Despite trailing 9-0 out of the gate, the Nikiski girls defeated Seward, 34-30, Friday night in a feisty Southcentral Conference game filled with pressure defense, loose-ball scrambles, fracases and fouls.
A lot of fouls 38 in total.
Nikiski coach Ward Romans is aware of the added intensity when long-time rivals face off.
"They're our natural rival. I've coached 19 years," Romans said. "Seward and us have always had outstanding games. And this was just another one in the history of our rivalry."
The hard-fought game did feature its share of offensive outbursts, a flavoring of bounce passes, ball movement and, of course, big shots.
Rachel Romans bagged the biggest of all, a bomb from the right elbow with 1:15 to play in the game. The 3-ball ended her team's four-minute scoring drought, subdued Seward's late six-point run and staked the Bulldogs to a six-point lead.
Captains and point guards, Eliza Chadwick, of Nikiski and Rubye Foldager, of Seward, both missed significant chunks of playing time due to foul trouble.
After an uncommon early rest, Chadwick picked up her third foul with 1:22 to go in the first quarter. She sat out the second, as the Bulldogs fell behind by seven at halftime, and didn't score the first of her team-high nine points until midway through the third when she canned a 3-pointer from the corner. But she played a more sensible second half and didn't have to sit out for a prolonged period again.
"It was a huge deal that Eliza finished the game. Both teams had their starting point guard in foul trouble in the second half and we were kind of waiting to see how that would play out and fortunately it played out well for us," Romans said. "Eliza stepped up as a junior and played really well in foul trouble. She played smart."
Foldager (11 points) led the Seahawks (3-16, 1-4) out of the gate, scoring six of their first nine points, including a banked triple. And she seemed to be in cool control, penetrating and breaking down the Bulldog defense, until picking up three quick third-quarter fouls.
"She's such a good ballhandler and she's so fast that she can beat anyone down the floor," Seward coach Angie Hammer said. "And then when she happens to get in some foul trouble, then the girls kind of start to panic. I had to sit her out for almost a quarter."
Capitalizing on Foldager's absence, Nikiski (11-8, 4-1) strung together a 10-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. With six seconds to play in the third, Chadwick caught the inbounds pass and rotated the ball to Romans, who knocked down the first of her two big shots, a top-of-the-arc 3-pointer. That buzzer-beater gave Nikiski its first lead of the game, 24-22. The Bulldogs then struck early in the fourth, scoring five points in a 20-second flurry. Chadwick made one of two free throws on the quarter's opening possession, but shot just two for nine from the line. The Bulldogs were 9-of-25 from the charity stripe as a team.
"We didn't help ourselves from the free-throw line," Romans said.
But on Chadwick's second miss, center Shalene Peek helped out the Bulldogs once again by wrestling for one of her game high 11 rebounds. She then scored her eighth and final point on the putback and Chadwick subsequently stole the ball at halfcourt and cruised in for a left-handed layup.
Denali Foldager's eight points helped keep the Seahawks in the game until her sister returned with 2:02 to play. Rubye made good on a one-on-one, trimming the Seahawks deficit to three with 1:33 remaining. That's as close as they got, though, as Rubye fouled out with 33 seconds left while Nikiski, perhaps feeding off Romans game-icing trey, tightened up their defense again for the finish.
Deflections, hands-up help defense and intensity earned the Bulldogs 12 steals in total. Steals on five straight possessions two by Peek and two by captain Tasha Thompson helped the Bulldogs survive their four-minute scoreless streak.
To explain his team's stalwart second-half defense, Romans credited their training.
"I think our conditioning paid off. Because (Seward's) a well-conditioned team. These kids are killing themselves at the end of the season trying to get just a little bit better conditioning-wise. I thought our conditioning late third, especially fourth quarter, was a real positive for us."
While Chadwick and Rubye Foldager possess point guard prowess in all facets speed, vision and deft dribbling and aggressively carve into the lane, their backups, Abby Chadwick and Emily Draper, also got to showcase their burgeoning ball-handling skills.
Playing pivotal minutes alongside her sister, Eliza, in the third, Abby Chadwick assisted Thompson's basket and the foul and then pulled the Bulldogs within one by burying a deep two from the corner, a shot that opened up after four Nikiski passes.
With Rubye on the bench, Draper broke presses in bringing the ball up the court and generaled the Seward offense back into the game in the fourth. She grabbed a rebound and hit a jump shot with 5:20 to go and assisted on Aubrey Stone's basket that cut the deficit to five.
"I think what happens is our team gets to rely so much on Rubye Foldager to bring the ball down the court," Hammer said.
"But we're finally starting to get to the point where they're starting to believe in themselves and really do feel like they can play. That's what's really nice. They're getting better and better and regions is when it counts. So, that's what we're working for."
Seward boys 73, Nikiski 45
The game's first shot, a swished 3-pointer by Brando Wik, was the only triple Nikiski converted all night. They led 3-0 and then looked back the rest of the way. Never leading again, the Bulldogs were outscored in every quarter by Seward, who played their starters in the first and third quarters and a second team in the second and fourth in winning their sixth straight game.
Robert Perea, wasting no time in asserting himself inside, grabbed five fast rebounds, blocked a shot and scored Seward's first six points of the game, spurring a 12-0 Seahawks' run. He had 10 of his game-high 14 points in the first.
Point guard Trevor Olsen also tallied 14 points, but his passing with fellow guard Travis Price (seven points, four assists) was just as important and included several streaking over-the-top passes to begin breakaways. Olsen's seven quick points powered Seward's 9-0 early third-quarter run.
Forward Josh Vance battled his way to a team-high 12 points for Nikiski, while Evan Holloway and Justin Wik pitched in eights points apiece.
Peter Fleming, who finished with eight points, controlled the boards as Perea rested.
Seward's second team also featured Andrew Buchanan (eight points, four steals, three rebounds, an assist and a block), who's all-purpose effort almost isn't done justice by his cluttered stat line.
Buchanan, a loose left-handed scrapper with sneaky speed and soft hands, banged into the bleachers chasing down a loose ball late in the first half.
Heritage Christian boys 62, Seward 50
Steve Hanks collected a game-high 21 points, Andrew Miessner added 14 and Matthew Millar chipped in 13 in leading the Eagles (14-3, 5-0) to a Southcentral Conference win over the visiting Seahawks on Saturday.
Perea scored a team-high 18 points for the Seahawks, who's six-game winning streak was snapped after being outscored 33-20 in the second half.
Hunter Berry also scored nine points for Seward (10-8, 4-2).
BULLDOGS 34, SEAHAWKS 30
Nikiski 2 9 13 10 34
Seward 10 8 4 8 30
NIKISKI (30) Romans 2 2-5 8, A. Chadwick 1 2-2 4, Johnson 0 1-2 1, Carlson 0 0-0 0, E. Chadwick 3 2-9 9, Andserson 0 0-0 0, Thompson 1 2-3 4, Peek 4 0-2 8. Totals 11 9-23 34.
SEWARD (34) D. Foldager 4 0-3 8, Ganser 0 0-1 0, Ennes 0 0-0 0, R. Foldager 4 2-2 11, Draper 1 0-0 2, Beals 0 3-4 3, Kain 1 0-0 2, Stone 2 0-0 4. Totals 12 5-10 30.
3-point goals Nikiski 3 (Romans 2, E. Chadwick 1), Seward 1 (R. Foldager). Team Fouls Nikiski 17, Seward 21. Fouled out R. Foldager.
SEAHAWKS 73, BULLDOGS 45
Nikiski 7 16 12 10 45
Seward 22 19 21 11 73
NIKISKI (45) B. Wik 2 2-4 7, Olson 0 1-2 1, Holloway 4 0-2 8, Bennet 3 0-2 6, J. Wik 3 2-2 8, Vance 5 2-2 12, Oyler 1 1-2 3. Totals 18 8-14 45.
SEWARD (73) Olsen 6 0-0 14, Price 3 1-2 7, Beck 2 2-2 6, Hatch 1 0-1 3, Dixon 0 0-0 0, Buchanan 2 3-4 8, Berry 2 0-0 4, Sawyer 2 2-2 6, Perea 5 4-4 14, Prochazka 0 0-1 3, Fleming 4 0-0 8. Totals 28 12-16 73.
3-point goals Nikiski 1 (B. Wik) Seward 5 (Olsen 2, Hatch, Buchanan, Prochazka). Team Fouls Nikiski 16, Seward 18. Fouled out none.
EAGLES 62, SEAHAWKS 50
Seward 15 15 5 15 50
Heritage 20 9 14 19 62
SEWARD (50) Olsen 1 0-1 2, Price 2 1-3 6, Beck 2 1-2 5, Buchanan 1 4-5 7, Berry 4 1-1 9, Perea 6 6-6 18, Prochazka 1 0-0 3. Totals 17 13-18 50.
HERITAGE (62) M. Millar 5 2-3 13, J. Millar 2 1-2 6, A. Miessner 6 1-2 14, J. Miessner 0 0-0 0, Hanks 8 5-6 21, McPheters 2 4-5 8. Totals 23 13-18 62.
3-point goals Seward 3 (Price, Buchanan, Prochazka), Heritage 3 (M. Millar, J. Millar, A. Miessner). Team fouls Seward 18, Heritage 19. Fouled out Beck, McPheters.
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