The Lumen Christi boys and Nikolaevsk girls won Peninsula Conference titles Friday night at Cook Inlet Academy.
Lumen Christi defeated Ninilchik 51-28, while Nikolaevsk defeated CIA 70-27. Both champs wrapped up Class 1A state berths.
Saturday, the Cook Inlet Academy girls came back to claim their second straight state berth by topping Birchwood Christian 53-45 in the second-place game. The Eagles were the third seed in the tourney, and Birchwood was second, but CIA defeated Birchwood 39-33 on Thursday, then again Saturday.
Also Saturday, third-seeded Nikolaevsk came back to knock off No. 2 Ninilchik 50-48 in the second-place game to earn an eighth-straight state berth. Amazingly, seven of those state berths have come from winning the second-place game.
Ninilchik and Nikolaevsk had already played four times this season, with the Wolverines winning all of those games, before the Warriors captured the state berth Saturday.
The Wolverines also lost the title game last season before then falling in the second-place game to miss state.
Nikolaevsk girls 70, Cook Inlet Academy 27
Top-seeded Nikolaevsk gave the host Eagles a taste of their own medicine with a dominant defensive performance.
The Warriors avenged last year’s loss to CIA in the title game and will return to the state tournament for the eighth time in nine seasons.
Nikolaevsk gave the Eagles fits with full-court pressure all game, made evident by 20 steals. They cut off passing lanes and forced several errant passes that landed out-of-bounds.
In last year’s finals it was CIA which executed a suffocating defense that forced Nikolaevsk into turnovers and tough shots. Nikolaevsk head coach Bea Klaich said coming into this game her girls remembered how that loss felt and used that as motivation to fuel them.
“Their motto was never again,” Klaich said. “We tried to play our game. Our girls love playing full-court defense and with good defense it turns into offense.”
Nikolaevsk opened the game on a 17-4 run thanks to the hot shooting from sophomore guard Hannah Gerasimof, who scored 11 of her team’s first 13 points.
Nikolaevsk’s offense put the game away in the second quarter, outscoring the Eagles 21-3 to build a 40-12 halftime lead. Senior guard Markiana “Sparky” Yakunin sank three 3-pointers during a 16-0 run. Yakunin had a game-high 20 points.
“We started running our offense and everything was flowing,” Yakunin said. “We wanted to redeem ourselves after last year.”
Nikolaevsk senior center Elizabeth Fefelov, who is usually good for a double-double every game, nearly got a triple-double as she scored nine points, grabbed 11 rebounds and tallied eight assists. She noticed when she got the ball in the paint the Eagles would double-team her and didn’t have many good looks to score.
“Everyone was collapsing on me so I decided to pass it out and our shots were going in,” she said. “(We) made so many 3s.”
The Lady Warriors hit eight 3-pointers in the game, with half of them from Yakunin.
Seniors Anna Henderson and Linnaea Dohse led the Eagles with seven points each, while junior Genna Nelson added five points.
CIA head coach Joshua Hawley said both teams looked different compared to last year’s final. His team graduated five seniors and with it lost their best ballhandlers while it was Nikolaevsk which had the more experienced group with four seniors who’ve played together since elementary school, he said.
“They have a lot of continuity and it’s hard to overcome when it’s developed to this point,” he said. “They’re right there at state level and can win the title if things go their way and shoot the way they can.”
Klaich said for her team to have success in the state tournament, they will need to take care of the ball and minimize their turnovers.
“I know state has a lot of high level teams,” she said. “But I think my girls can have a nice run at state.”
Lumen Christi boys 51, Ninilchik 28
The old saying that defense wins championships rang true for Lumen Christi in a physical game between the top two teams in the Peninsula Conference. Lumen stifled Ninilchik’s offense for a 51-28 victory to clinch the Peninsula Conference title in front of a raucous, packed crowd at Cook Inlet Academy gymnasium.
With the win, Lumen clinched a state berth. It’s the first conference title for Lumen since 2013.
Sophomore guard Brenden Gregory led the Archangels with 18 points and eight steals. Junior Daniel Bennett scored 15 points and his younger brother Tim Bennett added nine points.
Gregory said holding Ninilchik to under 30 points is a big turnaround since the last time the two teams met. Ninilchik beat Lumen 77 -72 on Feb. 1. This time the press defense they worked on in practice since that last matchup made all the difference, he said.
The game got off to an inauspicious start as the two teams combined for more fouls (11) than total points (nine) in the first quarter. Lumen held a 6-3 lead after the first, but picked up the pace in the second. Gregory had three steals and six points in the first couple minutes to build a 14-3 lead.
Emotions escalated shortly after when Ninilchik senior Jake Clark and Lumen sophomore Noah Cruz were each called for technical fouls after some contact in the post on Lumen’s end. Both players got into early foul trouble, which limited their minutes on the court and both eventually fouled out in the second half. Lumen held a 24-11 lead at halftime.
Lumen head coach Adam Trombley said his new-look defense kept Ninilchik from making its shots and allowed the Archangels time to overcome their slow start on offense, he said.
“The first quarter was a defensive game. It looked like the guys had some championship jitters,” he said. “Our defense was good the entire game. Our guys executed perfectly tonight.”
After Ninilchik junior Tom Nelson scored a layup with about six minutes left in the third, the Wolverines were held without a field goal until a basket by freshman Jaylin Scott with five minutes remaining in the game. In that time, Lumen went on a 14-1 run.
Nelson led the Wolverines with nine points. Scott had seven points while junior Ben Botero added four points. Clark was held to four points. When Clark fouled Gregory out near the 3-point line, the score had grown to 40-16 midway in the final period.
Ninilchik head coach Richard Hawkins said foul trouble and turnovers were the key factors in the game for his squad.
“Our boys didn’t come to play tonight,” he said. “In the second half we showed some signs that we wanted to bring it up, but (Lumen) just wanted it more than we did.”
The Wolverines combined to score just eight points in the first and third quarters. They went on an 8-2 run in the fourth quarter but it was too little, too late.
Trombley said winning the title game is credit to his players buying into the program, their involvement in team camp, getting into the weight room and playing open gym.
“At the end of the day our guys executed the way they were supposed to and it showed,” he said. “I’m really happy for the guys. They did it.”
Senior Andrew Howard, who scored six points and was instrumental with his interior defense and rebounding, said it’s a blessing to get the reward of a championship win for all the hard work put in.
“Our guys worked their butts off every day,” he said. “This was our moment.”
Cook Inlet Academy girls 53, Birchwood 45
The Eagles used a strong fourth quarter to return to state.
CIA led 14-11 after the first quarter, but it was tied at 26 at the half. CIA then took a 39-37 lead into the fourth quarter before pulling away.
Genna Nelson had 14 points to pace the Eagles, while Anna Henderson chipped in 13. Also for CIA, Linnaea Dohse had nine, Annika Castenholz had nine, Tatum Rozak had five and Jamie Hyatt had three.
For Birchwood, Kailyn Kaas had 17, Faith Clark had 13, Ella Phillips had five, Mariyah Backer had four, Jordan Denny had three and Maddy Buyse had three.
Nikolaevsk boys 50, Ninilchik 48
The Warriors used a big third quarter, then held on in the fourth quarter, for second place Saturday.
Ninilchik led 14-9 after the first quarter, but the game was tied at 24 at the half. Nikolaevsk then led 37-30 after three quarters.
For Nikolaevsk, Lukah Kalugin had 20 points, while Isaak Fefelov had 12. Also, Zachary Trail had 10, Junior Sellers had four, Kosta Fefelov had four and Justin Trail had two.
For Ninilchik, Jake Clark had 16, Tom Nelson had 12, George Nelson had eight, Cole Hadro had four, Ben Botero had four, Jacob Mumey had two and Jaylin Scott had one.
Birchwood girls 49, Lumen Christi 40
The Birchwood girls advanced to the second-place game by eliminating Lumen Christi early Saturday morning.
For Birchwood, Kailyn Kaas had 20, Faith Clark had 12, Ella Phillips had eight, Jordon Denny had four, Mariyah Becker had three and Maddy Buyse had two. For Lumen, Sophia Dupras had 23, Emily Ross had seven, Eliza Howard had four, Kaya Thornsness had three, Natalie Grubba had two and Sabrina Warren had one.
Nikolaevsk boys 56, Birchwood 43
The Warriors advanced to the second-place game by eliminating Birchwood Christian early Saturday.
For Nikolaevsk, Kosta Fefelov had 19 points, Isaak Fefelov had 16, Lukah Kalugin had 14, Justin Trail had five and Zachary Trail had two. For Birchwood, Joel Swanberg had 24, Braedon Reich had eight, Tyler Huston had six, Braden Palmer had three and Daniel Bracken had two.
Lumen Christi girls 34, Kodiak ESS 31
The Archangels stayed alive in the consolation bracket Friday by eliminating Kodiak ESS.
For Lumen, Natalie Grubba had 13, Sophia Dupras had 12, Sabrina Warren had four, Eliza Howard had three and Emily Ross had two. For Kodiak ESS, Teanna Amodo had 13, Desiree Eluska had seven, Ariana Amodo had five, Jazmine White-Amodo had four and Angel Christiansen had two.
Birchwood boys 54, Nanwalek 16
Birchwood Christian advanced in the consolation bracket Friday by eliminating the Eagles.
For Birchwood, Joel Swanberg had 14, Braden Palmer had nine, Tyler Huston had eight, Braedon Reich had seven, Silas McCrum had six, Daniel Bracken had five, Dalton Rogers had five and Josiah Brisson had two. For Nanwalek, Malachi Joseph had five, Seth Tanape had four, Marcus Wilson had four, Iverson Moonin had two and James Cook had one.
Birchwood girls 50, Ninilchik 43
The Birchwood Christian girls advanced in the consolation bracket Friday by eliminating the Wolverines.
For Birchwood, Kailyn Kaas had 19, Maddy Buyse had eight, Faith Clark had eight, Mariyah Becker had seven, Ella Phillips had four, Izzy Cage had two and Jordan Denny had two.
For Ninilchik, Madi Cooper had 12, Rian Ofstad had 10, Rachael Okonet had seven, Jade Robuck had six, Autumn Calabrese had six and Mia Denboer had two.
Nikolaevsk boys 61, Cook Inlet Academy 49
The Warriors pulled away from the Eagles on Friday to stay alive in the consolation bracket and end the Eagles’ season.
For Nikolaevsk, Kosta Fefelov had 22 points, Isaak Fefelov had 12, Lukah Kalugin had nine, Justin Trail had eight and Zachary Trail had eight.
For the Eagles, Cole Moore had 17, Ethan Boyd had 12, James Boyd had six, Mason Zeigler had five, Austin Matheson had four and Josh Boyd had four.
Girls coach of the year — Bea Klaich, Nikolaevsk.
Boys coach of the year — Steve Klaich, Nikolaevsk.
Girls sportsmanship — CIA.
Boys sportsmanship — CIA.
First team — Elizabeth Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; Teanna Amodo, Kodiak; Markiana Yakunin, Nikolaevsk; Sophia Dupras, Lumen; Ella Phillips, Birchwood.
Second team — Anna Henderson, CIA; Kailyn Kaas, Birchwood; Linnaea Dohse, CIA; Annika Castenholz, CIA; Sophia Klaich, Nikolaevsk.
First team — Joel Swanberg, Birchwood; Ben Botero, Ninilchik; Daniel Bennett, Lumen; Lukah Kalugin, Nikolaevsk; Brenden Gregory, Lumen.
Second team — Zachary Trail, Nikolaevsk; Jake Clark, Ninilchik; Kosta Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; Josh Boyd, CIA; Tim Bennett, Lumen.
MVP — Elizabeth Fefelov, Nikolaevsk.
Team — Markiana Yakunin, Nikolaevsk; Teanna Amodo, Kodiak; Sophia Dupras, Lumen; Kailyn Kaas, Birchwod; Anna Henderson, CIA; Tatum Rozak, CIA; Annika Castenholz, CIA; Natalie Grubba, Lumen; Linnaea Dohse, CIA; Sophia Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Jade Robuck, Ninilchik.
MVP — Lukah Kalugin, Nikolaevsk.
Team — Daniel Bennett, Lumen; Zachary Trail, Nikolaevsk; Brenden Gregory, Lumen; Joel Swanberg, Birchwood; Tim Bennett, Lumen; Ben Botero, Ninilchik; Josh Boyd, CIA; Tom Nelson, Ninilchik; Dalton Rogers, Birchwood; Jake Clark, Ninilchik.
Girls academic awards
Sophia Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Krystyana Kalugin, Nikolaevsk; Rachael Okonet, Ninilchik; Emily Ross, Lumen; Laura Renfro, Lumen; Faith Clark, Birchwood, Ella Phillips, Birchwood; Lelaina Brisson, Birchwood; Kailyn Kaas, Birchwood; Izzy Cage, Birchwood; Claire Taylor, Kodiak; Jazmine White-Amodo, Kodiak; Kaitlyn Liles, CIA; Tatum Rozak, CIA; Jamie Hyatt, CIA; Linnaea Dohse, CIA; Jessa Wahl, CIA.
Boys academic awards
Justin Trail, Nikolaevsk; Braedon Reich, Birchwood; Sam Kaplan, Lumen; Grizzly Beard, CIA; Cole Moore, CIA; Robert Walsh, CIA; Mason Zeigler, CIA; Josh Boyd, CIA; Josiah Brisson, Birchwood; Cody Blossom, Ninilchik.
By DAN BALMER
For the Clarion