Nikiski boys fall to Bethel in 4th-place game

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Nikiski senior Hunter Holloway moves in for a layup against Delta Junction in Friday's Class 3A boys state tournament consolation semifinal contest at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Nikiski senior Hunter Holloway moves in for a layup against Delta Junction in Friday's Class 3A boys state tournament consolation semifinal contest at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

The Nikiski boys basketball team ended their state tournament run about the same their predecessors did.

In their first state appearance in 14 years, the Bulldogs ended their season Saturday morning with a 58-34 loss to Bethel in the Class 3A boys tournament fourth-place game, capping a 1-2 showing over three days of competition.

The Bulldogs found it extremely difficult establishing any kind of offensive rhythm Saturday, shooting a meager 12 percent in the second half while Bethel dictated the style of play en route to hitting 55 percent of its shots. The Warriors held the Bulldogs to just nine second-half points and outscored them 12-2 in the third quarter.

“All credit goes to Bethel, they showed up ready to play today,” said Nikiski coach Reid Kornstad, whose squad got the Class 3A boys Academic Award. “They’ve improved since the last time we saw them, and whatever we wanted to do, they stopped us.”

Nikiski defeated Bethel 64-54 at the Nikiski Tip-Off Tournament in mid-January. The Bulldogs ended their season with a 19-12 overall record.

Kornstad stopped short of proclaiming this year to be the best he’s had in his 16 seasons as a coach at Nikiski, but said it isn’t far off.

“This ranks up there,” he said. “The seniors gave a lot to the program, and they redefined what it takes to be a Nikiski athlete.”

Seniors Luke Johnson and Hunter Holloway finished with 10 points each to lead the Bulldogs, while Nathan Carstens grabbed 11 rebounds.

Clevon Constantine led Bethel with 15 points, while Jayvin Williams chipped in 14 and Aidan Kuhne had a big second half with 11 points and nine boards.

With Constantine and Williams drawing attention at the post with aggressive drives to the basket, Nikiski had its hands full from the get-go. The two teams combined for six 3-pointers in the first four minutes, leading to an 11-all tie.

A trey by Carl Charlie helped Bethel distance itself and take a 20-15 lead after eight minutes of play, but Nikiski’s effort in the paint helped the Bulldogs claw back with buckets by Luke Johnson. A low floater by Cade Anderson at the first half buzzer left Nikiski trailing 28-25 at halftime.

Overall, Nikiski took 22 shots from beyond the arc, but hit just three of them.

In the opening five minutes of the third quarter, Bethel began to establish its dominance, scoring eight straight points to grab a 36-25 lead. Williams recorded six of those points himself with supreme drives to the rim.

Bethel hit on another 8-0 run in the early minutes of the fourth quarter to go up 48-29 and ice the contest with four minutes remaining.

Nikiski boys 52,
Delta Junction 36

Against a top-seeded state powerhouse Barrow Whalers team Thursday, the Nikiski boys did everything they could but failed to get what they wanted.

Friday against Delta Junction, the Nikiski boys did everything they could and got exactly what they wanted.

The Bulldogs notched a convincing victory in the Class 3A state tournament consolation semifinals at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

In order to stay alive for another day, the Bulldogs had to win. That was apparent for the seniors on the team, who badly wanted victory so they could properly close out their prep hoops careers with a Saturday contest.

“This was really important for us, to get to Saturday,” said Nikiski senior Hunter Holloway. “Our main goal was to come together for our team, and we did that.”

Hot shooting from beyond the arc in the first half helped Nikiski in the second half, as the Huskies’ adjusted their focus to the perimeter, which only allowed Holloway and company to get better inside looks at the rim.

Holloway finished with 11 points, eight coming in the fourth quarter, on 5-for-7 shooting, and was perfect on all four buckets inside the arc.

Cade Anderson led the Bulldogs with 12 points on 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point land while dishing out four assists. Nathan Carstens chipped in 10 points, six assists and eight boards. Overall, Nikiski’s seniors accounted for 46 of the team’s 52 points.

Using a play inspired by the national champion Kentucky Wildcats, the Bulldogs were able to draw Delta’s defenders outside on patient ballhandling to find space under the rim on numerous occasions. That combined with improved rebounding helped Nikiski use that style to outscore Delta 14-4 in the third quarter and blow open what had been a tight matchup.

“We looked at them before the game and saw they were smaller than Barrow and us, and we used that to our advantage,” Holloway said. “We just threw it to the big guys.”

Anderson warmed up with a pair of 3s late in the first quarter and early in the second, which combined with a triple from Holloway put the Bulldogs up 19-9 in the first half.

But Delta came back with a pair of drives to the rim by Micah Helkenn and a layup by Omar Powers that cut Nikiski’s lead to 21-19. By halftime, the Bulldogs led 23-22.

In the third quarter, Sam Tauriainen and Jace Kornstad knocked down a triple each to push Nikiski’s lead to 31-25 by the 4:10 mark of the quarter. From that point on, Nikiski’s inside game took over.

A post-up shot by Luke Johnson put Nikiski’s lead at 37-26 after three quarters, and in the fourth period, Holloway got to work with three consecutive driving layups that left the Bulldogs leading 43-28 with 3:52 remaining.

“It was so much fun out there,” Holloway said.

Nikiski used a 7-0 run in the final minutes to clinch the victory. In the second half, Nikiski finished with a 61 percent shooting percentage, dwarfing the 17 percent by Delta and significantly higher than the 19 percent the Bulldogs shot Thursday in the second half against Barrow.


Friday boys

Bulldogs 52, Huskies 36

Delta 9 13 4 10 —36

Nikiski 13 10 14 15 —52

NIKISKI (52) — I. Johnson 0 0-0 0, Anderson 4 1-2 12, L. Johnson 3 0-0 6, Kornstad 2 0-0 6, Holloway 5 0-2 11, Handley 0 0-0 0, Tauriainen 1 0-0 3, Ellis 0 0-0 0, Carstens 5 0-0 10, Pamplin 2 0-0 4. Totals 22 1-4 52.

DELTA JUNCTION (36) — N. Helkenn 1 3-4 5, Blankenship 2 1-4 5, M. Helkenn 4 0-3 8, Maslovtsov 0 0-0 0, Rivera 0 0-0 0, Kravets 0 0-0 0, Powers 1 0-0 2, Gonzalez 4 3-4 12, LeGrande 1 0-0 2, Reiter 0 0-0 0, Kilimnik 0 2-2 2, Mock 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 9-17 36.

3-point goals — Nikiski 7 (Anderson 3, Kornstad 2, Holloway 1, Tauriainen 1); Delta 1 (Gonzalez). Team fouls — Nikiski 18; Delta 11. Fouled out — none.

Saturday boys

Warriors 58, Bulldogs 34

Nikiski 15 10 2 7 —34

Bethel 20 8 12 18 —58

NIKISKI (34) — I. Johnson 0 0-0 0, Anderson 1 0-0 2, L. Johnson 5 0-1 10, Kornstad 1 0-0 2, Holloway 4 0-0 10, Tauriainen 1 0-0 3, Carstens 2 1-3 5, Pamplin 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 1-4 34.

BETHEL (58) — Daniel 0 0-0 0, Blevins 0 0-0 0, Michael 0 0-0 0, Flemings 0 2-2 2, Charlie 5 0-0 12, Williams 5 2-2 14, Garrison 0 0-0 0, Alexie 1 2-2 4, Fredericks 0 0-0 0, Constantine 4 7-10 15, Kuhne 5 1-2 11. Totals 20 14-22 58.

3-point goals — Nikiski 3 (Holloway 2, Tauriainen 1); Bethel 4 (Charlie 2, Williams 2). Team fouls — Nikiski 18; Bethel 11. Fouled out — Pamplin.

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