The Nikolaevsk and Cook Inlet Academy girls hoops teams will face each other for a Class 1A championship for the second year in a row at the Sullivan Arena.
The only problem is it will not be for a state championship this year.
Tuesday at West High School, Nikolaevsk led wire to wire in a 46-36 victory over Alak, putting them into the consolation bracket championship final, where the Warriors will face CIA, which edged Scammon Bay 45-39.
The winner gets sole claim of the 1A girls consolation title, a bracket they were both put in after losses in Saturday’s opening round.
“We want to be back at the Sullivan,” said Nikolaevsk head coach Bea Klaich. “CIA and us, it’s like, here we go again.”
Wednesday’s game is also a rematch of the Peninsula Conference championship, which Nikolaevsk won 11 days ago with a score of 37-20 over CIA.
“We’ve been basically just licking our chops about it,” said CIA coach Rustin Hitchcock. “It’s a friendly rivalry, but we are ready for a little bit of redemption, but also just a chance to play them again, because we hold them to high praise because they’re one of the best at this tournament.
“We want to play the best to end our season.”
The consolation championship game will tip off at 11:20 a.m., which coincidentally is the same time the boys consolation title game will start, and it features the Nikolaevsk boys on an adjacent court in the Sullivan Arena.
Nikolaevsk girls 46, Alak 36
A year after nearly being the victims of a late rally by Alak in the championship bracket, the Nikolaevsk girls nearly had the same thing happen to them again on Tuesday.
It only took the Warriors 37 seconds to build a 6-0 lead in the game, getting two steals and finding open space under the basket. From there, Nikolaevsk continued to find their main threats — Nianiella Dorvall and Sophia Kalugin — in the paint for scoring opportunities.
With Nikolaevsk leading 20-12 at halftime, Kalugin began to really heat up, scoring every one of Nikolaevsk’s five field goals in the third quarter and 10 of their 11 third-quarter points, finding offensive rebounds under the rim and converting on the tip-ins.
Kalugin ended with 19 points to lead the Warriors, while teammate Dorvall had 15.
“It’s just boxing out and just fundamentals of what we’ve learned.” Kalugin said. “We couldn’t have done it without each other and the support of our fans.”
At the end of the third quarter, Nikolaevsk held a 31-23 lead, but Alak began clawing back with steals and transition layups. Kai Nashookpuk piled up six points herself as Alak closed to within one point on three occasions in the fourth quarter.
Nashookpuk sliced up for a layup with 3 minutes, 23 seconds, remaining that left Nikolaevsk with a 37-36 lead.
“Oh no, not again,” Klaich said when asked what she was thinking in the final minutes. “I told the girls before the game to put a lot of pressure on the 3-point line and I thought we did a great job screening them off and getting a lot of open looks.
“We knew they were a dangerous team, but it’s nice to play a team having played them before, and we knew how to defend against them.”
Nikolaevsk stepped up the defensive pressure, and from there, Alak never scored again. Nikolaevsk also converted seven of eight free throws to ice the game.
“Oh yeah, we’ve practiced our free throws, so it helps,” Kalugin said.
“That’s the difference between Saturday and today,” coach Klaich added.
CIA girls 45,
Scammon Bay 39
The Eagles had to scramble to hold off a late rally by Scammon Bay to earn their way into the consolation final, getting 22 points from senior Nicole Moffis.
Madison Orth added 13 points, including the tying layup and the go-ahead free throw in the final minutes.
“We just needed a basket quick, and I was just trying to stay calm and move the ball around,” Orth said. “I ended up getting a shot inside, and taking it up, because if you don’t, you don’t know if you’ll get another chance.”
The Eagles started sluggishly, as Scammon Bay staked out a 14-6 lead in the first quarter by hitting four 3-pointers.
“I think we started slow because of our defensive rotations,” Hitchcock said. “I let them have it in the sense that I said we have to simply rotate better. You can’t be reactive, you have to be proactive, and they did it, and when that happened, (Scammon) stopped getting open shots.”
Luckily, Orth zeroed in on a running long range 3-point shot before the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter, which apparently was the momentum that CIA needed.
It helped spur a long 27-4 run that lasted until the final two minutes of the third quarter, at which point CIA had built up a 33-18 lead at the 2:34 mark of the quarter.
“Madison hitting that running 3-pointer in the first quarter was great,” Hitchcock said.
However, Scammon Bay began to fight back, and as fickle as momentum is in the sport of basketball, it was seemingly Scammon’s game.
Mariah Charlie hit three treys in the fourth quarter to lead her team back to a one-point deficit, getting to 37-36 on a transition 3 with 2:26 left in the game.
On the next Scammon Bay possession, Charlie found some open space on the line, received the assist and hit a go-ahead trey with 1:47 left that had the home crowd going wild.
Fortunately for CIA, after a timeout was taken, Orth wiggled her way through the paint and hit a tying layup with 1:21 left that knotted the game up at 39 apiece.
“The three captains have really stepped up for us,” Hitchcock said, referring to Orth, Moffis and Ashleigh Hammond. “Especially Madison and Ashleigh have stepped up in the last few games here for us, and have really turned into leaders on the team, and not just by name.”
Orth was fouled with 47 seconds left in the game and hit the game-winning free throw. With 28 ticks left, Moffis was fouled and hit one of two from the line, and CIA grabbed the rebound.
Moffis went to the line again on a foul, and put the game out of reach at 43-39 by hitting both free throws.
In preparation for Wednesday’s matchup with Nikolaevsk, Orth said the team will be excited to face the Warriors for a fifth time this season.
“I think it’ll be good for our team,” she said. “We’ve been neck and neck with them all year, except for the one at the end.”
Warriors 46, Huskies 36
Nikolaevsk 12 8 11 15 —46
Alak 6 6 11 13 —36
NIKOLAEVSK (46) — Ki. Klaich 0 3-4 3, Kr. Klaich 0 0-0 0, Fefelov 0 0-0 0, So. Kalugin 8 3-4 19, Stafford 1 0-0 2, Se. Kalugin 2 3-7 7, Dorvall 7 1-2 15, Hickman 0 0-2 0. Totals 18 10-19 46.
ALAK (36) — Akpik 1 1-2 4, Ahvakana 0 0-0 0, Nayakik 3 0-0 7, Ekak 0 0-0 0, Ahmaogak 0 0-0 0, Nashookpuk 5 2-3 13, Kippi 0 0-0 0, Aguvluk 3 0-0 7, Panik 2 0-0 5. Totals 14 3-5 36.
3-point field goals — Nikolaevsk 0; Alak 5 (Akpik 1, Nayakik 1, Nashookpuk 1, Aguvluk 1, Panik 1).
Team fouls — Nikolaevsk 9; Alak 17.
Eagles 45, Huskies 39
Cook Inlet 9 11 13 12 —45
Scammon Bay 14 2 6 17 —39
CIA (45) — Moffis 7 5-7 22, Hills 1 0-0 2, Brush 1 0-0 3, Lyons 0 0-0 0, Hammond 1 3-4 5, McGahan 0 0-0 0, Orth 3 6-8 13. Totals 13 14-19 45.
SCAMMON BAY (39) — K. Charlie 4 0-0 9, K. Charlie 1 0-0 3, Yunak 1 1-2 3, George 0 0-0 0, Naratak 0 0-0 0, M. Charlie 5 0-0 13, Ulak 1 0-0 3, Simon 3 0-0 8. Totals 15 1-2 39.
3-point field goals — CIA 5 (Moffis 3, Brush 1, Orth 1); Scammon Bay 8 (M. Charlie 3, Simon 2, Ulak 1, K. Charlie 1, K. Charlie 1).
Team fouls — CIA 6; Scammon Bay 14.