Nikiski’s Drew Handley posts up on Kotzebue’s Bron Baldwin on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the 34th Annual Rus Hitchcock Nikiski Tip Off Tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Drew Handley posts up on Kotzebue’s Bron Baldwin on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the 34th Annual Rus Hitchcock Nikiski Tip Off Tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Valdez sweeps Hitchcock tournament

The Valdez girls and boys basketball teams finished 3-0 at the 34th Annual Rus Hitchcock Nikiski Tip Off Tournament to sweep the titles.

The Valdez girls topped Homer 37-23 on Saturday to drop the Mariners to 2-3 overall. The game served as the championship at the round robin because both teams came into the game at 2-0, so the Mariners ended up finishing second at the tourney.

For the Buccaneers, Destiny Day and Carsyn Hinkle each had nine, Masen Holmes had eight, Lily Brown had six, Rylee Wade had three and Carlie VonBuskirk had two.

Lawson Alexson had eight to pace Homer, while Sydney Shelby had six, Minadora Reutov had four, Lillie Mae Kuhn had three and Hannah Stonorov had two.

The Valdez boys topped Homer 62-37 as the Mariners fell to 0-6 overall.

Payton Gage had 26 for the Buccaneers, while Bryce Tucker had 18, Dillon Fowler had 11, Gavin Morris had five and Owen Watson had two.

For Homer, Trent Fell had 13, Morgan Techie had nine, Lucas Story had six, Niko Sulezyski had three, and Riley Huffman, Lance Seneff and Nathan Overson had two.

Both the Nikiski girls and boys basketball teams finished 1-2 at the tournament to take third. Both girls coach Rustin Hitchcock and boys coach Reid Kornstad said the tourney showed their teams are headed in the right direction.

The Nikiski girls edged Kotzebue 40-38 on Saturday in a game that matched two teams that were winless in the tourney coming into the game. The Bulldogs are now 2-6 overall.

“I think with every game we play, not only our skill develops, but also our toughness and our belief in ourselves,” Hitchcock said. “This is a very scrappy team. It’s exactly my style. So it’s been fantastic.”

Forcing turnovers with a press, the Bulldogs jumped to a 14-11 lead after a quarter and 24-19 lead at halftime. Kotzebue then played better against the pressure in the second half.

“We were starting to get tired on the third day of the tournament, trying to press the whole weekend, and so we did have to adapt,” Hitchcock said.

In the second half, Nikiski was able to hold a slight lead by crashing the offensive glass, then going 8 of 16 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.

Nikiski was 21 of 41 from the foul line in the game. Hitchcock said the Bulldogs are shooting free throws better than previous games, and ultimately that’s what made the win possible.

The Bulldogs got points from nine different players.

“That’s a testament to the team,” Hitchcock said. “The scoring is always distributed and it is because we’re starting to look for each other, people are starting to step up in the right spots, and we go deep on our bench.”

Shelby Burman had 12 for the Bulldogs, while Savanna Stock, Avery White and Avery Ellis had six, Ashlynne Playle had three, Maggie Grenier, Brooke Abel and Emma Weeks had two, and Giovana Tabasa had one.

For Kotzebue, Ashlyn Nelson had 11, Lindsy Greene and Zaina McConnell each had seven, Destiny Hoffman had six, Mackenzie Swanson had four, Mylie McConnell had two, and Siearrah Thomas had one.

Both the Kotzebue and Nikiski boys came into Saturday’s matchup 1-1 in the tourney, so the Huskies beat the Bulldogs 71-46 for second place. The Bulldogs are now 1-9 overall after edging Homer 48-47 on Friday.

“A big win over Homer last night took a lot out of us physically and emotionally,” Kornstad said. “Hats off to Kotzebue. They just kept bringing it all night. They never quit and they never turned the pressure down and they deserved it.”

The Huskies led 13-11 after a quarter and 29-21 at the half as their full-court pressure gradually took Nikiski out of the half-court game it wanted.

In the second half, Kotzebue really got running and outscored the Bulldogs 42-25.

“If we could handle their pressure, we were usually fine,” Kornstad said. “But their pressure got to us and we’re not ready to play three games in three nights yet, but we’re a lot closer than we were last week, and this helped us get closer for next week.”

Both the girls and boys travel to a three-day tourney in Bethel this week.

“The guys are growing their physical capacity to play and they’re growing their mental toughness every time we step on the floor, so I’m really proud of where they’re at,” Kornstad said.

Devin Sheldon had 22 for the Huskies, while Zach Roetman had 18, Kevin Schaeffer had 11, Tyran Lane had seven, Ayden Wesley had five, and Bron Baldwin and Gage Swanson had four.

For Nikiski, David Weathers had 12, Charlie Chamberlain had 11, Braeden Porter and Seth Payne had eight, and Drew Handley had seven.

Kotzebue won the sportsmanship award at the tournament for both the girls and boys.

Payton Gage of Valdez was the boys MVP, while the all-tourney team was Bryce Tucker of Valdez, Tino Tucker of Valdez, Ayden Wesley of Kotzebue, Tyran Lane of Kozebue and Drew Handley of Nikiski.

The girls MVP was Masen Holmes of Valdez, while the all-tourney team was Sydney Shelby of Homer, Lawson Alexson of Homer, Zaina McConnell of Kotzebue, Destiny Day of Valdez and Savanna Stock of Nikiski.

The Scrappy Award went to Allen Watson of Valdez and Maggie Grenier of Nikiski.

The free-throw champs were Kameron Bird of Nikiski and Carlie VanBuskirk of Valdez, while the 3-point champs were David Weathers of Nikiski and Lillie Mae Kuhn of Homer.

The Valdez girls and boys won the Hot Shot competition, while the Post-Up Player competition went to Dillon Fowler of Valdez and Lawson Alexson of Homer.

Kotzebue’s Tryan Lane and Nikiski’s Seth Payne battle for the ball Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the 34th Annual Rus Hitchcock Nikiski Tip Off Tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kotzebue’s Tryan Lane and Nikiski’s Seth Payne battle for the ball Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the 34th Annual Rus Hitchcock Nikiski Tip Off Tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Savanna Stock and Kotzebue’s Zaina McConnell battle for the ball Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the 34th Annual Rus Hitchcock Nikiski Tip Off Tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Savanna Stock and Kotzebue’s Zaina McConnell battle for the ball Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the 34th Annual Rus Hitchcock Nikiski Tip Off Tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Avery White and Kotzebue’s Zaina McConnell battle for the ball Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the 34th Annual Rus Hitchcock Nikiski Tip Off Tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Avery White and Kotzebue’s Zaina McConnell battle for the ball Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the 34th Annual Rus Hitchcock Nikiski Tip Off Tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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