Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Ninilchik guard Tyler Presley looks for a way around St. Mary's defender Mitchell Luke Wednesday at the Class 1A March Madness state tournament at the Alaska Airlines Arena in Anchorage.

Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion Ninilchik guard Tyler Presley looks for a way around St. Mary's defender Mitchell Luke Wednesday at the Class 1A March Madness state tournament at the Alaska Airlines Arena in Anchorage.

Nikolaevsk, Ninilchik boys move to winner’s bracket on Day 1

The St. Mary’s Eagles were hacking away at 6-foot-8 Ninilchik junior Austin White, and he hacked back.

White posted a double-double by halftime and finished with 26 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Wolverines to a 56-39 opening day victory at the Class 1A March Madness state tournament at the Alaska Airlines Arena in Anchorage.

White was one of a few members of his team that were dealing with a lingering sickness that has held on since the Peninsula Conference tournament almost two weeks ago, but still managed to dominate the boards, even while battling coughing fits during stoppages of play.

“Rebounding on the defensive end was tough, their guard (Mike Paukan) was shooting from midrange and making it tough,” White said. “I felt good mentally today, but physically, this cold was dragging me down.”

White shot well from the floor, hitting 12 of 19. Joining the big man were Ninilchik teammates Pat Brandt, who scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and brought down nine boards, and Tyler Presley, who chipped in 11 points.

Overall, Ninilchik outrebounded St. Mary’s 46-26, including a 36-8 edge on the Eagles’ side of the court.

“(Austin) was pretty sick, and Pat and Tyler too, but they all played as hard as they could,” said Ninilchik head coach Nick Finley. “They’re all getting over this cold.”

The Wolverines will hope to get well soon, as a quick turnaround is needed to face the King Cove T-Jacks this morning at 8 a.m. King Cove survived to win a 51-49 overtime battle Wednesday night against Klawock.

Finley said the team is used to holding 6:30 a.m. practice, so the early morning state quarterfinal meeting is no reason to be worried.

“We just need to make sure we’re super hydrated and getting vitamins and plenty of sleep,” Finley said.

White sported 14 points and 10 boards by halftime in a game that featured close play early on. The Wolverines held a narrow 12-11 lead after one quarter, but slowly began to distance themselves with powerful play on the glass by White and quick guard play by Presley and Brandt. Ninilchik outscored St. Mary’s 17-4 in the second quarter to take a 29-15 lead into the break.

In the early minutes of the third quarter, Ninilchik saw its lead slip to single digits again with hot shooting by Paukan, who finished with a team-high 24 points.

The Eagles point guard put up three straight buckets to cut the lead to 33-24 by the 3:19 mark of the frame, but that would be as close at St. Mary’s would get.

“I emphasized getting the ball inside and keeping (St. Mary’s) off the glass,” Finley said. “We did that the rest of the way.”

A baseline layup by Brandt with a minute to go in the quarter and a 3-pointer by Presley on the next possession put Ninilchik up 41-25. From there, the Wolverines held on for the win.

Nikolaevsk boys 81, Akiachak 39

The Warriors dominated their first-round matchup against the Huskies to put themselves into the winner’s bracket at the 1A state boys tournament.

Led by the hot shooting of Felemon Molodih and tough rebounding by Neil Gordeev, Nikolaevsk outscored Akiachak 56-18 in the second and third quarters to pull away for the victory.

“The second and third quarters were huge for us,” said Nikolaevsk head coach Steve Klaich. “They were tight early, but then they relaxed and played our game.”

The win advances Nikolaevsk to the winner’s bracket and a quarterfinal matchup with Scammon Bay, 71-64 winners over Toksook Bay on Wednesday. Scammon Bay lost to Seldovia in last year’s 1A state championship game, so Klaich knows the matchup will be fierce.

“They better bring their best,” Klaich said. “Scammon Bay’s a really good team.”

Led by the 21 points of Molodih and 15 points and 13 rebounds by Gordeev, the Warriors dominated by shooting 68 percent in the second half, leaving their overall game efficiency at 52 percent. Nikolaevsk also cleaned up on the glass, out-rebounding Akiachak 44-18.

“It’s all teamwork,” said Gordeev. “There’s no ‘I’ in team. We grew up in the village, we love the game, it’s our passion.”

Standing at 6-foot-2, Gordeev was able to use his height advantage to bring down rebounds and provide second-chance opportunities to the Warriors, but his post presence was not the only thing working.

“A lot of it was ball movement,” he added. “It even works with our bench playing. Our bench guys can jump in there and do any drill without messing it up.”

Klaich praised the defensive effort of Molodih on Akiachak’s best player, Fritz Jackson. Molodih held Jackson to 15 points, and the star guard struggled most from beyond the arc, hitting 1 for 11 on triples.

“He was guarding the 1A Player of the Year,” Klaich said of the balloting announced Wednesday. “I’m thrilled with what he did on defense, he played a phenomenal game.”

In the first half, the defensive work by Nikolaevsk frustrated the Huskies, who shot 3-of-16 from beyond the arc. Klaich said Molodih’s effort led the way.

“He did the same thing to (Seldovia guard) Aidan Philpot in the (Peninsula Conference) Saturday second-place game,” Klaich said. “I kept pointing back to the effort he gave in that game.”

After playing to a 15-14 lead after one quarter, Nikolaevsk poured in 24 points in the second quarter, ending on a 9-3 run to grab a 39-23 lead at halftime. Molodih had 13 points by that point, and the senior finished the game hitting 8 for 12 from the field. Gordeev ended 7 of 14 from the floor and Jonah Fefelov ended with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

The Warriors scored 32 points in third quarter to stamp their authority on the game and force a running clock in the final quarter.

Wednesday boys

Wolverines 56, Eagles 39

Ninilchik 12 17 12 15 —56

St. Mary’s 11 4 12 12 —39

NINILCHIK (56) — Presley 2 5-8 11, Koch 0 0-0 0, Geppert 2 0-0 5, Brandt 7 0-0 14, Bartolowits 0 0-0 0, Mumey 0 0-0 0, White 12 1-2 26. Totals 23 6-10 56.

ST. MARY’S (39) — Paukan 9 2-4 24, Joe 0 0-0 0, Long 1 0-0 3, Edwards 0 0-0 0, Luke 0 0-2 0, Beans 2 1-1 5, Hart 3 1-2 7, Paukan III 0 0-2 0. Totals 15 4-11 39.

3-point goals — Ninilchik 4 (Presley 2, Geppert 1, White 1); St. Mary’s 5 (Paukan 4, Long 1).

Team fouls — Ninilchik 10; St. Mary’s 10. Fouled out — none.

Warriors 81, Huskies 39

Nikolaevsk 15 24 32 10 —81

Akiachak 14 9 9 7 —39

NIKOLAEVSK (81) — Boquecosa 0 0-2 0, K. Molodih 3 0-0 6, Jones 0 0-0 0, Trail 2 0-0 4, Whaley 0 0-0 0, Yakunin 0 0-0 0, N. Fefelov 5 0-0 11, Gordeev 7 1-3 15, F. Molodih 9 2-4 21, J. Fefelov 8 0-0 18, Trail 0 0-0 0, Kalugin 3 0-0 6. Totals 37 3-9 81.

AKIACHAK (39) — Nose 0 0-0 0, Jackson 0 0-0 0, Nose 0 0-0 0, Moses 5 0-0 12, Jackson 6 2-2 15, George 3 0-0 7, Moses 2 0-0 5, Nose 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 2-2 39.

3-point goals — Nikolaevsk 4 (J. Fefelov 2, N. Fefelov 1, F. Molodih 1); Akiachak 5 (N. Moses 2, Jackson 1, George 1, J. Moses 1). Team fouls — Nikolaevsk 8; Akiachak 4. Fouled out — none.

More in Sports

Cook Inlet Academy sophomore Ian McGarry battles for a rebound against Birchwood Christian on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at Cook Inlet Academy just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
CIA’s Ian McGarry gets 1A boys Player of Year

Cook Inlet Academy sophomore Ian McGarry was named the Class 1A boys… Continue reading

The Kenai Central cheerleading team. Back row, left to right: Caitlyn Martin, Sylvia McGraw, Ayla Tallent, Sarah Baisden, Genesis Trevino, Malena Grieme, Maya Montague, Taya Swick and Cali Holmes. Front row, left to right: Ella Romero, Brooklynn Reed and Makenize Harden. (Photo provided)
Kenai cheerleaders win 3rd straight state title

The Kenai Central cheerleading squad won its third straight Division II March… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears goalie Nils Wallstrom celebrates winning a shootout over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Saturday, March 25, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears sweep Ice Dogs, move into 3rd place

The Kenai River Brown Bears earned a two-game sweep over the Fairbanks… Continue reading

Bears top Dogs, move into 4th place

The Kenai River Brown Bears defeated the Fairbanks Ice Dogs 4-3 on… Continue reading

Kenai girls take 4th, Kenai boys take 6th at state

The Kenai Central girls basketball team took fourth place and the Kardinals… Continue reading

Chad Anderson of Kasilof and Allie Ostrander guide Everett Anderson, 3, to the finish line Wednesday, July 19, 2017, at the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. Getting the free ride on Chad’s shoulders is Ben Anderson, 2. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Ostrander, Gemmell make Alaska High School Hall of Fame

Allie Ostrander, a 2015 graduate of Kenai Central High School, and Joshua… Continue reading

Kenai Central High School esports players participate in a practice match of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ahead of a scheduled game at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Esports Week 6: Nikiski is 1st local team to earn playoff spot

Each of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s esports teams had a… Continue reading

Kenai girls, boys move to 4th-place games

The Kenai girls and boys basketball teams both notched victories Friday at… Continue reading

Bears host Ice Dogs, renew fight for playoff spot

The Kenai River Brown Bears begin a two-game series with the Fairbanks… Continue reading

Most Read