The host Nikiski girls basketball team wrapped up a Rus Hitchcock Tip Off Tournament title Saturday by defeating the Dimond JV 49-9.
Lillian Carstens, the tournament MVP, had 16 points to key the victory, while America Jeffreys pitched in 10. The Service girls finished second.
On the boys side, the West JV boys defeated Nikiski to wrap up the title in the round-robin tourney. The Houston boys were second.
Mark Maraviles had 18 points to lead West JV to victory. For Nikiski, Noah Litke, the tournament MVP, had 17.
Both Nikiski basketball teams notched wins Friday against Anchorage teams in the tourney, but neither came easily.
The Bulldogs girls eked out a 48-40 victory Friday against Service. After a tight first quarter, Nikiski led 18-16 and widened its lead slightly to 34-27 by halftime.
The Service girls came back with a strong defense in the second half, limiting Nikiski to six points and scoring five of their own. By the end of the third quarter, Nikiski held the lead with 39-33, and Service started out strong in fourth quarter, with Service’s Jana Domingono and Meriah Paweio scoring two layups in quick succession.
But in the end, the Bulldogs maintained a defense strong enough to hold off the Cougars. In the last few seconds of the game, Nikiski’s Bailey Epperheimer hit two free throws to account for the final score.
Girls coach Rustin Hitchcock said the girls came into the game hot but the Service girls made for a great game.
“We really had to fight for our baskets here,” he said.
Nikiski’s America Jeffreys scored 11 points, with three 3-point shots. Lillian Carstens added 10, while Kayce Bostic had 12.
While the Bulldog girls held a multiple-basket lead throughout their game, the boys played a much tighter game the South junior varsity. Multiple points in the game saw the score tied, with the teams trading baskets despite defensive strategies. Ultimately, Nikiski pulled off a 62-58 victory.
Both teams started with aggressive offensive plays, trading baskets throughout most of the first quarter for a tied score at 18 moving into second quarter.
Nikiski pushed for a lead in the second quarter, with Austin Stafford and Michael Eiter both scoring 3-pointers within the first few minutes of the quarter and drilling into South’s defense zone. It paid off, with Nikiski taking 14 points out of the second quarter to South’s eight, giving Niiski a lead of six points going into halftime.
The Wolverines pushed back in the third quarter, with South’s Christopher Fuller pulling off three baskets in quick sequence and a tight defense that caused several turnovers. By the end of the third quarter, the game stood tied at 42.
With tensions high, the teams traded baskets through the fourth quarter, but Nikiski consistently kept a lead of a few baskets throughout. In the final few minutes, Nikiski’s Noah Litke hit key free throws, giving Nikiski a lead of 62-55.
Even a final 3-point shot by South couldn’t make up the gap, and the game ended with Nikiski as the victors.
“We showed that we’re willing to do difficult things under pressure,” said Nikiski coach Reid Kornstad.
South brought a great game, and it was fun to have a back-and-forth competition, Kornstad said. Throughout, the boys showed strong teamwork, which Kornstad connected to the strong relationships between the players this year.
Nikiski’s Eiter scored a total of 20 points during the game, while Litke scored 17, Staffored 13, and Michal Mysing 10. For South, Fuller scored 17 and Matt Ferreira scored 11.
In the early games Friday, the Houston girls toppled Dimond JV 56-13 and the West JV boys defeated Houston 64-59.
In the early games Saturday, the Service girls topped Houston 49-34 and the Houston boys topped South JV 57-46.
The Russ Hitchcock Tip Off Tournament, now in its 31st year, bears the name of a longtime Nikiski basketball coach — current varsity girls coach Rustin Hitchcock’s father.
Rustin’s sister, Whitney Hitchcock, currently coaches the girls JV team at Nikiski. Despite near-zero temperatures this weekend, the games drew crowds of supporters, both students and community members, to pack the stands.
“We feel very honored to have this named after him,” Rustin Hitchcock said. “(The turnout) really shows that the school is a staple in this community.”
Reach Elizabeth Earl at email@example.com.
Boys sportsmanship — West.
Girls sportsmanship — Nikiski.
Boys MVP — Noah Litke, Nikiski.
Girls MVP — Lillian Carstens, Nikiski.
Boys all-tourney — Mark Maraviles, West; Kyle McLaughlin, Houston; Junus McGraw, West; Chris Fuller, South; Luke Ivanoff, South.
Girls all-tourney — Katie Richey, Houston; Jana Domingono, Service; Cadie Stoddard, Service; Kaitlyn Johnson, Nikiski; Kaycee Bostic, Nikiski.
Boys scrappy award — Mark Maraviles, West.
Girls scrappy award — Jana Domingono, Service.
Boys free-throw champ — Austin Stafford, Nikiski.
Girls free-throw champ — Icis Garcia, Houston.
Boys 3-point champ — Noah Litke, Nikiski.
Girls 3-point champ — Caddie Stoddard, Service.
Girls post-up champ — Kaycee Bostic, Nikiski.
Boys post-up champ — Canan Huss, West.
Bulldogs 48, Cougars 40
Nikiski 18 16 5 9—48
Service 16 11 6 7—40
NIKISKI (48) — Jeffreys 11, Reichert 3, Carstens 10, Bostic 12, Johnson 5, Zimmerman 2, Epperheimer 1
SERVICE (40) — Crutcher 7, Stoddard 8, Hopson 5, Quitugua-Banks 1, Domingono 11, Paweio 8
3-point goals: Nikiski 6 (Jeffreys 3, Reichert 1, Cartsens 1, Bostic 1), Service 3 (Stoddard 2, Hopson 1).
Bulldogs 49, Lynx JV 9
Dimond 2 2 2 3 —9
Nikiski 19 12 17 1 —49
DIMOND JV (9) — Sliwinski 2, Deloney 3, Doucet 2, Hernandez 2.
NIKISKI (49) — A. Jeffreys 10, Reichert 5, Carstens 16, Bostic 1, Johnson 5, Zimmerman 2, B. Epperheimer 6, Nunley 1, S. Epperheimer 0, Freeman 0, Puente 0, Mullin 2, M. Jeffreys 1.
3-point goals — Nikiski 3 (A. Jeffreys 2, Reichert).
Bulldogs 62, Wolverines 58
Nikiski 18 14 10 20—62
South 18 8 16 16—58
NIKISKI (62) — Mysing 12, Litke 17, Eiter 20, Stafford 13
SOUTH (58) — Fuller 17, Green 5, Ferreira 11, Mlacmik 7, Hodson 1, Ivanoff 4, Heath 9, Whited 4
3-point goals — Nikiski 10 (Mysing 2, Litke 1, Eiter 4, Stafford 3); South 9 (Fuller 1, Green 1, Ferreira 3, Mlacmik 1, Heath 3).
Eagles JV 59, Bulldogs 35
West 11 21 12 15 —59
Nikiski 14 10 7 4 —35
WEST JV (59) — Shanahan 6, Huss 6, Choul 0, Choat 4, Adlawan 3, Maraviles 18, Mora 0, Nukoa 4, McGraw 7, Brody 6, John 5.
NIKISKI (35) — Mysing 6, Litke 17, Eiter 5, White 0, Malston 0, Stafford 3, C. Payne 0, Bostic 0, McCaughey 0, Handley 0.
3-point goals — West 5 (Huss 2, Maraviles 2, McGraw); Nikiski 2 (Mysing, Litke).
By Elizabeth Earl
For the Clarion