Nikiski senior Bethany Carstens goes up for a shot Thursday against Kotzebue at the Craig Jung Kenai River Challenge at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski senior Bethany Carstens goes up for a shot Thursday against Kotzebue at the Craig Jung Kenai River Challenge at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Hitchcock wins in Nikiski head coaching debut

The Rustin Hitchcock era officially opened Thursday afternoon at Kenai Central High School.

Hitchcock made his head coaching debut with the Nikiski girls at the Craig Jung Kenai River Challenge with a 71-41 win over Kotzebue. Hitchcock was hired for the job after longtime Nikiski coaching presence Scott Anderson stepped down after last season.

Hitchcock said after the dominating showing Thursday, he’s feeling pretty good about the team’s chances.

“We’re fast and we can run,” he said. “I’m having flashbacks back to CIA.”

Hitchcock, a Nikiski graduate himself, formerly coached the Cook Inlet Academy girls at the Class 1A level and helped them win a state championship in 2013.

Thursday against Kotzebue, it was senior Bethany Carstens flaunting her muscles as a newly signed Division I college-committed player, scoring a game-high 30 points. Four weeks ago, Carstens penned her letter of intent to play at Chicago State University.

The reigning Class 3A Girls Player of the Year poured in 14 first-quarter points for Nikiski, which streaked out to a 23-4 lead in the first eight minutes. Carstens said playing under Hitchcock is a different experience than her previous three years under Anderson.

“It’s very different, but we figured it out after a bit,” she said. “The plays are different and he does it differently than (Anderson) … I’m just really excited for the season and having a new coach is super exciting.”

Kelsey Clark also added 11 points for Nikiski and Kaycee Bostic had eight. Kotzebue was led by Elise Hughes’ 12 points.

Hitchcock said Anderson’s exit did not leave a shattered team behind, as most of the current crew is returning from a fourth-place finish at the 3A state tournament last March.

“He left the cupboard very full,” Hitchcock said. “Scott has a very disciplined and organized mind, and we’re in a very fluid situation right now.

“It’s a gift and an honor being here.”

The opening weekend of prep basketball on the peninsula also included a 55-21 win by the Kenai girls over Houston at the Kenai River Challenge. In boys action at the tournament, Kenai prevailed 55-30 over Houston and Nikiski beat Kotzebue 53-29.

The traditional Soldotna Powerade/Al Howard Tip-Off boys tournament was scrapped this weekend due to several teams backing out, including a prep Oregon team that was coached by former Ninilchik hoops coach Nick Finley. Soldotna athletic director Kyle McFall said the teams backed out of the tournament due to “financial reasons or administrative changes.”

While the boys tournament was cancelled, the girls got a chance to play at Soldotna. The Stars dominated in a 65-36 win over Cordova, while the Kodiak girls beat Bethel 38-15.

At KCHS, the Nikiski girls took a 12-4 lead over the Huskies in the first four minutes and ended the first quarter on an 8-0 spurt in the final two minutes, with Carstens getting six of those points.

Carstens scored eight straight by herself into the second quarter, driving the lane with authority and putting back a pair of buckets on offensive rebounds to put Nikiski up 27-4.

The Bulldogs led by as much as 31-6 midway through the second before Kotzebue finally began to find a rhythm. The Huskies ripped off an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer from Ally Martin mixed in.

Leading 35-17 at halftime, Nikiski made sure to put the game away by pouring in 18 points in the first 3:08 of the third quarter to open a 53-20 lead, with a mix of shots including a jumper by Kaycee Bostic, a triple by Emma Wik and another putback by Carstens.

Nikiski led 62-26 after three quarters.

The Bulldogs will take on Kenai tonight at 7:30 p.m. before meeting Houston at noon Saturday.

Kenai girls 55, Houston 21

Brooke Satathite scored 16 points to lead the Kardinal girls attack on Houston Thursday night at KCHS.

Kenai outscored Houston 15-2 in the second quarter to take a 22-6 lead at halftime, then poured in 20 third-quarter points to ice the win.

Hayley Maw added 10 points for Kenai and Liz Hanson chipped in eight.

Nikiski boys 53, Kotzebue 29

Jace Kornstad pumped in 17 points to lead the Bulldogs to a lopsided win over Kotzebue at the Kenai River Challenge.

Nikiski staked out a 22-10 lead in the first quarter and built it up to 35-18 by the half. Kornstad had 12 points in the first quarter.

Noah Litke and Michael Mysing both notched 11 points for Nikiski as well.

Nikiski will face host Kenai today at 6 p.m. before meeting Houston Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Kenai boys 55, Houston 30

Adam Trujillo led a balanced attack by the Kardinal boys with 12 points, while teammates Dominick Efta pumped in 11 and Andrew Bezdecny had seven.

A 22-11 start by Kenai led to a 36-20 halftime lead for the Kards, who then put up a defensive front by shutting out the Hawks in the third quarter 8-0.

Powerade/Al Howard Tip-Off

Soldotna girls 65, Cordova 36

Ituau Tuisaula scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Stars to a win at Soldotna High School.

Aliann Schmidt chipped in 15 points, including nine in the first quarter, Drysta Crosby-Schneider netted 10 and Brittani Blossom sunk a pair of 3’s in the first quarter to finish with nine points.

Soldotna jumped out to a 21-11 lead, then pushed it 36-19 at halftime.

Service Cougar Tip Off

The Bartlett boys took a 16-2 lead after the first quarter en route to a 64-39 victory on the first day of the 39th Annual Service Cougar Tip Off.

For Homer, Daniel Reutov led the way with 13 points, while Stanley Swoboda pitched in 10. For Bartlett, Rashad King had 18 points, while Bishop Tosi added 13.

Homer plays Redington in the consolation bracket at 1:15 p.m. Friday.

Also in the first round, East topped Seward 77-25. For Seward, Max Pfieffenberger led the way with 14 points. For East, Brayden Maladonado had 12 points, Hasani Zimmerman had 12 points and Jaron Williams had 10 points.

Seward plays Point Hope in the consolation bracket Friday at 3 p.m.

Cook Inlet Classic

In the opening girls game, Nikolaevsk edged Nikiski’s JV 21-20. Markiana Yakunin and Elizabeth Fefelov each had six for the Warriors, while Flora Reichert and Aspen Hooper each had six to pace Nikiski’s JV.

In the early boys game, Nikolaevsk topped Nanwalek 56-48. For Nikolaevsk, Zach Trail had 18, while Michael Trail had 16 and Justin Trail added 13. For Nanwalek, Ben Botero had 21 points, while Uriah Huntsman added 13.

In the late girls game, the Soldotna JV topped Cook Inlet Academy 44-25. Emma Brantley had 13 for the Stars, while Jolie Widaman pitched in 10. For CIA, Anna Cizek and Adara Warren each had eight points.

Today at the classic, Nikiski and Soldotna JV girls play at 4 p.m., Nanwalek boys at Soldotna JV play at 5:15, Nikolaevsk girls and CIA play at 6:30 and Nikolaevsk boys and CIA play at 7:45 p.m.

Service girls 34, Seward 28

The host Cougars opened the season with a nonconference victory against the Seahawks.

Seward trailed just 12-11 at the half, but a 15-7 third quarter turned the tide for the Cougars. For Service, Cadie Stoddard led the way with nine points, while Riley Von Borstel had nine for Seward.

Thursday girls

Bulldogs 71, Huskies 41

Kotzebue 4 13 9 15 —41

Nikiski 23 12 27 9 —71

KOTZEBUE (41) — Gallahorn 0, Sheldon 0, Short 3, Martin 10, Hughes 12, Schaeffer 2, Swanson 8, Thomas 6.

NIKISKI (71) — Jeffreys 3, Wik 7, L. Carstens 2, Bostic 8, Johnson 0, B. Carstens 30, Clark 11, Druesedow 6, Rizzo 4.

3-point field goals — Nikiski 1 (Wik); Kotzebue 3 (Martin 2, Thomas 1).

Team fouls — Nikiski 14; Kotzebue 9. Fouled out — none.

Kardinals 55, Hawks 21

Houston 4 2 6 9 —21

Kenai 7 15 20 12 —55

HOUSTON (21) — Graham 0, Whitted 6, Bitler 3, Garcia 2, Winzenburg 8, Elson 0, Luafulu 2.

KENAI (55) — Calvert 3, Villegas 2, Pierce 0, Hamilton 0, Maw 10, Hanson 8, Streiff 5, L. Satathite 7, Severson 2, B. Satathite 16, Reis 2, Lauritsen 0.

3-point field goals — Kenai 2 (Calvert 1, L. Satathite 1); Houston 2 (Winzenburg 2).

Stars 65, Wolverines 36

Cordova 11 8 12 5 —36

Soldotna 21 15 14 15 —65

CORDOVA (36) — Navarro 11, Esguerra 0, Bourgeois 2, Tabar 10, Mattson 7, Sjostedt 2, Arvidson 1, Jacob 0, Butler 3.

SOLDOTNA (65) — McGillivray 0, Buckbee 1, Leaf 0, Blossom 9, A. Schmidt 15, Bouschor 4, Tuisuaula 18, Leadens 0, Crosby-Schneider 10, D. Schmidt 8, Fischer 0.

3-point field goals — Soldotna 3 (Blossom 2, A. Schmidt 1); Cordova 4 (Tabar 2, Navarro 1, Mattson 1).

Team fouls — Nikiski 10; Cordova 10. Fouled out — none.

Cougars 34, Seahawks 28

Seward 6 5 7 10 — 28

Service 2 10 15 7 — 34

SEWARD (28) — Dow 0, Lemme 0, Ambrosiana 0, Shilling 0, Von Borstel 9, Sieverts 5, Jackson 8, Casagranda 4, Sewell 2. Totals — 10 7-12 28.

SERVICE (34) — Crutcher 1, Stoddard 9, Hopson 5, Noetmlich 3, Lambert 0, Campbell 4, Frazier 0, Pancid 8, Noland 4. Totals — 15 3-9 34.

3-point goals — Seward 1 (Von Borstel); Service 1 (Stoddard). Team fouls — Seward 15, Service 18.Fouled out — Noetmlich, Jackson.

Warriors 21, Bulldogs JV 20

Nikiski JV 3 7 5 5 — 20

Nikolaevsk 10 3 4 4 — 21

NIKISKI JV (20) — S. Epperheimer 0, Reichert 6, Freeman 2, Hooper 6, Tauriainen 0, Zimmerman 2, B. Epperheimer 2, Jeffreys 0, Walters 0, Mullin 2, Nunley 0. Totals — 8 2-4 20.

NIKOLAEVSK (21) — Klaich 1, Z. Fefelov 2, Lasiter 0, Yakunin 6, Kalugin 0, Mametieff 0, J. Fefelov 2, E. Fefelov 6. Totals — 8 5-16 21.

3-point goals — Nikiski JV 2 (Reichert 2). Team fouls — Nikiski JV 18, Nikolaevsk 10. Fouled out — none.

Stars JV 44, Eagles 25

Soldotna 8 14 14 8 — 44

SOLDOTNA JV (44) — Widaman 10, Brantley 15, Burns 6, Hinz 3.

COOK INLET ACADEMY (25) — G. Nelson 0, Henderson 2, S. Nelson 0, Dohse 0, Ad. Nelson 0, Castenholtz 0, Cragg 0, Cizek 8, Hammond 0, Warren 8.

Thursday boys

Kardinals 55, Hawks 30

Houston 11 9 0 10 —30

Kenai 22 14 8 11 —55

KENAI (55) — Dunham 0, Efka 11, Felchle 4, Baker 2, Custodio 0, Bezdecny 7, Stockton 6, Trujillo 12, Stafford 0, Pitsch 6, Daniels 2, McKibben 2.

3-point FG — Kenai 2 (Felchle 1, Trujillo 1); Houston 4 (Mulhaney 2, Faliniko 1, Mulhaney 1).

Team fouls — Kenai 19; Houston 17. Fouled out — Trujillo, Mulhaney.

Bulldogs 53, Huskies 29

Kotzebue 10 8 3 8 —29

Nikiski 22 13 12 9 —53

KOTZEBUE (29) — Williamson 2, Sheldon 14, Hensley 4, Jones 9, Sherman 0, Stalker 0.

NIKISKI (53) — Mysing 11, Weathers 5, Smith 3, Berry 0, Handley 3, Litke 11, DeSiena 2, Gray 0, Kornstad 17.

3-point goals — Nikiski 9 (Mysing 3, Kornstad 3, Smith 1, Handley 1, Litke 1); Kotzebue 1 (Jones).

Team fouls — Nikiski 6; Kotzebue 8. Fouled out — none.

Golden Bears 64, Mariners 39

Homer 2 17 8 12 — 39

Bartlett 16 16 22 10 — 64

HOMER (39) — Munns 2, Beachy 5, Adkins 6, Reutov 13, Raymond 0, Anderson 0, Kuhn 0, McGhee 3, Swoboda 10. Totals — 16 6-11 39.

BARTLETT (64) — Timberlake 5, Ri. King 3, Edwards 8, Ham 0, Ra. King 8, B. Tosi 13, M. Tosi 0, Lo. Manogiamanu 0, Laufam 4, Bell 4, Le. Manogiamanu 7. Totals — 28 5-11 64.

3-point goals — Homer 1 (Beachy); Bartlett 1 (Timberlake). Team fouls — Homer 9, Bartlett 10. Fouled out — none.

Thunderbirds 77, Seahawks 25

Seward 9 5 9 2 — 25

East 25 12 24 16 — 77

SEWARD (25) — Basalo 0, Spanos 4, Koster 5, Moriarity 0, Cronin 0, Ingalls 0, McMurray 0, Pfieffenberger 14, Jarvis 0, Nilsson 2. Totals — 10 2-3 25.

EAST (77) — Harrington 5, Bryant 2, Maladonado 12, Johnson 9, J. Williams 10, Prince 0, Chard 3, Graves 7, Zimmerman 12, Davis 2, A. Williams 4, Reed 9, Chichenoff 2. Totals — 30 6-10 77.

3-point goals — Seward 3 (Pfieffenberger 2, Koster); East 11 (Maldonado 3, Johnson 3, Reed 2, Herrington, Chard, Zimmerman). Team fouls — Seward 11, East 10. Fouled out — Pfieffenberger.

Warriors 56, Eagles 48

Nanwalek 7 18 16 7 — 48

Nikolaevsk 6 17 15 18 — 56

NANWALEK (48) — Botero 21, Tanape 0, Wilson 8, Bales 4, I. Moonin 0, C. Moonin 2, Huntsman 13, Evans 0, Kvasnikof 0. Totals — 21 1-8 48.

NIKOLAEVSK (56) — Boquecosa 4, Brown 0, J. Trail 13, Kalugin 5, Z. Trail 18, M. Trail 16. Totals — 24 6-16 56.

3-point goals — Nanwalek 5 (Botero 5); Nikolaevsk 3 (Z. Trail 2, J. Trail). Team fouls — Nanwalek 14, Nikolaevsk 11. Fouled out — none.

Nikiski’s Kaitlyn Johnson grabs a rebound while Kotzebue’s Shylah Schaeffer (14) attempts to swipe it Thursday at the Craig Jung Kenai River Challenge at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Kaitlyn Johnson grabs a rebound while Kotzebue’s Shylah Schaeffer (14) attempts to swipe it Thursday at the Craig Jung Kenai River Challenge at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Angela Druesedow drives against Kotzebue’s Ally Martin (11) Thursday at the Craig Jung Kenai River Challenge at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Angela Druesedow drives against Kotzebue’s Ally Martin (11) Thursday at the Craig Jung Kenai River Challenge at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Bethany Carstens drives for a layup Thursday against Kotzebue at the Craig Jung Kenai River Challenge at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Bethany Carstens drives for a layup Thursday against Kotzebue at the Craig Jung Kenai River Challenge at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

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