The Nikiski and Houston basketball teams split a pair of Southcentral Conference games Friday in Nikiski.
The Bulldogs girls eventually broke free in a tight defensive battle for a 44-25 triumph that put them at 12-8 overall and 4-1 in the league. The Hawks boys used a swarming defense and opportune offense for a 62-43 win that put them at 8-9 overall and 3-2 in the league.
The score of the girls game was 9-3 for Nikiski after the first quarter, 16-8 after two quarters and 19-13 after three quarters. The points finally got flowing in the fourth when both teams spent a lot of time at the foul line. Houston committed 27 fouls in the game, while Nikiski had 23.
Nikiski coach Rustin Hitchcock said Houston’s physical play on defense definitely was a challenge for his squad.
“They’re big, super strong and the game plan is to get right in your face,” Hitchcock said. “Our offense got a little stagnant.”
Houston coach Mat Bredberg said his squad was not scoring for the simplest of reasons — the Hawks were not making shots.
“We didn’t put the round thing in the round thing,” Bredberg said. “That’s what you’ve gotta do. In the first half, we kept them under 20 points, we just didn’t make shots.”
In the fourth quarter, fouls caught up with the Hawks as Denali Whitted, Hanna Elson and Emily Bitler all fouled out. Tika Zimmerman fouled out for Nikiski, but nobody else had more than three fouls.
“Ultimately, it was our depth,” Hitchcock said. “We just had more people.”
Nikiski was 15 for 27 from the line in the final eight minutes, while Houston was 5 of 14.
America Jeffreys paced a balanced Nikiski attack with 12 points, while Denali Whitted led Houston with eight.
Hitchcock also gave credit to Kaycee Bostic for a rough and tumble game where she absorbed many fouls.
Houston boys 62, Nikiski 43
The Hawks grabbed a 17-7 lead after the first quarter and managed to shut down any run Nikiski made to make the game close after that.
Houston went with a man or zone press for the full court the whole game. Nikiski coach Reid Kornstad said his squad got the ball over the half-court stripe just fine, but then the pressure began to add up.
“They were pressing all over the floor and that led to some turnovers,” Kornstad said. “The pressure also led us to take some shots we wouldn’t otherwise take.”
An offensive attack led by the crafty Noah Litke, who paced the Bulldogs with 18 points, did spark several runs at the Hawks. Nikiski got the lead to single digits in the second quarter before Houston went on a run to lead 33-15 at the half.
Kornstad said his team was hurt by not getting defensive stops when they were important. Nikiski also had 17 fouls to Houston’s 10, even though Houston was the one pressing.
“They’ve got guys that can score,” Kornstad said of the Hawks, who have beaten the Bulldogs three times this year. “They’ve got shooters, they’ve got a big guy and they’re well-coached.
“They’ve improved a ton over the course of the year.”
Kyle McLaughlin, at 6-foot-6, had 15 points for the Hawks, while guards Hayden Howard and Cody Wyrick had 18 and 16, respectively.
Houston coach Ted Van Dussen said his team still has improving to do. The Hawks have had problems starting the second half all season. Friday, Nikiski cut the 33-15 halftime deficit to 42-28 by 2:34 left in the third quarter.
“We’re battling a lapse in intensity,” Van Dussen said. “We’ve got to get a little better at putting the pedal down when we have another team down.”
The coach also said his team suffers lulls on offense when the ball doesn’t get in to McLaughlin.
Michael Mysing added eight points for the Bulldogs. Kornstad gave him credit for a defensive game where his motor was constantly running.
Redington girls 36, Nikiski 32
The visiting Huskies knocked the Bulldogs down to 12-9 overall and 4-2 in conference play.
Redington led 9-4 after a quarter, 17-8 at halftime and 23-16 after three quarters.
Lexi Seymore had 18 points for the Huskies, while Nikiski got 17 from Lillian Carstens, eight from America Jeffreys, four from Kaitlyn Johnson, two from Kaycee Bostic and one from Elora Reichert.
Redington boys 63, Nikiski 55
The visiting Huskies took an 18-10 lead after the first quarter and held on for a Southcentral Conference victory.
Redington led 29-24 at the half and 49-39 after three quarters. Ruben Bord paced Redington with 23, while Wayde Bowman had 15 and Tony Rogers had 11. For the Bulldogs, Drew Handley had 19, Austin Stafford had 16, Noah Litke had 14, and Michael Mysing, Simon Grenier and Brady Bostic had two points apiece.
Bulldogs 44, Hawks 25
Houston 3 5 5 12 —25
Nikiski 9 7 3 25 —44
HOUSTON (25) — D. Whitted 8, Rusher 2, Elson 6, Bitler 2, A. Whitted 7.
NIKISKI (44) — A. Jeffreys 12, Carstens 8, Bostic 5, Zimmerman 1, Nunley 7, S. Epperheimer 4, Freeman 3, Puente 1, Mullin 2, Jeffreys 1.
3-point goals — Houston 1 (Elson); Nikiski 3 (A. Jeffreys 2, Freeman).
Hawks 62, Bulldogs 43
Houston 17 16 10 19 —62
Nikiski 7 8 16 12 —43
HOUSTON (62) — Cork 3, L. Taylor 3, Howard 18, Wyrick 16, C. Taylor 4, Falaniko 1, Jefferson 2, McLauglin 15.
NIKISKI (43) — Mysing 8, Litke 18, Stafford 8, Bostic 4, Handley 5.