 9 a.m. Saturday against Valdez, which topped Nikiski 54-45 in the other consolation semifinal.

For each of the past two seasons, the Seahawks have qualified for the state tournament, only to drop out by Friday with two straight losses.

This year was different.

“It was very important, just to break that,” said Seward coach Mark Clemens. “The team got down for a little bit, we got tired there, but we got that back in the game.”

The win comes a day after the Seahawks held powerhouse squad ACS to a single-digit lead until the early portion of the fourth quarter. ACS finished strong to beat Seward 48-32.

“That was a hard-fought game, so it wore us out a little bit,” Clemens said. “It took a little strength and endurance out of us, but Bethel’s always a tough team.”

Senior Ashley VonBorstel led Seward with 18 points and five rebounds. Clemens’ daughter, Kiana, had nine points, including two free throws with 15 seconds to go that pushed the Seahawks to a three-point lead and a great chance of winning.

“It’s just like yesterday’s game, it was playing our tempo and great defense,” the junior guard said. “We used our two-three zone, and making sure we stopped drives and stopped shooters.

“I think the fact that we held them to a low score, and being the only team other than Kodiak all season to do that, mentally we were like, we can do this.”

Whether motivated or not by the possibility a second loss, Seward started strong, getting layups from VonBorstel, Clemens and Laura Kromrey to stake out a 13-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

One of Bethel’s tendencies, however, is to strike from the perimeter, and the Warriors hammered Seward from 3-point land, taking 20 total attempts in the game. Seward had only six attempts, but both teams converted on three of them.

Kayla Williams had 11 shots from beyond the arc, putting Seward’s focus on the outside rim.

“They were working hard on their offense and we quit working a bit,” coach Clemens said. “We got tired, it came down to legs and brains, and we weren’t using both for a while there.”

Trailing 18-13 at halftime, Seward slowly began fighting back in the third quarter, and with 55 seconds remaining in the frame, VonBorstel found space in the corner and heaved a trey into the net to tie the game at 25 apiece.

“I don’t think we were nervous, I think we were more confident,” Kiana said. “We knew we just had to execute our game plan and I think we did it pretty well.”

With 4:06 left in the fourth quarter, Clemens hit the go-ahead jump shot to give Seward a one-point margin. A layup from Kromrey with 3:15 left put Seward ahead 34-31, which held until Bethel’s Riana Joseph grabbed a steal and took it in for a layup with 1:06 left.

Joseph didn’t get the bucket, but she was fouled and converted on the subsequent free throws to close the Warriors’ gap to one point.

From there, Seward tried to run the clock out by holding the ball, and Bethel was forced to foul the Seahawks.

That’s when Clemens and VonBorstel iced the game from the line.

“Yesterday, we were 9 for 23 from the free-throw line,” Clemens said. “Even if we would’ve been 15 for 23 from the line, it would’ve been a different game, with the momentum swing, so today was different.”

Valdez girls 54, Nikiski 45

The Nikiski girls team, playing in the Class 3A state tournament for the first time since 2009, suffered a two-and-out performance with a loss to the Buccaneers on Friday morning at the Sullivan Arena.

Falling behind early made life difficult for the Bulldogs, and Nikiski coach Scott Anderson said while his team made an effort to score early and often, Valdez managed to find the net better than the Bulldogs did.

“It’s always tough to come back after you lose a fairly close game the night before, and that dream of playing for a state title is gone,” Anderson said. “I thought our girls came out pretty ready to go today, but Valdez came out way better than they did yesterday.”

The Buccaneers sank 13 field goals in the first half for a shooting percentage of nearly 50 percent, while Nikiski had trouble with only six buckets for a 26 percent performance.

“I really felt like that was the big difference in this game,” Anderson said.

Senior Alyssa Darch had 15 points and collected 17 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs, coming up with 10 of Nikiski’s 12 points in the third quarter, and teammates Jodi Cook and Emily Lynch added 10 points each.

“As a senior, I thought Alyssa just decided that she’s going to get it done today,” Anderson said. “I was really proud of her, she just battled all game. She had a great tournament overall.”

Valdez, a team that lost to defending 3A champs Barrow on Thursday, flaunted an aggressive defensive press that had stumped Nikiski for much of the contest. It also helped Veronica Hursh pile up 21 points for herself.

“I mean, really, that’s what it was,” said Valdez coach Doug Fleming. “It’s what we didn’t do yesterday, we played flat yesterday. Today they wanted it, they didn’t want it to be over so they played harder.”

Trailing 27-14 at halftime, the Bulldogs cut into the lead when Darch converted two free throws, then grabbed a steal and a layup on the ensuing Valdez possession that left Nikiski with a 10-point deficit.

The problem was, every time Nikiski scored, Valdez countered with points of its own. With 4:26 left in the game, junior Rachel Thompson stole the ball and ran the length of the floor for a layup, cutting the gap to seven points.

In the final 1:22 of the contest, Valdez hit 5 of 8 free throws to keep Nikiski a comfortable distance away.

“They knew what it was going to take right to the very end to catch them,” Anderson said. “You know, we closed the gap and we just missed a few key shots at some key times, we turned the ball over when we had the opportunity to close the gap. It just didn’t happen.”

Anderson said he believes Nikiski’s overall goal of getting to state cushioned the sting of losing both games, but also plans on being back next year.

“Sometimes when teams get to state, they forget that the competition level is going to go up,” he said. “So I feel like we had a little bit of the deer-in-the-headlights look, especially yesterday.”

Friday girls

Seahawks 37, Warriors 33

Seward 6 7 12 12 —37

Bethel 5 13 9 6 —33

SEWARD (37) — VonBorstel 6 4-5 18, Anderson 0 0-0 0, Kromrey 3 1-2 7, Jackson 1 0-2 2, Whiteshield 0 1-4 1, Clemens 3 2-2 9. Totals 13 8-15 37.

BETHEL (33) — Oscar 0 0-0 0, Brink 1 0-0 2, Thomas 2 2-2 7, O’Brien 1 0-0 2, Williams 3 0-0 8, Joseph 3 6-8 12, Crow 1 0-0 2, Kinegak 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 8-10 33.

3-point field goals — Seward 3 (VonBorstel 2, Clemens 1); Bethel 3 (Williams 2, Thomas 1).

Team fouls — Seward 12; Bethel 13.

Buccaneers 54, Bulldogs 45

Valdez 13 14 12 15 —54

Nikiski 6 8 12 19 —45

VALDEZ (54) — Hursh 0 0-0 0, MacDonald 3 0-0 7, Merioles 3 1-4 7, Hursh 7 6-11 21, Rohrer 2 0-0 4, Fleming 2 2-3 6, Wamsley 3 3-4 9. Totals 20 12-22 54.

NIKISKI (45) — Riddall 0 0-0 0, Cook 5 0-0 10, Costello 0 1-2 1, Pitt 0 0-0 0, Litke 0 1-2 1, Lynch 4 2-4 10, Thompson 3 1-3 8, Parrish 0 0-0 0, Litzen 0 0-0 0, Darch 5 5-6 15. Totals 17 10-17 45.

3-point field goals — Valdez 2 (Hursh 1, MacDonald 1); Nikiski 1 (Thompson 1).

Team fouls — Valdez 17; Nikiski 22. Fouled out — Cook, Costello, Wamsley.

Nikiski senior Emily Lynch (22) scores over Valdez sophomores Mesa Rohrer and Madison Fleming and senior Rachel MacDonald (14) during their 3A girls consolation bracket game in the ASAA state high school basketball tournament at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena on Friday.

Nikiski senior Emily Lynch (22) scores over Valdez sophomores Mesa Rohrer and Madison Fleming and senior Rachel MacDonald (14) during their 3A girls consolation bracket game in the ASAA state high school basketball tournament at Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena on Friday.

Nikiski sophomore Alison Litke (20) is defended by Valdez sophomores Madison Fleming, junior Veronica Hursh Rachel and a Buccaneers cheerleader during their 3A girls consolation bracket game in the ASAA state high school basketball tournament at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena on Friday.

Nikiski sophomore Alison Litke (20) is defended by Valdez sophomores Madison Fleming, junior Veronica Hursh Rachel and a Buccaneers cheerleader during their 3A girls consolation bracket game in the ASAA state high school basketball tournament at Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena on Friday.

Nikiski sophomore Alison Litke (20) is defended by Valdez sophomores Madison Fleming, junior Veronica Hursh Rachel and a Buccaneers cheerleader during their 3A girls consolation bracket game in the ASAA state high school basketball tournament at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena on Friday.

Nikiski sophomore Alison Litke (20) is defended by Valdez sophomores Madison Fleming, junior Veronica Hursh Rachel and a Buccaneers cheerleader during their 3A girls consolation bracket game in the ASAA state high school basketball tournament at Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena on Friday.

More in Sports

Homer senior Madison Story swims the breaststroke in the girls 200-yard IM on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 during the Kenai Peninsula Swimming Championships at the Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer’s Story stars at state club meet

Homer senior Madison Story won two individual titles Saturday at the Alaska… Continue reading

Moose are seen eating on the shoulder of Kenai Spur Highway on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the Office: Into the office

An ode to Kenai Spur Highway

A snowshoe hare in its white winter coat. (Photo by Colin Canterbury/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)
Refuge Notebook: The verge of winter

As the daylight hours seem to slip away, the temperatures are slowly… Continue reading

Soldotna High School head football coach Galen Brantley Jr. poses with former players Galen Brantley III and Aaron Faletoi. Brantley III and Faletoi helped Dickinson State in Dickinson, South Dakota, to an undefeated regular season. (Photo provided by Galen Brantley Jr.)
Brantley III, Faletoi help Dickinson State to undefeated regular season

Galen Brantley III and Aaron Faletoi, 2020 graduates of Soldotna High School,… Continue reading

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby races to victory in the girls 100-yard breaststroke final Oct. 27, 2018, at the Northern Lights Conference championship swim meet at Homer High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward’s Jacoby takes 2nd at national swim meet

Seward junior Lydia Jacoby, just 16, finished second in the 100-meter breaststroke… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Theo Thrun brings the puck up the ice on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, against the Minnesota Magicians at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears split weekend games with Steel

The Kenai River Brown Bears split a pair of North American Hockey… Continue reading

Kenai’s Rachael Pitsch swims the girls 500-yard freestyle on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 during the Kenai Peninsula Swimming Championships at the Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer girls, Kenai boys win swim meet

In their last competitive event of the season, the Homer girls swim… Continue reading

tease
CIA volleyball splits matches at Lumen

Staff report The Cook Inlet Academy volleyball team finished up its regular… Continue reading

wrestle
Ninilchik grad Vanderford moves to 10-0 in MMA

Austin Vanderford, a 2008 graduate of Ninilchik School, moved to 10-0 in… Continue reading

The author is seen here skiing a little easier at Trail Lake near Seward. (Photo provided by Kat Sorensen)
Tangled Up in Blue: Grooming the trail

During my first winter spent cross-country skiing in Soldotna, I often found… Continue reading

Basic Incident Command System organization chart. The ICS system has been used for many different types of incidents since its inception. (Chart from Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Refuge Notebook: Incident Command System adapts to record-setting wildfires

The August Complex Fire of 2020 on the Mendocino National Forest in… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Brandon Lajoie pulls up against the Chippewa (Wisconsin) Steel on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears topple Steel again

The Kenai River Brown Bears moved to 2-0-0-0 in the North American… Continue reading