After taking a year off, the Nikolaevsk girls are back on top of the Peninsula Conference.
In the fifth meeting of the season between the two schools, the Nikolaevsk Warriors prevailed in a Friday night classic, 33-30 over defending region champs Ninilchik in the tournament championship game at Homer High School.
The region crown is the fourth in five years for the Nikolaevsk girls, and it punched their ticket to the state tournament for a sixth consecutive year.
“Our motto this year has been, ‘Train insane or remain the same’,” said Nikolaevsk coach Bea Klaich.
Following the dramatic loss Friday, Ninilchik returned Saturday to confidently grab the second state tournament spot in the second-place game with a 38-24 win over Lumen Christi.
In the championship game, Nikolaevsk senior captain Vera Fefelov led her team to the win with 10 points, including the go-ahead shot with 1 minutes, 38 seconds, left in the game. Fefelov’s finger-roll layup completed a second-half comeback for the Warriors, who trailed by nine early in the third quarter and by six with just over five minutes left in the fourth.
“All season long, we’ve played Ninilchik really close and we knew we could beat them,” Fefelov said. “I sat down on the bench (late in the game) and told myself we’re not going to lose this game.”
Nikolaevsk took the lead in the season series between the two schools at 3-2. In the regular season, the Warriors had lost both Peninsula Conference matchups against Ninilchik, leaving the Warriors with the third seed in the tournament, but also notched two other nonconference wins over Ninilchik.
“I knew right from the start this was going to be a low-scoring game,” Klaich said. “I felt confident that they could pull it out.”
Fefelov was named to the first-team all-conference list. Ninilchik’s DeeAnn White and Olivia Delgado also made the first-team list.
Fefelov is a true junior that is graduating one year early, and coach Klaich said her experience on the team has proved valuable for her younger teammates in a learning year.
“It’s basically a brand new team, everyone had to work together,” Fefelov said. “We were kind of shaky at the beginning of the year, but we’re playing well now.”
After winning the tournament last year, Ninilchik seemed to be well on their way to repeating Friday night with first-year head coach Joshua Demlow calling the shots. Demlow ultimately received Peninsula Conference Coach of the Year honors.
DeeAnn White scored a game-high 13 points for Ninilchik, while teammate Mikayla Clark had eight.
“I think we tried to do too much at the end there,” Demlow said. “After the game I told the girls we can’t hang our heads right now. We need to get ready for (Saturday’s second-place game).”
Ninilchik led most of the way Friday, taking a lead halfway through the first quarter that the Wolverines would not give up until the final 98 seconds of the contest. The Wolverines were able to build a lead on a variety of second-chance points, getting rebounds and forcing turnovers to take a 17-12 advantage at halftime.
By the 6:03 mark of the third quarter, Ninilchik had staked out a 21-12 lead following a put back on a rebound by Delgado.
A corner trey on the next Nikolaevsk possession by Fefelov helped to swing the momentum back in the Warriors’ favor. A 3-pointer by Chelsea Johnson with 6:23 to play in the fourth quarter cut the gap to 25-21.
White connected on a turnaround jumper with 2:17 left that put Ninilchik up 29-26, but Johnson responded for Nikolaevsk with a layup on an inbounds pass under the bucket and received the foul call as well, tying the game at 29 apiece.
After White sunk one of two free throws on the ensuing Ninilchik possession, Fefelov laid in the winning bucket.
Klaich said she was pleased to see her younger players step up in big moments, starting with Johnson’s triple and ending with a pair of made free throws by Markiana Yakunin with 14.4 seconds left, helping to seal the win.
“This took a lot of hard work on the girls’ part,” Klaich said. “We’re relatively inexperienced this year, but they’ve put in a lot of practice time.”
The Class 1A state tournament begins in two weeks at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
Ninilchik boys 67, Nikolaevsk 46
The Ninilchik boys hosted a block party Friday night at Homer High in a game that was more of a coronation than a championship battle.
The Wolverines prevailed over Nikolaevsk to win their second straight Peninsula Conference championship, getting a triple-double from senior Austin White, who stifled Nikolaevsk with a game-high 11 blocks. White finished with 26 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Wolverines in a state title rematch, and was named conference MVP of the year.
“We came out ready to play,” White said about the big plays that Ninilchik made throughout the contest. “In a championship game, everyone’s a little springy, they have some bounce in their step.”
Dalton Geppert chipped in 13 points for Ninilchik and Matt Bartolowits added 11. Tyler Presley scored nine points and was later named to the first-team all-conference list.
Nikolaevsk senior Nikit Fefelov led the Warriors with 17 points and was named to the first-team list, while Kalenik Molodih had 11. Both players are the only two returning starters from last year’s state championship runner-ups.
Nikolaevsk ultimately punched their ticket to state on Saturday with a 60-32 win over Birchwood Christian in the tournament second-place game. It secured the Nikolaevsk boys their fourth straight state appearance.
After winning the region crown last year in a frenzied victory over Seldovia, the Ninilchik boys had a less stressful time Friday night in repeating the feat.
“This feels great,” said Ninilchik head coach Nick Finley, who was named Coach of the Year. “Five years ago, we were always outside looking in as the four and five seeds.
“It’s great to be in this spot, we’ve come a long way.”
Finley himself was hobbled by a badly sprained ankle suffered in a pickup game a week earlier, forcing him to call the shots from his seat on the bench, instead of his usual upright spot on the sidelines.
Since winning a tight overtime championship by four points over Nikolaevsk last March, the Ninilchik boys have since claimed dominion over Nikolaevsk this season, although the gap has closed with Ninilchik winning regular-season games by 52 and 26 points. The gap closed to 21 on Friday.
“I thought we played well tonight, we really competed hard,” said Nikolaevsk coach Steve Klaich. “I think early turnovers hurt us, and Ninilchik made us pay, because they like to run.”
“They’re scrappy,” Finley added about Nikolaevsk. “They have a senior (Fefelov) that just doesn’t want to quit. He wants to go back to state with his team.”
The faster pace of the well-oiled machine that is the Ninilchik boys forced the Warriors to play catchup from the outset. Nikolaevsk took the first lead of the game on a post shot by Anfim Kalugin, but Presley answered quickly with a stop-and-shoot 3-pointer just seconds later to give Ninilchik a lead it would never relinquish.
From there, Ninilchik scored often on transition plays and second-chance tallies.
White, a towering figure that will be playing college ball at the University of Alaska Anchorage next year, patrolled the paint for much of the contest, forcing the Warriors to find other ways to score. Fortunately, both teams are quite familiar with each other, so finding alternate scorers was not a massive challenge.
Although Ninilchik built up a lead in the early stages of the game that lasted throughout, Nikolaevsk never allowed its peninsula rivals to feel too comfortable. Ninilchik led 16-8 after one quarter — which included a one-handed baseline dunk that sent the Ninilchik crowd into a frenzy — and pushed the lead to 24-10 by the early minutes of the second quarter, a run that included eight straight points by Matt Bartolowits, who Nikolaevsk left loose on cross-court transition plays.
With a lead of 36-22 at the half, Ninilchik was determined to drain the clock as much as possible without giving up a double-digit lead. After Nikolaevsk cut the gap to 55-42 with five minutes left in the game, the Wolverines finally put the hammer down with a 9-0 run in the final two minutes to ice it up.
Nikolaevsk boys 60, Birchwood 32
Nikolaevsk once again made itself at home in the second-place game at the tournament, winning the game for the fourth straight year for a fourth straight trip to state.
“The kids really wanted it and they’ve been working on the goal to get back to state since last year,” Klaich said. “Also, I think the experience from the previous four years is starting to pay off.”
Nikit Fefelov, Kalenik Molodih, Sergey Yakunin and Anfim Kalugin have all been a part of all four teams, according to Klaich.
Nikolaevsk took control early, leading 12-2 after the first quarter. The score was 27-15 at halftime, then Nikolaevsk went on to dominate the second half.
Fefelov had a huge game for Nikolaevsk, scoring 23 points with five 3-pointers. Michael Trail pitched in with 13.
“He was able to control the pace of the game,” Klaich said. “He did well offensively and the whole group had a good defensive game.”
Klaich said that with Birchwood playing its second game of the day, the plan was to run into points but not turnovers, and Fefelov executed that plan perfectly.
Collin Becker paced Birchwood with 12 points. Klaich said Kalugin did a good job defensively on Becker without much help, due to Birchwood having four other good shooters. The coach added Molodih had a great game on defense, and Zachary and Michael Trail continue to show how far they have come this season.
“I’m thrilled,” Klaich said. “The boys worked hard. It was a hard-fought victory over a quality team.”
Birchwood had made its way into the second-place game by defeating Lumen Christi earlier Saturday 47-33. Michael Balos had 14 for the Warriors, while Logan Wohrle had 12. Chiebuka Lebechi had 11 for the Archangels.
Ninilchik girls 38, Lumen Christi 24
The Wolverines recovered from Friday’s loss to earn a second straight trip to state.
Demlow, whose team had two- and 10-point victories over Lumen earlier in the season, said this time his team was in control throughout. He said the Archangels were missing one of their best players due to a concussion.
Ninilchik led 12-6 after the first quarter and 20-11 at halftime. DeeAnn White led the way with 16 points, while Olivia Delgado pitched in with 10.
“Both of them are just consistent,” Demlow said. “They’re close to double-doubles in every game we play.”
Maeve Bakic had eight points to pace the Archangels.
After learning a new offense to start the season, Demlow said his squad has gotten more consistent and is ready for state.
“The girls are really excited about going to state,” he said. “They want to do something and not be content just getting there.”
Lumen Christi boys 50, CIA 38
The Archangels ended CIA’s season and advanced to the second-place semifinals with a strong second half.
The score was tied at 20 at the break, but Lumen won the third quarter 12-9 and the fourth quarter 18-9.
Jarrett Fortune paced the Archangels with 24 points, including 14 in the final quarter. Trey Bernerz added 11 for Lumen. For CIA, Noah Leaf had a game-high 26 points.
Peninsula Conference tournament
MVP — Austin White, Ninilchik.
Sportsmanship — Cook Inlet Academy.
Coach of Year — Nick Finley, Ninilchik.
First-team all-conference — Austin White, Ninilchik; Nikit Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; Tyler Presley, Ninilchik; Collin Becker, Birchwood; Noah Leaf, CIA.
Second-team all-conference — Michael Balos, Birchwood; Dalton Geppert, Ninilchik; Jordan Auldredge, Wasilla Lake; Kalenik Molodih, Nikolaevsk; Anfim Kalugin, Nikolaevsk; Jarrett Fortune, Lumen.
First-team all-tournament — Austin White, Ninilchik; Nikit Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; Noah Leaf, CIA; Collin Becker, Birchwood; Tyler Presley, Ninilchik.
Second-team all-tournament — Dalton Geppert, Ninilchik; Kalenik Molodih, Nikolaevsk; Jarrett Fortune, Lumen; Jordan Auldredge, Wasilla Lake; Chiebuka Lebechi, Lumen.
All-academic team — Hunter Moos, CIA; Collin Becker, Birchwood; Landen Wohrle, Birchwood; Noah Leaf, CIA; Keith Cramer, Birchwood; Austin White, Ninilchik; Luke Hoover, Birchwood; Logen Wohrle, Birchwood; Michael Balos, Birchwood; John Moses, Lumen; Shon Nagel, Lumen; Lucas Cragg, CIA.
MVP — Chiamaka Lebechi, Lumen.
Sportsmanship — Nikolaevsk.
Coach of Year — Joshua Demlow, Ninilchik.
First-team all-conference — Channak Lebechi, Lumen; DeAnn White, Ninilchik; Nyadeng Puoy, Lumen; Olivia Delgado, Ninilchik; Vera Fefelov, Nikolaevsk.
Second-team all-conference — Maeve Bakic, Lumen; Kristin Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Elizabeth Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; Mikayla Clark, Ninilchik; Kiara Sullivan, Birchwood.
First-team all-tournament — Chiamaka Lebechi, Lumen; Vera Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; DeeAnn White, Ninilchik; Olivia Delgado, Ninilchik; Chelsea Johnson, Nikolaevsk.
Second-place all-tournament — Maeve Bakic, Lumen; KiAra Sullivan, Birchwood; Kristin Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Maddy Carey, Birchwood; Markiana Yakunin, Nikolaevsk.
All-academic team — Andrea Rios, Birchwood; Vera Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; Olivia Delgado, Ninilchik; Jodi Kain, Ninilchik; Kaylen Kallander, Birchwood; KiAra Sullivan, Birchwood; Deborah Brown, Ninilchik; Sophia Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Maddy Carey, Birchwood; Markiana Yakunin, Nikolaevsk.
Wolverines 67, Warriors 46
Nikolaevsk 8 14 12 12 — 46
Ninilchik 16 20 13 18 — 67
NIKOLAEVSK (46) — Molodih 4 3-4 11, Jones 0 0-0 0, Yakunin 0 0-0 0, Fefelov 7 0-2 17, Nikitenko 0 0-0 0, Z. Trail 1 2-2 4, M. Trail 5 0-0 10, Kalugin 2 0-2 4. Totals 19 5-10 46.
NINILCHIK (67) — Presley 2 4-7 9, Koch 1 1-4 3, Geppert 5 2-4 13, Clark 1 0-0 2, Bartolowits 5 0-0 11, Mumey 1 0-0 3, McGinnis 0 0-0 0, White 12 1-3 26. Totals 27 8-18 67.
3-point goals — Nikolaevsk 0; Ninilchik 5 (Presley 1, Geppert 1, Bartolowits 1, Mumey 1, White 1).
Team fouls — Nikolaevsk 12; Ninilchik 9. Fouled out — none.
Archangels 50, Eagles 38
Lumen 9 11 12 18 — 50
CIA 13 7 9 9 — 38
LUMEN CHRISTI (50) — Merell 0 2-2 2, Kretchik 0 0-0 0, Fortune 10 4-4 24, Mey 0 0-0 0, Nagel 0 1-1 1, Streff 1 0-0 2, Bernerz 3 2-2 11, Noviaski 2 0-0 5, Loeffler 2 1-1 5, Lebechi 0 0-2 0.
COOK INLET ACADEMY (38) — Moos 0 5-6 5, Hammond 1 1-2 3, Walsh 0 0-0 0, N. Leaf 8 9-10 26, Grossl 2 0-0 4, J. Leaf 0 0-0 0.
3-point goals — Lumen Christi 4 (Bernerz 3, Noviaski); CIA 1 (N. Leaf). Team fouls — Lumen 15, CIA 18. Fouled out — Hammond.
Warriors 33, Wolverines 30
Nikolaevsk 7 5 4 17 — 33
Ninilchik 8 9 4 9 — 30
NIKOLAEVSK (33) — K. Klaich 1 0-0 2, Yakunin 2 4-5 8, J. Fefelov 1 0-0 3, Johnson 3 1-1 8, E. Fefelov 1 0-0 2, V. Fefelov 3 2-4 10. Totals 11 7-10 33.
NINILCHIK (30) — Delgado 3 1-3 7, Kain 0 0-0 0, Kreger 0 0-0 0, Johnson 1 0-0 2, White 5 2-4 13, Cooper 0 0-0 0, Clark 3 2-4 8. Totals 12 5-11 30.
3-point goals — Nikolaevsk 4 (V. Fefelov 2, Johnson 1, J. Fefelov 1); Ninilchik 1 (White 1).
Team fouls — Nikolaevsk 13; Ninilchik 15. Fouled out — none.
Nikolaevsk 60, Birchwood 32
Birchwood 2 13 9 8 — 32
Nikolaevsk 12 15 17 16 — 60
BIRCHWOOD CHRISTIAN (32) — Fortenbetty 0 0-0 0, Cramer 1 0-0 2, La. Wohrle 3 0-0 7, Reich 1 0-0 2, Nunley 1 0-0 3, Balos 1 0-0 3, Peterson 0 0-0 0, Hoover 0 0-0 0, Lo. Wohrle 1 1-2 3, Becker 6 0-0 12. Totals — 14 1-2 32.
NIKOLAEVSK (60) — Molodih 4 0-2 9, Jones 0 0-0 0, Yakunin 0 0-0 0, Fefelov 9 0-0 23, Nikitenko 0 0-0 0, Z. Trail 3 0-0 6, M. Trail 6 1-5 13, Kalugin 8 1-2 9. Totals — 30 2-9 60.
3-point goals — Birchwood 3 (La. Wohrle, Nunley, Balos); Nikolaevsk 6 (Fefelov 5, Molodih).Team fouls — Birchwood 11, Nikolaevsk 5. Fouled out — none.
Wolverines 38, Archangels 24
Lumen Christi 6 5 3 10 — 24
Ninilchik 12 8 5 13 — 38
LUMEN CHRISTI (24) — Estes 3 1-1 7, Lebechi 1 2-5 4, Bakic 3 0-0 8, Dupras 2 0-1 4, Martin 0 1-2 1, Loeffler 0 0-0 0, McCormick 0 0-2 0. Totals — 9 4-11 24.
NINILCHIK (38) — Delgado 2 6-9 10, Kain 1 1-4 3, Kreger 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 4-4 4, White 5 5-8 16, Cooper 0 0-0 0, Pinnow 0 0-0 0, Clark 2 1-2 5. Totals — 10 17-27 38.