Beware the Ides of March.
On a day known for misfortune, all three peninsula teams lost Friday at the Class 1A state basketball tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, ending their March Madness Alaska runs on the spot.
The Nikolaevsk girls started the day with a 55-38 loss to Buckland in the championship bracket fourth-place semifinals, and that was followed by the Cook Inlet Academy girls dropping a consolation game 33-22 to Shishmaref. The Nikolaevsk boys then fell 63-44 to Savoonga to cap the day for peninsula teams. Each squad finished 1-2 at the big dance.
“Most of my girls have moms that were very athletic and many of them never got to go to state,” said Nikolaevsk girls coach Bea Klaich. “It’s just a privilege that I don’t want them to take for granted.”
Nikolaevsk boys head coach Steve Klaich echoed his wife’s thoughts and said he felt good about his team’s finish to the season despite multiple injuries dogging the squad this year, a campaign that included the first boys region title in program history.
“Our youth and inexperience showed at state,” he said. “We showed it in spurts but our consistency wasn’t there.
“But despite the injuries, it was a good year. The kids played well and showed a lot of improvement.”
The CIA girls also finished with a Peninsula Conference championship, which head coach Josh Hawley said helped ease the sting of going 1-2 at state. Hawley pointed out the growth the team made in 2018, just one year after the program was revived after a lost season.
“This group of girls … with the amount of coaching they had and the amount of time in the gym, to come to state and pull within five points of (first-round opponent) Kake, we could’ve been talking about us playing for fourth place,” Hawley said. “You could be talking about us going deep at state.”
For now, each squad will be looking ahead to next year.
Buckland girls 55, Nikolaevsk 38
Cold shooting and one too many turnovers in the third quarter doomed the Nikolaevsk girls to a Friday morning loss at the Alaska Airlines Center and ended the season for the Warriors.
Klaich said injuries in the regular season made for a tough ride at state, but added the silver lining is seeing younger players receive valuable playing time.
“The girls and I are really happy to be in the top eight in the state,” Klaich said. “That’s a great accomplishment because we had to overcome some things this season … the message for the juniors is we can get better and the difference will be what they do to improve in the offseason.”
Nikolaevsk junior Elizabeth Fefelov notched another big day for the Warriors with 17 points and 22 rebounds, while junior teammate Markiana Yakunin had 13 and 10. Later, Fefelov would in the Queen of the Court 3-point Contest.
However, Nikolaevsk struggled to keep up with Buckland’s dangerous transition game, and three Sissuani players finished in double figures — Mamie Kirk with 16 points, eight rebounds and five steals, Bethany Ticket with 15 points and Jacquelyn Berlin with 13. Overall, Buckland pressured Nikolaevsk into 27 turnovers, 21 of those on straight steals of the ball.
Buckland jumped out to an 18-8 lead early, but the Warriors won the second quarter 13-5 to close the gap to 23-21 by halftime. Yakunin was especially deadly in the second, finding the ball from teammates in a variety of ways as the passing game improved. Yakunin tallied eight of the team’s 13 points in the second quarter.
“They showed they can play with any team,” Klaich said. “They showed that in the first half, they were even with them. They just need to be consistent.”
Fefelov laid in a bucket immediately following the second-half tipoff to tie the game at 23 apiece, but that would be the last time Nikolaevsk shared the advantage.
The Sissuani took charge from there, led by Mamie Kirk’s 10 points, to grab a daunting 39-26 lead entering the fourth quarter. Kirk and teammate Jacquelyn Berlin both connected from long range to build the lead while Nikolaevsk struggled to score.
Overall, Buckland outscored Nikolaevsk 32-17 in the second half as the Sissuani ran away with the win. Kirk finished with a team-high 16 points for Buckland and also grabbed eight rebounds and five steals. Buckland also got 15 points from Bethany Ticket and 13 from Berlin.
Nikolaevsk struggled from the court in the second half, hitting just 6 of 34 shots (17 percent) while going 0 for 15 in total from the 3-point line.
Shishmaref girls 33, CIA 22
The Cook Inlet Academy senior class of Anna Cizek, Adara Warren, Adeline Nelson, Sophia Nelson and Brianna Hammond wrapped up their prep careers Friday with a loss to the Shishmaref Northern Lights in the consolation bracket.
“It’s sad but it was a good way to end it,” Warren said. “Just sucks it’s like the last organized sport I’ll play.”
Warren led the Eagles with seven points and 10 boards, while Cizek added six points. Warren said that while the team would be missing out on Saturday’s action, she was happy to come away with a March Madness victory.
“I’m glad we won one of the games,” Warren said, referring to Thursday’s win over Newtok. “That first morning game wasn’t the best.”
CIA struggled against Shishmaref’s rabid defense in the second half, hitting just four buckets for an 18 percent clip. Overall, CIA sunk just 1 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Things were tight early on. The Eagles trailed 12-6 midway through the second quarter but used a furious kick to take a 13-12 lead at halftime, a run that was capped by a Warren triple.
The Shishmaref defense swamped the Eagles in the third quarter as Sonja Ningeulook heated up with a pair of 3s to give the Northern Lights a 20-13 lead. When CIA began pushing out to defend the perimeter, it then allowed Rena Kiyutelluk to take over inside with three post shots in a row, giving Shishmaref a 26-15 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
Adeline Nelson got the final frame started with a nifty steal and layup in efforts to get a rally started, but Hayley Weyiouanna squashed it quickly with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
A pair of free throws and a transition layup by Ningeulook with 3:34 remaining effectively sealed the win at 33-20. Ningeulook led Shishmaref with 19 points, while teammate Sarah Stenek notched 14 rebounds.
Savoonga boys 63, Nikolaevsk 44
The Nikolaevsk boys started hot with a double-digit lead but saw it quickly disappear as the Savoonga Huskies dominated the second half 42-18.
The Warriors bid adieu to seniors Michael Trail, Randy Boquecosa and JD Mumey as Nikolaevsk’s season came to an end.
Trail led the Warriors with 14 points, 16 rebounds and six steals, and shot 7 for 17. Teammates Kosta Nikitenko added nine points and seven boards, and Isaak Fefelov notched eight points.
Nikolaevsk’s lead grew to 26-14 early in the second quarter, but Savoonga began to steadily flip the switch.
“We were stagnant the last half of the second quarter,” said coach Steve Klaich. “We were stuck on 26 points for a long time.”
Fefelov drained a 3-pointer early with 6:24 left in the first half, but Savoonga’s defense shut out the Warriors for the next 10 minutes of game time. By the time Nikitenko finally broke the offensive silence with a jumper at at 4:24 of the third quarter, the Huskies had tallied 15 straight points for a slim lead. Overall, Savoonga outscored Nikolaevsk 27-2 from the second quarter to the final stages of the third.
Klaich attributed the sluggish period to rebounding. Nikolaevsk lost the rebounding battle 20-13 in the second half after winning the glass over Savoonga 20-17 in the first.
“Our second half was rebounding, or the lack of,” Klaich said. “Michael can’t do it all on the boards. He needs teammates to get in there and help on that.”
The closest the Warriors got to the Huskies in the fourth quarter was 52-40 with 3:34 left following a pair of layups by Fefelov and Justin Trail.
Sissuani 55, Warriors 38
Nikolaevsk 8 13 5 12 —38
Buckland 18 5 16 16 —55
NIKOLAEVSK (38) — Klaich 0, Z. Fefelov 1, Lasiter 2, Yakunin 13, Kalugin 1, Mametieff 0, J. Fefelov 4, E. Fefelov 17.
BUCKLAND (55) — Ticket 15, Melton 5, Hadley 4, Kirk 16, Brown 2, Berlin 13.
3-point FG — Nikolaevsk 0; Buckland 5 (Ticket 2, Melton 1, Kirk 1, Berlin 1).
Team fouls — Nikolaevsk 9; Buckland 17. Fouled out — Hadley.
Northern Lights 33, Eagles 22
Shishmaref 8 4 14 7 —33
Cook Inlet 4 9 2 7 —22
SHISHMAREF (33) — T. Stenek 3, Kiyutelluk 6, Weyiouanna 5, S. Stenek 0, Sinnok 0, L. Sinnok 0, Ningeulook 19.
CIA (22) — G. Nelson 0, Hyatt 0, S. Nelson 2, Dohse 0, A. Nelson 5, Castenholz 2, Cizek 6, Warren 7.
3-point FG — Shishmaref 4 (Ningeulook 3, Weyiouanna 1); CIA 1 (Warren).
Team fouls — Shishmaref 6; CIA 4. Fouled out — none.
Huskies 63, Warriors 44
Nikolaevsk 18 8 6 12 —44
Savoonga 12 9 20 22 —63
NIKOLAEVSK (44) — Brown 0, Fefelov 8, K. Nikitenko 9, J. Trail 7, Kalugin 0, D. Nikitenko 0, Mumey 6, M. Trail 14.
SAVOONGA (63) — Noongwook 2, Gologergen 3, E. Noongwook 0, J. Noongwook 5, T. Gologergen 8, Kulowiyi 20, Kingeekuk 4, Seppilu 12, Iya 0, Kulowiyi 9.
3-point FG — Nikolaevsk 4 (Fefelov 2, K. Nikitenko 1, J. Trail 1); Savoonga 3 (Gologergen 1, J. Noongwook 1, Kulowiyi 1).
Team fouls — Nikolaevsk 10; Savoonga 7. Fouled out — none.