Two reasons kept the Ninilchik girls motivated as they battled their way to Thursday evening’s 36-27 consolation win in the Class 1A state tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center.
One was Olivia Delgado, the lone senior on the team. The other was to get the remaining players as much state experience possible for a return trip next year.
The Wolverines prevailed over the Alak Huskies to keep their season alive. Ninilchik will face Toksook Bay today at 12:30 p.m. for a chance to play in Saturday’s consolation championship, which the Wolverines won two years ago.
Playing in what could have been her final high school game, Delgado pumped in a game-high 13 points, including 11 by halftime, and while she was playing to extend her last weekend of hoops, Delgado said there was more motivation than that.
“It’s important not just because it’s my senior year, but because I love my team,” Delgado said. “I love playing with my team and I want to get one more game with them.”
Her teammates wanted to see another day too. Junior DeeAnn White added 11 points and 16 rebounds for Ninilchik, while Madi Cooper brought down eight rebounds and Isabella Koch grabbed seven.
As the tallest player on the court at 6-foot-0 and the ballhandling skills to go with it, White presents a tough challenge for opposing teams, and Alak made sure to shut her down by diligently keeping two defenders on her at all times throughout Thursday’s contest.
Of course, that kept at least one Ninilchik player open, and Wolverines head coach Josh Demlow made sure his team capitalized on that.
“We had a system in place to beat that,” Demlow said. “I’ve never seen two people guard one person.”
However, it took a while to get the offense going. Ninilchik had just four points in the first quarter and trailed 18-12 with two minutes left in the first half. Alak found success early from beyond the arc, hitting three 3-pointers in the first half.
The Huskies also cleaned up on the glass in the early going, as Alak led 12 to 4 in offensive rebounds and had 35 total field goal attempts to Ninilchik’s 19.
However, Alak’s long range shooting soon went cold. A driving layup and ensuing foul shot by Delgado with 43 seconds left before halftime helped to spark an 11-0 Ninilchik surge that lasted into the third quarter. Cooper notched two jumpers in the third that helped the Wolverines grab a 25-19 lead.
“Today, our girls executed on offense a little better,” Demlow said
Demlow also praised the second-half defensive execution as key to winning. Ninilchik held Alak to a single point in the third quarter and only two buckets total in the second half.
Jenysa Ahmaogak scored five straight points to bring Alak back to within a point at 25-24, but the Wolverines answered with their own 5-0 run which was capped by a putback bucket by White with 2:52 to play.
In the end, it was Delgado that helped seal the deal, as the senior laid in a transition basket with 1:02 left to push the lead to 34-25.
“I just want to everything on the floor to play one more day,” Delgado said. “Tomorrow could be our last game together.”
Wolverines 36, Huskies 27
Ninilchik 4 13 8 11 —36
Alak 4 15 1 7 —27
NINILCHIK (36) — Delgado 5 3-9 13, Robuck 1 0-0 2, Koch 2 0-0 4, White 4 3-4 11, Cooper 3 0-0 6, Okonek 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 6-13 36.
ALAK (27) — Brower 1 0-0 2, Sielak 2 1-2 6, Ahmaogak 3 4-8 10, Ningeok-Tazruk 0 0-0 0, Kippi 3 1-4 9, Phillips 0 0-0 0, Phillips 0 0-0 0. Totals 9 6-14 27.
3-point goals — Ninilchik 0; Alak 3 (Kippi 2, Sielak 1).