Nikiski’s Brianna Vollertsen dives for a loose ball against Grace Christian, Friday at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Brianna Vollertsen dives for a loose ball against Grace Christian, Friday at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski girls lose Carstens, region semifinal to Grace

A 33-27 loss to Grace Christian in Friday’s Southcentral Conference tournament semifinal dropped the Nikiski girls out of title contention, but a bigger blow was dealt to their long-term hopes.

Sophomore guard Bethany Carstens went down in the first quarter with a knee injury and did not play the rest of the game. Bulldogs head coach Scott Anderson gave no indication of her status, but the outlook appears bleak.

“It’s a big blow for us,” Anderson said. “Offensively, our girls are used to having her score on court.”

The injury came on a transition layup following a steal by Carstens. Grace’s Makenna Shamburger went up with Carstens on the shot attempt, which scored to put Nikiski up 6-2 at the 3:28 mark of the first quarter.

On the landing, Carstens came down awkwardly on her left leg and crumpled to the floor in pain, silencing the enthusiastic crowd immediately.

After getting helped off the floor, Carstens spent the second half sitting on the bench with an ice pack on her knee, and had to rely on crutches to get around after the game.

“We’ve got to come back tomorrow, the season’s not done yet,” Anderson said. “I still have faith in this group.”

Because the Class 3A level of basketball in Alaska only allows two automatic state bids from the Southcentral Conference, the Nikiski girls will have to rely on a spot through the Winning Percentage Index standings. The “at-large” teams will be announced Sunday night at 7 p.m. on the NFHS website.

The Bulldogs stand a good shot in qualifying due to their high status in the WPI, which has been earned throughout the season with a 15-1 record against 3A opponents, but winning a state title will be harder if the Bulldogs do not have their leading scorer.

“We’re going to take it one game at a time,” Anderson said. “The girls need a high level of belief in each other, and it’s going to be one game at a time.”

Carstens missed her freshman hoops season due to an ACL injury to her right knee. Friday’s injury came to her left knee, and Anderson said an MRI would likely be scheduled in the coming days.

The loss dropped Nikiski into the Southcentral tournament third-place bracket, which they won convincingly with victories over Houston and Seward.

The victory for Grace moved the Grizzlies into Saturday’s girls championship game against Anchorage Christian, which defeated Seward in Friday’s other semifinal. Grace Christian coach Ward Romans, who formerly coached at Nikiski, expressed his condolences in Nikiski’s loss.

“You never want to see that,” Romans said. “Bethany is such a class girl, I hope she’ll come back. Grace Christian’s heart goes out to Nikiski.”

After taking the early lead — Carstens had scored all six of Nikiski’s points before her injury — the Bulldogs regrouped to figure out a new game plan. Avery Kornstad and Rylee Jackson laid in buckets to put Nikiski ahead 10-5, and consecutive 3-pointers by Brianna Vollertsen and Emma Wik put the home team up 16-12 midway through the second quarter. Nikiski led 18-16 at halftime. Wik finished with a team-high six points.

“I think the intensity went up after Bethany went down,” Anderson said.

Another triple by Wik with 4:22 left in the third quarter gave the Bulldogs a 23-20 lead, but it would be short-lived. The Grizzlies clamped down on defense by holding the Bulldogs to four points in the final 12 minutes of the game.

Romans revealed that much of the Grizzlies’ game plan was centered around Carstens, and her exit freed up Grace to focus on the rest of Nikiski’s lineup.

“Our plan was designed to slow (Carstens) down, and it was a major change after that,” Romans said. “But the true champions that Nikiski are, they came out and played the whole game, they played great.”

Anderson added that he thought Grace was really pressing high to sniff out Nikiski’s 3-point shooting, and after a floater by Kelsey Clark with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs went scoreless.

In an unusual twist, Nikiski also failed to make it to the free-throw line.

“I thought our defense was stellar tonight,” Romans said. “If we were going to lose this game, it wouldn’t be for not playing our hearts out.”

A free throw by Shamburger with six minutes to go tied the game at 27 apiece, forcing both teams to clamp down and carefully play their offense. With 2:45 to go, Annie VanderWeide drained a baseline jumper to give Grace a 29-27 lead, and Nikiski was forced to scramble. VanderWeide scored a game-high 11 points for Grace.

A baseline shot by Clark went in with 1:10 left but was called off for a travel, and an out-of-bounds pass from Vollertsen with 29 seconds left gave the ball to Grace, forcing Nikiski to foul.

Shamburger hit two free throws with 23.9 ticks remaining to put Grace up by four points, and the Bulldogs couldn’t find a way to score in the final seconds.

ACS girls 77, Seward 31

The Lions ousted the Seahawks in a Friday night semifinal at Nikiski High to stamp a place in Saturday’s Southcentral Conference girls title game and at the Class 3A state tournament.

After winning both regular-season games over Seward with narrow scores of 43-36 and 35-28, the top-seeded ACS girls had no trouble dispensing of Seward in the tournament. Seward head coach Curtis Berry pointed out that ACS did not have key starter Jordan Todd at their disposal in the first game, and said ACS struggled with shooting in the second contest.

“They’re athletic, they’re scrappy, and you combine that with players that can shoot the ball,” Berry said. “When it comes down to crunch time, they’re going to put their foot on the gas.”

Destiny Reimers finished with 19 points to lead ACS, including a 12-for-12 day from the free-throw line. ACS took 38 free-throw attempts as a team, making 24 of them. Teammate Jessie Davis also had 19 points with six 3-pointers, including four in the third quarter.

Seward was led by Ashley Jackson with 12 points.

The Lions employed a fierce defensive press that frustrated Seward all game long, forcing turnovers and mistakes.

A 19-5 run to start the game soon evened out for Seward, which cut the gap to 27-16 by the 5:50 mark of the second quarter.

ACS led 48-24 at halftime, then suppressed Seward in the third quarter by outscoring the Seahawks 23-1, staking a 71-25 lead at the end of the quarter.

Seward had scored just four points total in the second half before a triple by Madi Moore at the final buzzer gave Seward one last bucket.

Grace boys 50, Homer 41

Jimmy McGovern and Tobin Karlberg fueled the No. 1 seed Grace Christian boys to a physical semifinal win Friday night at Nikiski High.

McGovern knocked in numerous rebounds to notch 17 points, while Karlberg used stealthy shooting to get 18 points.

Grace head coach Jason Boerger said Homer gave his squad a tough challenge, which the Grizzlies needed.

“They’re fantastically balanced,” Boerger said. “They have a number of guys that can beat you.”

Koby Etzwiler led the Mariners with 11 points, while Charles Rohr and Justin Ellison each had 10.

Homer head coach Weston Carroll said the Mariners made a defensive adjustment in the second half in efforts to throw Grace off their game, and the trick nearly worked.

“We switched to a 1-3-1 defense, which gave us a few tips and deflections,” he said. “There were just a couple times we weren’t able to get the rebound.”

Homer got the jump on Grace in the first half, staking out a 14-8 lead in the early moments of the second quarter and pushing the advantage to 21-16 late in the quarter. Ellison and Etzwiler found the netting early, with 17 combined points between them.

Boerger said a slow start by his team could be attributed to the bye that is rewarded to the top seed.

“We’ve been sitting around for the last 36 hours and have done a lot of thinking about it,” Boerger said. “We were a little tight at first.”

However, after the cold start, the Grizzlies soon heated up and took the lead just before halftime on several second-chance opportunities. Grace led 22-21 at the break.

Karlberg scored seven unanswered points himself in the third quarter to push Grace’s lead to 33-23, and McGovern put back a rebound with 2:03 left in the quarter to forge a 37-25 lead.

However, Homer fought back, and cut the lead to 39-35 with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter on a steal and layup by Rohr.

Another layup by Rohr left Homer down 41-37 with 3:45 to go, but McGovern got his fingers on a rebound on the next possession to distance Grace, and a baseline hook shot by Karlberg with under two minutes left put the lead at 7.

ACS boys 55, Houston 41

The Anchorage Christian boys survived a battle of attrition Friday to punch their ticket to Saturday’s championship and to the Class 3A state tournament.

In a game that featured a combined 64 free-throw attempts and five players that fouled out, ACS managed to escape with the win. ACS hit 27 of 39 foul shots, while Houston suffered with four players fouling out.

Orlando Lozano led the way with a game-high 12 points for ACS, hitting 7 of 10 free throws, while Houston was led by Kade Taylor’s 12 points.

Nikiski boys 65, Redington 24

The host Bulldogs pulled out all the stops to beat Redington in Friday’s third-place bracket elimination game.

Ian Johnson led the way with 18 points, Cody Handley returned from an ankle sprain Thursday to post 17 points and Jace Kornstad hit three 3s to score 15.

The win put Nikiski into Saturday’s third-place matchup with Homer.

After leading 29-9 at halftime, Nikiski poured in 27 third-quarter points to seal the victory.

Homer girls 29, Redington 24

The Mariners staved off elimination Friday with a win over Redington.

Marina Carroll led Homer in a balanced scoring effort with nine points. Senior Uliana Reutov hit 3 of 4 free throws in the fourth quarter to finish with six points.

Courtney Crockett scored a game-high 12 points for Redington.

Homer led 12-11 at halftime and iced the win by outscoring the Huskies 8-4 in the final eight minutes.

Friday girls

Grizzlies 33, Bulldogs 27

Grace 8 8 10 7 — 33

Nikiski 10 8 7 2 — 27

GRACE CHRISTIAN (33) — Vanderweide 3 3-4 11, Markel 0 1-3 1, Osborne 0 0-0 0, Shamburger 3 3-4 9, Jarvis 2 0-1 4, Salima 1 0-0 2, Laker 2 2-2 6. Totals 11 9-14 33.

NIKISKI (27) — Wik 2 0-0 6, Pitt 1 0-0 2, Vollertsen 1 0-0 2, Carstens 3 0-0 6, Kornstad 1 0-0 2, Clark 1 0-0 2, Jackson 2 0-0 4, Porter 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 0-0 27.

3-point goals — Grace Christian 2 (VanderWeide 2); Nikiski 3 (Wik 2, Vollertsen 1).

Team fouls — Grace Christian 7; Nikiski 11. Fouled out — none.

Lions 77, Seahawks 31

ACS 23 25 23 6 — 77

Seward 9 15 1 6 — 31

ACS (77) — Parks 1 0-0 2, Tebbits 1 0-0 3, Smallwood 1 4-8 6, Ealum 0 0-1 0, Davis 6 1-4 19, Reimers 3 12-12 19, Powell 0 0-0 0, Keller 3 2-4 8, Randal 0 0-0 0, Carr 4 2-5 11, Todd 3 3-4 9. Totals 22 24-38 77.

SEWARD (31) — Cinereski 0 0-0 0, Moriarty 0 0-2 0, Hauze 1 0-0 2, Terry 0 0-0 0, VonBorstel 1 5-7 7, Jackson 4 2-3 12, Lapinskas 1 2-2 4, Sullivan 0 0-0 0, Moore 1 1-2 4, Petrosius 0 2-2 2. Totals 8 12-18 31.

3-point goals — ACS 9 (Davis 6, Tebbits 1, Reimers 1, Carr 1); Seward 3 (Jackson 2, Moore 1).

Team fouls — ACS 16; Seward 18. Fouled out — Petrosius.

Mariners 29, Huskies 24

Redington 3 8 9 4 — 24

Homer 7 5 9 8 — 29

REDINGTON (24) — Koozata 1 0-0 2, Lytle 0 0-0 0, Crockett 3 6-6 12, Clarey 0 1-2 1, Aparazuk 0 1-2 1, Fuller 1 6-8 8, Kuzman 0 0-0 0, Horne 0 0-0 0. Totals 5 14-18 24.

HOMER (29) — Carroll 4 1-1 9, Reutov 1 4-6 6, Knott 0 0-0 0, Doughty 1 3-4 5, Todd 0 0-0 0, Parish 0 0-0 0, Bales 1 0-0 2, Gillette 0 0-0 0, Veldstra 1 0-0 2, Cole 1 1-2 3, Box 1 0-0 2. Totals 10 9-13 29.

3-point goals — Redington 0; Homer 0.

Team fouls — Redington 13; Homer 17. Fouled out — Lytle.

Friday boys

Grizzlies 50, Mariners 41

Grace 8 14 17 11 — 50

Homer 12 9 7 13 — 41

GRACE (50) — Kopp 0 0-0 0, Ivanoff 0 0-0 0, Shamburger 2 1-3 6, Wood 2 0-0 4, McGovern 7 3-5 17, Nieder 2 0-0 4, Karlberg 5 7-7 18, Beck 0 1-2 1. Totals 18 12-17 50.

HOMER (41) — Rohr 4 2-3 10, Etzwiler 4 2-2 11, Ravin 0 0-0 0, Carroll 1 2-3 4, Edens 0 0-0 0, Ellison 4 2-3 10, Beachy 1 1-2 4, McGhee 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 9-13 41.

3-point goals — Grace 2 (Shamburger 1, Karlberg 1); Homer 2 (Etzwiler 1, Beachy 1).

Team fouls — Grace 13; Homer 15. Fouled out — none.

Bulldogs 65, Huskies 24

Redington 4 5 7 8 — 24

Nikiski 15 14 27 9 — 65

REDINGTON (24) — Rogers 1 0-0 2, Straughn 2 0-0 4, Amirault 4 0-0 8, Rumfelt 4 0-0 8, Brooks 0 2-5 2, Long 0 0-1 0, Spott 0 0-0 0, King 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 2-6 24.

NIKISKI (65) — Johnson 7 4-6 18, Weathers 1 0-0 3, G. Ellis 2 2-2 7, Kornstad 6 0-0 15, Handley 7 1-2 17, B. Ellis 0 3-4 3, DeSiena 1 0-0 2, Bridges 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 10-13 65.

3-point goals — Redington 0; Nikiski 7 (Kornstad 3, Handley 2, G. Ellis 1, Weathers 1).

Team fouls — Redington 11; Nikiski 13. Fouled out — B. Ellis.

Nikiski’s Kelsey Clark (24) eyes Grace Christian’s Annie VanderWeide in Friday’s semifinal at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Kelsey Clark (24) eyes Grace Christian’s Annie VanderWeide in Friday’s semifinal at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Joel Carroll tries to hold onto a rebound against Grace Christian, Friday at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Joel Carroll tries to hold onto a rebound against Grace Christian, Friday at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Koby Etzwiler (5) reaches to score against Grace Christian’s Jimmy McGovern in a semifinal game Friday at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Koby Etzwiler (5) reaches to score against Grace Christian’s Jimmy McGovern in a semifinal game Friday at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward’s Madi Moore (31) reaches for a rebound above Anchorage Christian’s Jordan Todd, Friday at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward’s Madi Moore (31) reaches for a rebound above Anchorage Christian’s Jordan Todd, Friday at the Southcentral Conference basketball tournament at Nikiski High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

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