The smallest guy on the floor played big when it mattered the most.
Grace Christian's Bradley Boerger, all 5-foot-7 of him, came up huge three times in the final minute of the Grizzlies' 51-49 victory over host Nikiski in Southcentral Conference action on Friday.
In the girls game, Makenzie Moore went 10-of-10 from the line and scored 14 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 30-26 victory.
After Nikiski's Julien Harris forged the fifth tie of the fourth quarter by knocking in a short jumper for a 49-all game with 1 minute, 33 seconds, left in the contest, Grace ran the clock down to 52 seconds before Zach Vandervalk attempted a 3-pointer.
The shot missed, but Boerger was there for the offensive rebound.
"We significantly out-rebounded them," said Nikiski coach Reid Kornstad of his squad's 44-29 advantage, "but that was a missed box-out there."
With 30 seconds left, Boerger sliced to the basket and dumped in a layup for the lead and just his fourth point of the game.
The Bulldogs did not call timeout. They knew exactly what they wanted for the last shot, and they got it. With the clock inside 10 seconds, Harris got the ball at the top of the key and drove into the paint on Boerger.
Boerger contested the shot enough to force Harris to miss the short jumper. Lucas Herrin tapped the ball to Stefan Krogseng, but Krogseng's rushed shot missed at the buzzer.
"We got what we wanted, we just couldn't get the shots to fall," Kornstad said.
Despite staying winless in the league, Kornstad took positives out of the game.
"It's not fun losing the close ones, but the guys made huge gains in this game in playing together and executing," he said.
The biggest positive came from Herrin, who said he took Kornstad's pregame emphasis on rebounding to heart. Herrin had 24 rebounds to tie the school record set in 2005 by Miles Jorgensen.
"We have to keep building and building," Herrin said. "We may feel down now, but the next thing you know we'll be at practice tomorrow morning."
Herrin had eight of his 18 points and Colton Anderson had six of his 16 points in the first quarter as the Bulldogs built an 18-8 lead after the first eight minutes.
Grace's Andrew Bouman, who finished with 18 points, had 12 points in the second quarter and five points in a 7-0 run that closed the first half and cut Nikiski's lead to 25-22.
"Andrew kept us in the game in the first half," said Grace coach Chuck Boerger after his team improved to 4-10 overall and 1-4 in the league.
In the third quarter, Vandervalk, who led Grace with 19 points, had five points during a 7-0 run that gave the Grizzlies a 29-27 lead with 3:31 left in the quarter.
Anderson started the fourth quarter with a jumper that gave the Bulldogs a 41-34 lead with 7:00 remaining, but another 7-0 run by the Grizzlies tied the game and set up Boerger's heroics.
"In the close games we have been in, we haven't been able to make the big shot," Boerger said. "Maybe this will turn that around."
Sam Taylor added 10 points for Nikiski.
Nikiski girls 30, Grace Christian 26
Like a good coach's daughter, Moore hit all 10 of her foul shots to provide crucial points in the victory that sent her team to 3-1 in the league and 7-9 overall.
Then, like a good coach's daughter, Moore spread the credit around to her entire team after the victory.
"I think the difference in the game was our defense," said Moore, who finished with a game-high 14 points. "We worked really hard on defense and that helped us keep our intensity up."
While Moore was perfect from the line, everybody else in the game struggled from the charity stripe. The rest of the Bulldogs were 2-of-9, while Grace was 3-of-13.
"We've been in a slump lately," Grace coach Chane' Zackery said of the shooting stroke of his team. "Three of 13 from the free-throw line. That hurts."
Grace (3-2 in the league) also had a hard time from the floor, finishing 11-of-50. Nikiski checked in at 10-of-27.
Makenzie said she worked on her free-throw stroke this summer. She currently hones the shot after practice. Her father said Makenzie has not gotten many free-throw opportunities this year because she is being used on the outside.
Lee Moore thought Makenzie would get better matchups inside against the Grizzlies, and that thinking paid off during a key stretch of the second half.
The teams played to a 13-all tie in the first half. Nikiski started the second half with a 9-3 run that gave it a 22-16 advantage with 3:20 left in the third.
Six of those points came from a play where Nikiski overloads one side of the court. The Bulldogs then lob the ball over the defense to Moore, who is posted up inside.
Grace didn't provide any weak-side help for three plays, and Moore scored a layup and was fouled twice, naturally making all her foul shots. Angie Parrish also had three points during the run.
"That's a new play we've been working on putting in, and we went to it in the second half," Makenzie said.
The closest Grace would get the rest of the way was when Heidi Eckmann scored a layup to make it 23-21 with 7:44 left in the game. The Bulldogs immediately went on a 5-0 run, with Moore scoring four points, to retake control.
Lee Moore said his squad did a great job holding down the Grizzlies on defense, specifically pointing to the efforts of Dylan Holloway, Koey Dixon and Savannah Griffel.
He said Grace did a great job spreading the floor against Nikiski, and the Bulldogs decided not to leave certain Grace shooters to play help defense. This left Nikiski defenders in numerous one-on-one situations where they did not know if they would have help.
"We also did a great job rebounding," Moore said. "With all the missed shots, that was key."
Bulldogs 30, Grizzlies 26
Grace 5 8 6 7 --26
Nikiski 8 5 10 7 --30
GRACE (26) -- Dupea 1 0-2 2, H. Johnson 0 0-2 0, S. Johnson 0 0-0 0, Fredrickson 3 1-3 8, Todd 2 1-4 5, Eckmann 3 0-0 6, Burroughs 2 1-2 5, Birky 0 0-0 0, Viergutz 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 11 3-13 26.
NIKISKI (30) --Griffel 2 0-0 4, D. Holloway 0 2-4 2, Dixon 0 0-0 0, T. Holloway 0 0-0 0, Parrish 3 2-5 8, Moore 2 10-10 14, Wallis 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 8 12-19 30.
3-point goals -- Grace 1 (Fredrickson 1). Team fouls -- Grace 16, Nikiski 10. Fouled out -- Todd.
Grizzlies 51, Bulldogs 49
Grace 8 14 12 17 --51
Nikiski 18 7 14 10 --49
GRACE (51) -- Boerger 1 2-3 4, N. Bouman 2 0-0 4, Thomas 0 0-0 0, Vandervalk 7 2-3 19, A. Bouman 5 5-6 18, Harrison 2 0-0 4, Markel 1 0-2 2. Totals -- 19 9-14 51.
NIKISKI (49) -- Anderson 6 0-0 16, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Hartley 0 2-2 2, Harris 1 0-0 2, Herrin 6 5-6 17, Taylor 3 2-2 10, Griffith 0 0-0 0, Krogseng 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 17 9-10 49.
3-point goals -- Grace 6 (Vandervalk 3, A. Bouman 3); Nikiski 4 (Anderson 2, Taylor 2). Team fouls -- Grace 6, Nikiski 10. Fouled out -- none.
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