The Nikolaevsk girls are preparing for something that the team hasn’t done in 21 years.
After finishing second in the Peninsula Conference championship, the Warriors earned a berth at the Class 2A state basketball championship.
“I think they haven’t realized what they’ve accomplished, so if they keep their focus, they can do well,” head coach Bea Klaich said.
After losing the conference championship game to Cook Inlet Academy on March 2, Nikolaevsk received a second chance in the runner-up game the next day. They overwhelmed Bristol Bay 41-22 to make it to state, the first time that has happened since 1991.
To demonstrate the depth of the team, eight of the 10 players scored in that game.
“Now that we’ve gotten to state, which was our goal, we are definitely trying to win some games,” Klaich said. “All week at practice we’ve been working on things that have been our weaknesses, we’ve been checking out things other teams do well, and I think we are ready.”
Nikolaevsk will meet its first obstacle Monday in Anchorage, as they will go head to head against the Tok girls squad. The game will start at 11:30 a.m. at Sullivan Arena.
“I know that Tok only has six girls, so foul trouble may get them quickly,” Klaich mentioned. “We will attack them, we have guards that are quick, and be more aggressive as far as attacking the rim. I think we’re a little faster than they are, so we’ve been working on our transition offense as well.”
The state berth is more impressive considering the fact that none of the Nikolaevsk girls are upperclassmen. The three sophomores on the team — Sophia Kalugin, Hina Kulikov and Nianiella Dorvall — are the oldest members.
“I think we actually have an advantage, because they don’t have the jitters that older girls may have,” Klaich said. “They are pretty innocent. The junior high girls have been successful this season, and they are used to winning games, and so for a young team they have a high level of confidence.”
Klaich said the Warriors biggest threat will likely come in the form of Nianiella Dorvall, a 6-foot-1 center who has been a key player to the team’s success this season.
“Our offense runs through Dorvall, she runs a really good high post,” she said. “I’ve been working with her all week to utilize her better at the low post, and she has the height, and really great inside-outside game.
“She tends to like the short jumper a little too much, which is good, but I’m trying to get her to get inside more, if she’s willing to take a beating.”
Should Nikolaevsk make it to the 2A girls championship match Wednesday evening, Klaich said it would be a huge accomplishment.
“Frankly these girls can’t be satisfied just getting to state, so we have set our goals high,” Klaich said. “You have to at least shoot for the stars.”