Nikiski's Rachel Romans takes a shot in the second quarter against Hooper Bay on Thursday night in the opening game of the 19th annual Nikiski Tip-Off Tournament.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
With just six games before Christmas and the ensuing three-week layoff, Nikiski girls coach Ward Romans considers the season split in two.
"It is almost two seasons," he explained. "You gear up, work hard, play five or six games in December and then you start a new season to some degree right after."
A disappointing 2-4 start to Part I has now been replaced by a 1-0 mark in Part II.
Led by a game-high 22 points from Shalene Peek and a smothering defense that forced 32 turnovers, the Bulldogs opened the new year with a dominating 70-30 victory over visiting Hooper Bay in the 19th annual Nikiski Tip-Off Tournament on Thursday.
"To start it the way we started it," Romans said of 2008, "I feel really good."
The Bulldogs' lackluster start to the season is deceiving, though, having played solely 4A squads.
Thursday night was their first taste of 3A competition.
And it showed early.
A 10-0 spurt by Nikiski to begin the game quickly grew to 18-5 after the first, Peek pouring in 11 of those.
"It's kind of nice to play a 3A opponent and get a feel for a western Alaska team, real solid basketball," Romans said. "Their challenge of pressing and shooting the 3-point shot and working hard."
The Warriors actually worked extra hard, having walked through the front doors of Nikiski Middle-High School just 34 minutes before tip off.
"That had to be really challenging for them," Romans said.
The Bulldogs, defending champions of their own tournament, weren't about to abandon their ferocious press or careful ball movement.
Tasha Thompson (12 points) opened the second with three straight points, Samantha Rorrison chipped in four and Rachel Romans (10 points) capped a 41 percent (7-for-17) performance in the quarter as Nikiski extended its lead 34-11 at the break.
And it only got worse for Hooper Bay in the third when Peek who was 10-for-14 from the field started the frame with six consecutive points and Rorrison quickly made it eight straight and a 31-point lead with 5:35 to play in the quarter.
"I think that's the next big step and I think that's kind of where we started (Thursday) was we were very patient looking for very specific things out of our offense," Romans said of Peek owning the low post. "That's hard to replicate in practice. For the kids to be patient and work the ball for the quality shot and to shoot the shot when it's open on the second touch is just huge for us. I thought we did an awesome job of it."
After a sluggish start to the fourth, surrendering back-to-back 3-pointers to Hooper Bay's Allison Lake (12 points) and another bucket off the glass by Louise Bunyan, Nikiski finished off the game in impressive fashion. The Bulldogs canned eight of their final 12 shots, two each by Romans and Eliza Chadwick, in culminating a 42 percent (31-for-73) shooting night, something Romans said was a big deal, considering 40 percent is their goal.
"I was real excited about the way the girls came out after break. They didn't seem, to me, to show a lot of signs of rust, and that's always what I'm looking for," he said. "It's a race to see who can improve the most by March. It's that way every year. Again, I'll take our group. These guys are fearless."
Bulldogs trounce WarriorsThe Panthers received 18 points from Brittany Meyer and 11 from Melissa Massey in picking up a victory in the first round of the tournament.
Skyview came out stubborn on defense, grabbing a 20-10 lead at halftime. The Patriots picked up their offense in the second half, but Skyview was able to hold on for the victory. Julia Kellogg had 13 points for North Pole.
Bradley Webb had 19 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Wolfpack in the first round of the tournament.
West Valley's defense came up big in the victory, never allowing the Panthers to score 10 points in a quarter. Richie Shirnberg paced Skyview with 10 points.
The Bulldogs overcame a 16-7 deficit after the first quarter by outscoring the Warriors 26-13 in the second quarter.
Josh Vance had 17 points to pace Nikiski, while Evan Holloway pitched in 16 points. For Hooper Bay, Steven Stone had 15 points and Louis Lake had 11 points.
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