The shots kept clanking off the rim. Lee Moore's rallying cry kept growing louder.
That's about all the Nikiski girls basketball coach could say from the sideline as he watched his squad miss 20-of-21 shots during a stretch between the second and third quarters.
Underneath the basket. Beyond the 3-point line. It didn't matter.
"The lid was just on for a while. Inside, outside, it was like, 'Oh, my goodness,'" Moore said. "But they didn't lose heart."
The Bulldogs finished with a 26-15 rebounding advantage and found their stroke just in time, using a 17-8 fourth-quarter run on 4-of-6 shooting in a 41-36 win over Cordova in their Southcentral Conference regular-season finale at home Friday night.
The win moves Nikiski to 6-2 in the conference. The Bulldogs are the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament, which they host beginning Thursday. Two of the five squads competing will earn a trip to the Class 3A state tournament.
On Friday, Nikiski built a 13-10 lead on 5-of-12 shooting over the first eight minutes. However, baskets were nearly impossible to come by the entire second quarter and the first half of the third.
During that stretch, the Bulldogs missed nine consecutive 3-pointers. They were 1-of-12 from the field in the second, managing just four points. Cordova built a 26-19 lead.
Savannah Griffel hit a 3-pointer midway through the third to cut the lead to four and Nikiski entered the fourth trailing by the same margin.
Finally, the Bulldogs found a rhythm -- and buckled down on defense.
They opened the quarter with a 12-0 run, taking a 29-28 lead on a Dylan Holloway layup at the 7:01 mark and holding the Wolverines scoreless for six minutes. The lead ballooned to 36-28 before Cordova scored, when Misa Webber split a pair of free throws with two minutes remaining.
The Bulldogs went ahead by as many as 10 and held off the Wolverines by converting free throws late in the game.
"They dug themselves a little hole tonight and we were able to claw back out of it when the chips were down," Moore said. "It was good to see them do that."
Cordova, which lost to Seward on Saturday, finished the regular season winless in conference play and is the No. 5 seed for the tournament.
Wolverines coach Virginia Anderson used a six-man rotation most of the game, but the team was out of sync offensively during the final quarter. Cordova missed its first eight shots of the fourth.
"We've never been in a situation where we have that go-to person or that go-to play," Anderson said. "We had some good looks, but they just didn't fall for us. It happens."
Now both squads will prepare for the conference tournament, which also features Seward, Anchorage Christian Schools and Grace Christian.
Seward is the top seed.
Nikiski would qualify for state for the second time in four years if it wins its first two tournament games. Otherwise, the squad must navigate a consolation bracket Moore said will be strong top to bottom.
The tournament concludes Saturday.
"There's not a team that's coming that could not win it, so we have to play every game like it could be our last," Moore said. "We have to execute, we have to play hard and the effort has to be there every night.
"Everybody has good players and everybody has a chance. It's going to be a great tournament."
Cordova boys 77, Nikiski 34
For eight minutes, the Cordova and Nikiski boys basketball teams exchanged baskets at a frenetic pace.
Then the Wolverines ran away with the game.
Cordova scored 55 points in the second and third quarters combined to turn an 18-14 lead into a thundering 77-34 win Friday night in Southcentral Conference action at Nikiski.
After Nikiski cut the lead to 18-16 early in the second, Cordova went on a 55-12 run to blow the game open. Nikiski's Sam Taylor and Colton Anderson -- who are the team's top two scoring threats -- picked up fouls and were forced to the bench for portions of the second, forcing inexperienced players onto the floor.
Former starters Julien Harris and Lucas Herrin are no longer with the team because of disciplinary and academic reasons, respectively, assistant coach David Holloway said.
"We don't have that deep a bench. Even though their effort is always there, they haven't played a lot of basketball," Holloway said. "That's a highly skilled basketball team and the pressure they gave kind of overwhelmed us in the second half."
Cordova defeated Seward 58-41 Saturday, picking up two wins in as many nights after a 66-58 loss Thursday to Anchorage Christian Schools.
Wolverines coach Jason Boerger said the squad's expectations are high for the postseason, and Friday he wanted the team to pick up its intensity following the loss to ACS.
"It's kind of a gut-check time for our team," he said. "If we're going to do it, we need to do it now."
Bulldogs 41, Wolverines 36
Cordova 10 10 8 8 --36
Nikiski 13 4 7 17 --41
Wolverines 77, Bulldogs 34
Cordova 18 23 32 4 --77
Nikiski 14 7 7 6 --34
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