Seward coach Curtis Berry knew how aggressive Nikiski's swarming defense could be.
His girls just had no answer for it.
The Bulldogs turned 34 turnovers into 24 points and dominated the offensive glass in the second half en route to a 54-28 win over the visiting Seahawks in Southcentral Conference action Friday night.
"We're really young, not really prepared for that kind of aggression," said Berry, whose team features just one senior and three juniors. "Our girls are reluctant and they're reluctant to take it at 'em. With aggression, you've got to kind of throw that back, use it against them. We're just a little young to have that vision."
After Aubrey Stone, Seward's lone senior, scored the first points of the game 34 seconds in, Nikiski suffocated the Seahawks the rest of the way.
But it took four near turnovers in the first two minutes, each time the ball going out of bounds and back to Seward, before the Bulldogs actually forced one, a steal by Rachel Romans, who cruised in for two of her game-high 15 points.
"It's nice having an older group because with a young group, a lot of times we'll feel like we're not playing well because that happens," said Nikiski coach Ward Romans. "With five seniors that have been through region wars like this before, they know it's a grind. A game's not won or lost in the first four minutes of the first quarter.
"And for us, that's our whole goal, is just keep pounding way. These guys are a lunch-pail team. They come and play for 32 minutes."
Undeterred, the Bulldogs (16-3 overall, 3-1 SCC) created nine more turnovers in the quarter which led to all 10 of their first-quarter points and an eight-point lead.
Seward, though, quelled a span of nearly 11 minutes without a point when junior Alex Espelin pulled down an offensive rebound and put it back up in trimming the deficit to 13-4 with 4:26 to play in the second.
"That's harsh. We've struggled with that all year," Berry said of the long drought. "Offensively, we have a tough time getting points on the board, especially with aggressive teams.
"That's something that we're going to have to continue to build on and work to try to figure how we can get the ball into the people who can get into scoring position."
An outside jumper from Nikiski's Abby Chadwick (eight points) extended the lead to 12 before freshmen Chelsea Clarke and Meg Berry combined for three points in the final 1:28 in sending the Seahawks into halftime trailing by only nine despite a 3-for-17 performance from the field with 18 turnovers.
"I can't say it wasn't frustrating. I'm not going to lie," Romans admitted. "But we didn't turn the ball over. It wasn't like we were making bad plays. And we took good shots. We weren't offensive rebounding.
"And they came out in the second half and we pounded the offensive glass and everything changed then," he added. "Because then I really felt like it put us in the tempo we wanted to play and sped the game up."
A trey from Romans in the opening minute of the second half set the tone for the remainder of the game, as the Bulldogs opened up a 27-10 lead, the final basket of the 8-0 run coming courtesy of Kassi Johnson off a timely bounce pass from Chadwick.
"In the second half we came out and hit a couple big shots," Romans said. "Abby Chadwick had some assists that were just money."
Following two points from Stone, Nikiski senior Shalene Peek took a lob from Bradi Anderson and dropped it through the net for two of her six points and Eliza Chadwick delivered five of her 14 in the final 2:28 of the third, including a 3-pointer with 27 ticks remaining, in stretching the cushion to 20 entering the fourth.
"I thought it was Shalene Peek's best game of the year -- both ends of the floor," Romans said. "Not just offensively, defensively she was a presence for us."
Another hot start to the fourth, including consecutive strong drives to the hoop by Peek and Eliza Chadwick, ballooned the lead to 40-16 before a baseline jumper from Abby Chadwick and an offensive board and put-back from Peek helped keep the lead at 24 near the midway mark of the quarter.
It eventually reached 26 points on the heels of a bucket from Romans, a free throw from Johnson, who also yanked down 13 rebounds, and two more foul shots by Eliza Chadwick before Seward (0-4 SCC) tacked on a put-back and foul shot by Kristina Atherton (nine points) in closing out the game with a 31-30 edge on the boards, but a 15-8 deficit on the offensive glass.
"I am really excited about the way we played tonight," Romans said before commenting on his team's full-court pressure and half-court trap that wreaked havoc all night on the Seahawks. "Our full-court man today was pretty special. To play the way we do defensively, you have to have great faith in your teammates because there's nothing worse than getting on the edge and then getting beat and you're the one, 'How'd you get beat?'
"That's a part of our game that we've been focused on all season, but specifically the last few weeks," he added of working the ball inside to the posts before kicking it back out. "Shalene and Sam (Rorrison) and Kassi are stepping up and playing stronger and stronger. If the inside game's there with the guards we have, I think we're going to be pretty special by the end."
Seward 85, Nikiski 50
Dylan Beck netted a team-high 21 points, Robert Perea added 18 and the Seahawks used a 15-0 run in turning a one-point, second-quarter lead into a 19-point edge at halftime before cruising to a Southcentral Conference win at Nikiski High School on Friday.
After jumping out to a 10-4 edge behind four of Andrew Buchanan's 11 points, the Seahawks surrendered back-to-back buckets to Justin Wik and Sheridan Olson, who led the Bulldogs with nine and 24 points, respectively, in entering the second quarter with a 19-13 advantage.
Seward, which hit 9-of-16 shots in the opening eight minutes, extended the lead to 21-13 just 14 seconds into the second on a short jumper from Beck.
But Nikiski strung together a quick 7-0 run, including consecutive baskets from Wiley Bennett and Wik and a trey from Calvin Williams, in creeping within one at 21-20.
From there, though, the game belonged to the Seahawks, who used a 15-0 spurt of their own, seven points coming from Keenan Prochazka and four from Perea, in regaining momentum with a commanding 36-20 lead.
"We talked a little bit in the huddle about being flatfooted on defense and that's what we were doing at that point in time," said Seward coach Dan Krier. "We got back to a little bit more containment defense and then we also picked it up getting our running game going. And then we pushed it up the floor and got some easy baskets.
"That's really our game," he added. "We've been pushing the ball up the floor, up-tempo, we try to do that."
Perea then scored six straight Seward points, including a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner, in capping a 19-for-32 first-half performance from the floor and sending the Seahawks (12-4 overall, 2-3 SSC) into halftime with a convincing 44-25 cushion.
"If he plays 32 minutes, he sees the floor 32 minutes," Krier said of Perea, who also had a handful of dazzling assists. "Yes, he's a scorer, but he's also a very unselfish ballplayer. Every one of his teammates thoroughly enjoyed playing with him, and I think that's a great attribute to have."
Seward, which ran the court the entire game, maintained control in the second half, with eight different players finding the bottom of the net in the fourth, in bouncing back from a difficult overtime loss at conference foe Grace Christian on Tuesday.
"We are in pretty good shape conditioningwise," Krier said. "These guys, a lot of them have lived in the gym a little bit in the offseason and it's starting to pay off. It shows."
Bulldogs 54, Seahawks 28
Seward 2 8 6 12 --28
Nikiski 10 9 17 18 --56
SEWARD (28) -- Ganser 0 0-0 0, Zweifel 0 0-0 0, Atherton 4 1-3 9, T. Berry 0 0-0 0, M. Berry 1 4-10 6, Draper 1 0-0 3, Stallings 0 0-0 0, Fleming 0 0-1 0, Espelin 1 0-0 2, Clarke 1 0-0 2, Stone 3 0-0 6. Totals -- 11 5-14 28.
NIKISKI (56) -- Romans 5 2-6 15, A. Chadwick 4 0-0 8, Johnson 1 1-4 3, Carlson 2 1-3 5, E. Chadwick 4 5-10 14, Anderson 1 0-2 3, Rorrison 0 0-0 0, Peek 3 0-0 6. Totals -- 20 9-25 54.
3-point goals -- Seward 1 (Draper), Nikiski 5 (Romans 3, E. Chadwick 1, Anderson 1). Team fouls -- Seward 18, Nikiski 16. Fouled out -- none.
Seahawks 85, Bulldogs 50
Seward 19 25 18 23 --85
Nikiski 13 12 12 13 --50
SEWARD (85) -- Prochazka 4 0-0 9, Price 3 0-0 8, Beck 9 3-4 21, Hatch 3 0-0 6, Hohl 1 0-0 2, Thorn 2 0-0 4, Perea 8 1-1 18, Buchanan 5 0-0 11, Olsen 2 0-0 4, Fleming 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 38 4-5 85.
NIKISKI (50) -- Anderson 0 0-0 0, Olson 10 2-2 24, Williams 1 0-0 3, Bennett 1 4-4 6, J. Wik 4 0-0 9, Seater 1 0-0 2, Thompson 0 0-0 0, Oyler 2 0-0 4, Taylor 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 20 6-6 50.
3-point goals -- Seward 5 (Price 2, Prochazka 1, Perea 1, Buchanan 1), Nikiski 4 (Olson 2, Williams 1, J. Wik 1). Team fouls -- Seward 9, Nikiski 9. Fouled out -- none.
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