Seward's 47-33 win over Nikiski Friday was more than just a good start to its Southcentral Conference schedule. The girls basketball team hasn't defeated the Bulldogs in recent memory, sweetening the victory that much more.
"This is the first time I've ever beaten them," said junior Emily Draper, who's played varsity for three years. "Nikiski has always been the team to beat. I'm so happy with the win."
"It feels like a monkey off our back," Seahawks head coach Curtis Berry said. "Our girls are pretty happy."
Nikiski's boys earned a split, defeating Seward 72-50.
The key to getting the much sought-after win over Nikiski in the girls game was Seward's press.
"In the long run, it paid off for us," Berry said about his team's press.
Sophomore Chelsey Clarke agreed.
"When we put on our press, they got jumbled and didn't know what to do," she said.
The loss of 2009 graduate Eliza Chadwick's superb ballhandling skills put the Bulldogs, who had 40 turnovers in the game, at even more of a disadvantage against the press, Draper said.
Though it rattled his team at first, Nikiski made adjustments as the game went on, said head coach Lee Moore. Once his girls settled down, they stopped panicking under the pressure, he said.
"Anytime you play Seward, they're always going to keep coming," Moore said.
The press is not only to disrupt the opposing team's offense, but it also forces his girls to be constantly moving, Berry said. Instead of playing reactionary defense, the press gives his team control of the game, he said.
After an 8-8 first quarter, a Meg Berry 3-pointer and two of Clarke's team-high 12 points gave Seward a quick five-point lead early in the second. After Nikiski scored, Clarke sank two free throws to regain a five-point cushion. Nikiski's Savannah Griffel drained a shot from 3-point land to cut the deficit to two. On the Bulldogs' next possession, Kassi Johnson drove to the net untouched and put in an easy shot to tie the game at 15.
Clarke hit two more field goals in the second -- eight of her 12 were scored this quarter -- regaining the lead for her team. Though Johnson brought the Bulldogs within three after sinking two foul shots, Holly Ganser put in a bucket off of a Nikiski turnover just before time expired. The Seahawks held a 23-18 lead at the half.
For coach Berry, effort is everything.
"We have an up-tempo philosophy," he said. "Our focus is more on effort than skill.
"It's hard to play until the end," coach Berry added. "I think we did that today."
Still holding a five-point lead in the third, Seward converted two Nikiski turnovers into four points and a nine-point advantage. The Bulldogs cut the lead to six, but Seward came right back. A Tess Berry bucket followed by Alex Espelin getting her own rebound and the put-back gave the Seahawks a 10-point lead after three quarters of play.
Seward led by double digits the rest of the way. The Seahawks added 10 fourth-quarter points to Nikiski's six.
Seward shot 50 percent from the line while Nikiski shot 54 percent. Meg Berry followed Clarke with 11 points. Eight of Seward's 10-member team recorded points.
Makenzie Moore paced the Bulldogs with 11 points. Griffel had eight. Eight of Nikiski's 10-member team contributed to the scoring.
"They played really hard," coach Berry said of Nikiski. "They have a lot of heart."
"I was very pleased with our defensive intensity," coach Moore said. "They competed the entire game."
Bulldogs 72, Seahawks 50
Nikiski's boys needed less than five minutes to build a lead from which Seward would never recover.
The Bulldogs scored 18 first-quarter points in their 72-50 win over the Seahawks.
"Basically, we didn't shoot the ball very well in the first half," said Seward head coach Dan Krier.
Nikiski benefited from the Seahawks' poor shooting percentage, said Bulldogs head coach Reid Kornstad.
"I was happy about our defensive effort," Kornstad said. "The focus on defense carried over to our execution on offense."
Nikiski senior Bob Seater said teamwork was a major part of Friday's victory.
This year's team is focused on teamwork, a welcomed change from years past, Seater said.
"It's not just about one guy," he said. "The person with the ball is seeing the court. He's seeing everybody."
Seater said it's more fun to play on a team where players aren't looking to pad their own statistics.
Seward's Michael Thorn ended the Bulldogs' 13-0, opening-quarter run with two free throws with 2:21 on the clock. Nikiski held a 10-point advantage after one quarter of play.
Though Seward cut the deficit to seven once in the first and once in the second, it was the closest it would come to tying Nikiski all night.
After Seward's Andrew Buchanan brought the score to 18-11, Nikiski went on an 18-0 run. Brando Wik scored half of those. Wik had a team-high 20 points on the night. Colton Anderson and Lucas Herrin scored 16 and Stefan Krogseng had 13.
Jared Lundquist and Buchanan paced the Seahawks with 11 points. Thorn had 10.
The Bulldogs held a 38-15 advantage after the first half.
"We weren't moving our feet too well tonight," Krier said. His team also let Nikiski penetrate too much and were not patient enough on offense, he said.
"They outhustled us to loose balls," Krier added.
After a promising start, Seward put the trap on Nikiski, which gave it some problems. Kornstad called a timeout and went over each individual's job to overcome Seward's press.
Kornstad said he called the timeout to regroup. During the break, Kornstad said he told his boys to settle down and refocus, which his team did.
"We were able to get through their pressure," he said. The Bulldogs overcame Seward's press and were able to make their shots, Kornstad added.
Bulldogs 72, Seahawks 50
Seward 8 7 15 20 -- 50
Nikiski 18 20 20 14 -- 72
SEWARD (50) -- J. Lindquist 4 2-2 11, N. Stebbins 0 0-0 0, N. Dipiero 3 0-0 6, J. Buchanan 1 1-2 3, M. Thorn 3 2-2 10, R. Sawyer 3 1-1 7, E. Pullins 0 0-0 0, A. Buchanan 4 2-2 11, K. Larson 0 0-0 0, C. Perea 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 19 8-9 50.
NIKISKI (72) -- C. Anderson 5 4-6 16, B. Seater 1 1-2 3, S. Hartley 0 0-0 0, B. Wik 7 6-11 20, L. Herrin 8 0-2 16, S. Taylor 1 0-0 2, D. Griffith 0 0-0 0, S. Krogseng 5 2-2 13, W. Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 28 13-24 72.
3-point goals -- Seward 2 (Lindquist 1, Sawyer 1); Nikiski 4 (Anderson 3, Krogseng 1). Team fouls --Seward 20; Nikiski 13. Fouled out -- None.
Seahawks 47, Bulldogs 33
Seward 8 15 14 10 -- 47
Nikiski 8 10 9 6 -- 33
SEWARD (47) -- H. Ganser 1 0-2 2, K. Atherton 3 0-2 6, T. Berry 1 0-0 2, M. Berry 5 0-0 11, E. Draper 1 3-6 5, C Zweifel 1 0-0 2, A. Espelin 2 3-6 7, C. Clarke 4 4-4 12. Totals -- 18 10-20 47.
NIKISKI (33) -- S. Griffel 3 0-1 8, D. Holloway 1 0-0 2, K. Johnson 1 3-4 5, B. Tuttle 0 1-2 1, A. Parish 1 0-2 2, M. Moore 4 3-4 11, K. Martin 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 12 7-13 33.
3-point goals -- Seward 1 (M. Berry 1); Nikiski 2 (Griffel 2). Team fouls -- Seward 13; Nikiski 17. Fouled out -- None.
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