Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Nikiski Bulldog Cade Anderson tries to block a pass by Houton High School Hawks Lai Saechao, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, at Nikiski Middle-High School in Nikiski, Alaska.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Nikiski Bulldog Cade Anderson tries to block a pass by Houton High School Hawks Lai Saechao, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, at Nikiski Middle-High School in Nikiski, Alaska.

Nikiski Tip-Off Tournament wrapup

The Nikiski boys and girls basketball teams came within seconds Saturday of sweeping their own Nikiski Tip-Off tournament for the first time in 17 years, but the Houston Hawks had other ideas.

The Nikiski boys cruised to their first Tip-Off tournament championship in 11 years with a 62-39 win over Houston, while the Nikiski girls were left to ponder what could have been after a late bucket and a foul shot pushed Houston to a thrilling 36-35 victory in the final seconds.

In the boys game, the Bulldogs secured their first tourney title since 2004 with a late surge in the third and fourth quarters, which capped off a 3-0 weekend record and denied the Hawks their fifth tournament win in six years. Coach Reid Kornstad — who was a part of that most recent Nikiski team that won its home tournament — still fondly recalls that triumph.

“I almost remember that,” joked Kornstad. “That was a great bunch of guys 11 years ago, they were a special group.”

Kornstad said this year’s team has steadily become a force that does not back down when the pressure is on, and Saturday’s performance indicated what he saw in recent practices.

“Whenever the other team fights back and goes on a run, we started fighting back against their run and didn’t allow them to catch back up,” Kornstad said. “It shows a lot of growth in the mental toughness area.”

Luke Johnson and Hunter Holloway combined for 30 points, as well as 10-for-12 shooting from the free-throw line. Johnson scored a game-high 16 points and Holloway chipped in 14. Houston’s Ben Bitler scored all of his team-high 14 points in the first three quarters, while teammate Kade Taylor was a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity line to end with 13 points. The Hawks went 20-for-29 overall from the free-throw line.

Leading 26-15 at halftime, Nikiski went shot-for-shot with Houston in the third quarter, getting 16 points from seven different players to stake out a 42-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

That’s where the Bulldogs really began to take off. Sullivan Jackson nailed a triple in the opening minute of the fourth to spark a 12-point unanswered run that saw Nikiski open up a 54-28 lead with 4:10 remaining in the game.

“The guys have been starting to work in practice on things that have cost us wins about the last three or four weeks,” Kornstad said. “We’re starting to see the fruits of that now. I’m happy for them.”

Johnson and Nathan Carstens were named to the All-Tournament boys team. Dillingham’s Kenneth Savo was named the boys MVP.

Earlier in the day, the Nikiski girls lost a heartbreaker.

The Bulldogs — looking for their first Tip-Off title since 2008 — jumped out to an early lead and looked to be on path to deliver a blowout win to the home fans, holding the Hawks to only two field goals in the first half and leading by as much as 21-10 early in the third quarter.

However, Houston coach Colton Connor decided to change things up and implement a new offensive scheme.

“We set up this offense this week, specifically for this tournament, and I waited until the second half,” Connor said. “It’s a dribble-drive attack, and they were getting defenders to make mistakes.

“I was a little shaky on it because we didn’t get a lot of practice with it.”

After a 3-pointer from Nikiski senior Rachel Thompson left Houston trailing by 11 after the halftime break, Houston began to get to the basket much more effectively than it had been all game, and the comeback was on.

Houston scored 14 unanswered points to take a 24-21 lead with 7:01 to go in the fourth quarter. From there, the two teams swapped the lead five more times before the grand finale.

Nikiski junior Alison Litke delivered three clutch buckets down the stretch to keep the Bulldogs out front, and a free throw from Thompson with 16 seconds left had Nikiski leading 35-33.

However, Houston junior Kimberly Quincy delivered the crushing blow to Nikiski in the final seconds of the game. Quincy managed to break free from her defender with a well-timed screen from a teammate, receive the inbounds pass under the bucket and score the tying layup with 4.4 seconds on the clock, getting fouled in the process.

“I was just thinking, we need to get this, get a good pass, and it was perfect,” said an excited Quincy after the game. “It was so insane!”

Quincy sank the go-ahead free throw, then joined her teammates in attempting to keep Nikiski from scoring in the final four seconds of the game. Thompson’s half-court shot at the buzzer fell short.

“It hit the rim and kind of went in and I was like, ‘Go in!’” Quincy said. “I heard the foul (whistle), and the whole time before I shot that free throw I said, ‘Guys, we need to get back on defense!’”

Quincy scored 14 of her game-high 20 points in the second half to lead Houston to the tournament title after going 3-0 on the weekend.

Thompson led the Bulldogs with 17 points and was named tournament girls MVP. Litke chipped in nine and was named to the girls All-Tournament team. Nikiski went 2-1 on the weekend.

“After the first half, if you would’ve told me we were gonna be in it, I would’ve said it was going to be a battle,” Connor said. “This girls team, I’ve never coached anyone like them. They will work buzzer to buzzer, and they do things right.”

Dillingham girls 47,
Kotzebue 38

The Dillingham girls finished 1-2 at the tournament, while Kotzebue ended up 0-3.

Sydney Dray had 12 points to lead Dillingham, while Cassidy Kramer had 10 points for Kotzebue.

Dillingham boys 51,
Kotzebue 50

Dillingham nipped the Huskies to finish 2-1, while Kotzebue ended up 1-2.

Kenneth Savo had 25 points for Dillingham, while Caden Smeaton pitched in 11.

For Kotzebue, Evan Reich had 22 points and Bish Gallahorn added 12.

Nikiski girls 60, Kotzebue 34

Nikiski outscored Kotzebue 28-10 in the second half to ease to the win on the second day of the 26th Annual Nikiski Tip-Off tournament in Nikiski.

Senior Rachel Thompson scored a game-high 25 points for the Bulldogs.

Nikiski started hot with 19 points, but still led by only five over Kotzebue, which continued to stay close until the halftime break. Nikiski led 32-24 at half, and Thompson had 14 points at that point.

The Bulldogs then broke the game wide open in the third quarter with an 18-5 run.

Ayla Pitt and Avery Kornstad chipped in seven points each for Nikiski.

Cassidy Kramer led Kotzebue with 10 points.

Nikiski boys 55, Kotzebue 48

The Bulldogs rallied in the fourth quarter to claim a victory over Kotzebue at the Nikiski Tip-Off tournament.

Hunter Holloway scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to help the home team to the win, while Nathan Carstens led the team with 14 points, including six in the final quarter. Javon Pamplin chipped in nine as well.

Nikiski led 26-23 at halftime, but faltered in the third quarter. The Bulldogs trailed the Huskies 38-37 heading into the fourth.

Bish Gallahorn scored a game-high 22 points for Kotzebue.

Houston girls 45,
Dillingham 25

Kimberly Quincy led the Hawks to a convincing win over Dillingham with 16 points Friday at the Nikiski Tip-Off tournament.

Dillingham boys 56, Houston 51

Kenneth Savo scored 22 points to lead the Dillingham boys to a close win over the Hawks on Friday at Nikiski.

Kade Taylor scored a game-high 24 points for Houston in the losing effort.

26th Annual Nikiski Tip-Off
tournament results

BOYS

All-Tournament team — Evan Reich, Kotzebue; Bish Gallahorn, Kotzebue; Nathan Carstens, Nikiski; Luke Johnson, Nikiski; Caden Smeaton, Dillingham. MVP — Kenneth Savo, Dillingham.

Free throw champ — Cole Schlagel, Dillingham (20 shots made).

3-point champ — Kenneth Savo, Dillingham (13 shots).

GIRLS

All-Tournament team — Alison Litke, Nikiski; Kimberly Quincy, Houston; Aspen Ruth, Houston; Sydney Dray, Dillingham; Paeton Schaeffer, Kotzebue. MVP — Rachel Thompson, Nikiski.

Free throw champ — Arianne Parrish, Nikiski (18 shots).

3-point champ — Rachel Thompson, Nikiski (15 shots).

Saturday girls

Hawks 36, Bulldogs 35

Houston 6 2 14 14 —36

Nikiski 9 9 3 14 —35

HOUSTON (36) — May-Thomas 1 0-0 2, Bean 0 0-0 0, Ruth 3 1-1 7, M. Moore 0 2-2 2, Apangalook 0 0-1 0, Wilkerson 1 0-0 2, Quincy 7 6-7 20, Kapuneai 0 0-2 0, Leonard 0 3-4 3. Totals — 12 12-17 36.

NIKISKI (35) — Parrish 2 0-0 4, Riddall 0 0-0 0, Vollertson 0 0-0 0, Pitt 0 1-2 1, Litke 4 0-0 9, Kornstad 0 0-0 0, Thompson 5 4-5 17, Litzen 2 0-0 4. Totals — 13 5-7 35.

3-point goals — Nikiski 4 (Thompon 3, Litke). Team fouls — Houston 13, Nikiski 14. Fouled out — none.

Saturday boys

Bulldogs 62, Hawks 39

Nikiski 15 11 16 20 —62

Houston 8 7 13 11 —39

NIKISKI (62) — Anderson 3 0-1 6, Johnson 5 6-8 16, Holloway 5 4-4 14, Malston 3 0-0 7, Tauriainen 1 0-0 2, N. Carstens 3 0-1 6, Dohse 0 0-0 0, Jackson 2 0-0 5, Pamplin 2 0-0 4, B. Carstens 1 0-0 2. Totals 25 10-14 62.

HOUSTON (39) — Taylor 1 10-10 13, Ruta 0 1-2 1, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Saechao 1 1-2 3, Graham 1 0-0 2, Dika 0 0-0 0, Bitler 4 6-10 14, Lovelace 2 0-3 4. Totals 9 20-29 39.

3-point goals — Nikiski 2 (Jackson, Malston); Houston 1 (Taylor). Fouled out — none.

Friday girls

Bulldogs 55, Huskies 48

Nikiski 15 11 11 18 —55

Kotzebue 10 13 15 10 —48

NIKISKI (55) — Anderson 2 1-3 6, Johnson 4 0-1 8, Holloway 3 3-5 11, Malston 1 0-0 3, Tauriainen 0 1-2 1, Carstens 5 3-4 14, Jackson 1 0-0 3, Pamplin 4 1-2 9, B. Carstens 0 0-3 0. Totals 20 9-20 55.

KOTZEBUE (48) — Nelson 0 0-0 0, Baldwin 0 0-2 0, Kenworthy 0 2-2 2, Schaeffer 7 1-3 15, Phillips 0 0-0 0, Reich 3 2-3 9, Gallahorn 6 10-13 22. Totals 16 15-23 48.

3-point goals — Nikiski 6 (Holloway 2, Anderson 1, Malston 1, Carstens 1, Jackson 1); Kotzebue 1 (Reich). Fouled out — Johnson, Nelson.

Friday boys

Bulldogs 60, Huskies 34

Nikiski 19 13 18 10 —60

Kotzebue 14 10 5 5 —34

NIKISKI (60) — Parrish 1 2-5 4, Perry 0 1-2 1, Riddall 1 0-0 2, Vollertson 0 0-0 0, Pitt 3 1-2 7, Litke 2 0-0 4, Kornstad 3 0-1 7, Thompson 9 7-9 25, Jackson 2 0-1 4, Litzen 3 0-1 6. Totals 24 11-21 60.

KOTZEBUE (34) — Nelson-Loya 0 2-2 2, Sieh 2 0-0 5, Viveiros 1 0-0 2, Kramer 5 0-4 10, Mills-Bain 0 1-2 1, McConnell 0 0-0 0, Conwell 1 3-10 5, Schaeffer 3 1-2 9. Totals 12 7-20 34.

3-point goals — Nikiski 1 (Kornstad); Kotzebue 3 (Schaeffer 2, Sieh 1). Fouled out — Parrish.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Nikiski Bulldog Arianne Parrish makes sure she is accessible to her team mate during the game against the Houton High School Hawks, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, at Nikiski Middle-High School in Nikiski, Alaska.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Nikiski Bulldog Arianne Parrish makes sure she is accessible to her team mate during the game against the Houton High School Hawks, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, at Nikiski Middle-High School in Nikiski, Alaska.

More in Sports

Soldotna's Wayne Mellon works to a pin of Kenai Central's Zoticus Active at 189 pounds in a dual meet at Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi wrestling honors seniors in matchup with Kenai

Thanksgiving weekend gives many the opportunity to see family. The holiday gave… Continue reading

tease
Strausbaugh, Hippchen take Turkey Skate

Soldotna hosted Kenai Central for the Turkey Skate at Tsalteshi Trails on… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Sawyer Vann controls Nikiski's Wyatt Maguire at 125 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. Vann notched a 7-6 victory. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Area wrestlers collect mat time before Thanksgiving break

Area wrestlers got in some mat time Tuesday before the Thanksgiving break.… Continue reading

Assistant coach Taylor Shaw leads the Kenai River Brown Bears during a game Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, against the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears start search for new head coach

The Kenai River Brown Bears issued a press release Friday about staff… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Bryce Monrean tries to find a way through the defense of the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues during a first-period power play Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Jr. Blues come back to take series from Bears

The Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues lost not only a 2020-21 season to… Continue reading

Soldotna junior Liam Babitt holds a grip on South Anchorage’s Britten Hamilton during the 215-pound final of the Lancer Smith Fall Varsity 2021 Invite on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at the Menard Arena in Wasilla, Alaska. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)
Soldotna crowns 4 champions at Lancer Smith

The Soldotna wrestling team finished fourth Friday and Saturday at the Lancer… Continue reading

tease
Hockey roundup: SoHi sweeps in Kodiak; West wins End of Road tourney

The Soldotna hockey team swept Kodiak in the first high school games… Continue reading

A brown bear feeds on a salmon. (Photo by C. Canterbury/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Bears, uniquely built to respond to winter

With the new snow and temperatures dipping into the single digits, you… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Caden Warren surveys the ice against West at the End of the Road Tournament at Kevin Bell Arena in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Kenai, Homer hockey lose to open tourney

The Kenai Central and Homer hockey teams both opened the End of… Continue reading

Caden Triggs of the Kenai River Brown Bears celebrates his first-period goal against the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears topple Jr. Blues

By JEFF HELMINIAK Peninsula Clarion The Kenai River Brown Bears received two… Continue reading

Michael proposes to Sarah at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the Office: Falling in love one snowflake at a time

Do you want to know what I’ve been looking forward to the… Continue reading