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Nikiski cagers split with Houston

Posted: Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Nikiski and Houston boys battled back and forth for dominance on the basketball court Saturday afternoon for the first three minutes of the game, at least.

After that it was all Bulldogs, as Nikiski used a 17-4 run to close out the first quarter on its way to a dominating 64-41 District 3/3A win at Nikiski Middle-Senior High over the visiting Hawks.

Jeremiah Taylor led all scorers with 24 points, and Kevin Epperheimer added 18 for Nikiski, which improved to 14-7 on the season with the win.

Following the game, Nikiski head coach Reid Kornstad said his team knew it had to come out with a lot of intensity against the Hawks, a team that nearly stole a win from Nikiski earlier this season at Houston.

"Houston always does a great job of opening the game with a high level of intensity," Kornstad said. "I told our guys we had to come out strong."

The two teams traded baskets back and forth early on in what appeared to be shaping up to be a tight battle. Houston grabbed a 8-7 lead after Justin Vasquez hit a layup inside and drew a foul on Nikiski forward Miles Jorgensen. Vasquez was unable to convert on the free throw, however, and on the ensuing possession, Jorgensen went inside himself to net two points and a 9-8 Nikiski lead.

The Bulldogs never trailed after that, getting baskets from six different players in the quarter to put things away early.

Houston head coach Thad Schumacher said he expected a tight game Saturday, but his squad was simply unable to hang with the fired-up Bulldogs.

"They kind of took us by surprise with their intensity level," Schumacher said.

Colton Conner led the Hawks with nine points on the game, while Gabe Webb added eight.

One big reason for Nikiski's ability to keep Houston from getting back into the game was rebounding. The Bulldogs finished with a 36-26 edge on the glass, and Kornstad gave credit to Jorgensen who finished with a game-high 10 boards for doing a lot of the dirty work in the paint.

"Miles is the unseen leader of our team," Kornstad said. "He does a lot of the things that don't show up in the score sheet, and just works so hard out there."

Jorgensen said his role on Nikiski's team is to go out and play solid defense in order to open things up for Taylor, Nikiski's unquestioned offensive leader.

"This is the offense," Jorgensen said, pointing to Taylor. "I'm just the defense."

Taylor said having Jorgensen's strong rebounding presence down low takes a lot of pressure off the Bulldogs' guards, who accounted for the bulk of the scoring Saturday.

"I shoot it and he just goes and gets it," Taylor said.

Coming off the big win, Nikiski now has to face a tough final two games. The Bulldogs finish the season next weekend against the two teams in District 3 expected to challenge them for state tournament berths Heritage and Anchorage Christian.

Coming off consecutive wins against District 3 opponents Nikiski also beat Susitna Valley on Friday Taylor said he believes the Bulldogs are starting to get a lot of confidence heading toward the end of the season. Asked what he believes Nikiski's chances are next week in the Bulldogs' final home game of the season against the ACS, Taylor didn't hesitate.

"Pretty darn good," he said.

BULLDOGS 60, HAWKS 41

Nikiski 24 14 13 13 64

Houston 12 7 10 11 41

NIKISKI (64) Jorgensen 4 0-4 8, Kellie 0 0-0 0, Quesnel 0 1-2 1, Curren 1 0-0 2, Holloway 0 0-0 0, Taylor 9 1-1 23, Epperheimer 8 1-1 18, Anderson 1 0-0 2, Hemphill 0 0-0 0, Boye 0 0-0 0, McGahan 2 2-5 6. Totals 20 5-13 60.

HOUSTON (41) Richey 0 0-2 0, Martinson 0 0-0 0, Conner 4 1-2 9, Collins 1 0-0 2, Webb 4 0-0 8, Rosas 1 1-2 3, Torino 2 2-2 7, Vasquez 3 0-0 6, Edwards 2 0-0 4, Shriver 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 4-6 41.

3-point goals Nikiski 5 (Taylor 4, Epperheimer), Houston 1 (Torino). Total fouls Nikiski 9, Houston 13. Fouled out none.

Houston girls 39, Nikiski 35

The Nikiski girls struggled all afternoon to make shots, and in the end, it cost them.

The Bulldogs managed to score just five points in the decisive fourth quarter, dropping a tight 39-35 decision to the Houston Hawks Saturday in Nikiski.

"We struggled with our confidence," Nikiski head coach Ward Romans said following the loss.

Romans credited Houston with sticking with playing a tough zone defense that kept Nikiski from getting into any kind of a rhythm all game.

"Houston executed a great game plan tonight," Romans said. "They forced us to take outside shots and limited our offensive rebounds."

Lynzie Ellis, Krystal Gladden and Sasha Auldridge each scored nine points to lead the Bulldogs, but Houston limited the Bulldogs' leading scorer Sarah Herrin to just six.

Following the game, Houston head coach Curt Youngberg said the win means a lot to Houston's postseason hopes because the Hawks are still in position to challenge for the third seed and a spot in the opposite bracket as district power Seward in the upcoming District 3 tournament.

"It still gives us a chance," Youngberg said.

Houston was able to pull out the victory Saturday by pounding the ball inside and hitting short jump shots. The Hawks were led by 12 points from Whitney Conn, a 5-foot-7 junior who was able to sneak into the lane and knock down a number of key jumpers, including a shot with just under three minutes remaining that put Houston ahead 34-33. Houston would not give up that lead in the final minutes of the game.

Romans said Nikiski now has to regroup after Saturday's loss, though the 8-2 Bulldogs look to be in good shape as the No. 2 team in District 3.

"We've got to take this and find out how it can make us better," Romans said.

As for the Hawks, Youngberg said the win gives his team a big confidence boost near the end of the season and perhaps sends a message to the rest of District 3.

"It gives teams something to think about watch out for Houston," he said.

HAWKS 39, BULLDOGS 35

Houston 6 10 12 11 39

Nikiski 5 11 14 5 35

HOUSTON (39) Warner 0 0-0 0, Harvey 2 1-4 5, Elder 2 0-0 4, Conn 6 0-0 12, Dixon 2 2-2 6, Redford 0 0-0 0, Thistle 1 0-0 2, Sieben 4 0-0 8, Kiser 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 3-6 39.

NIKISKI (35) Salonen 0 0-2 0, Ellis 4 0-0 9, Gladden 4 0-0 9, Griffel 0 0-0 0, Auldridge 3 2-4 9, Thompson 0 1-2 1, Herrin 3 0-2 6, Hitchcock 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 3-10 35.

3-point goals Nikiski 4 (Auldridge 2, Ellis, Gladden). Total fouls Houston 9, Nikiski 12. Fouled out none.

Nikiski boys 64, Susitna Valley 44

The Nikiski boys stormed out of the locker room Friday, dropping 31 first-quarter points on the visiting Susitna Valley Rams to cruise to a 64-44 win at Nikiski.

Senior guard Jeremiah Taylor again led Nikiski, netting nine of his team-high 14 points in the opening eight minutes as Nikiski jumped out to a 31-4 lead.

Miles Jorgensen also had a big quarter, getting eight of his 11 points in the first.

Su Valley's Boon Haward led all scorers with 21 points, but it was not nearly enough to make up for Nikiski's first-quarter onslaught.

Friday

BULLDOGS 64, RAMS 44

Nikiski 31 8 16 9 64

Su Valley 4 16 14 10 44

NIKISKI (64) Jorgensen 5 1-2 11, Kellie 1 0-2 2, Quesnel 2 0-0 5, Curren 3 0-0 6, Holloway 1 0-0 3, Taylor 6 0-0 14, Epperheimer 1 0-0 2, Anderson 1 1-4 3, Hemphill 3 0-0 6, Boye 3 2-2 8, McGahan 1 2-3 4. Totals 27 6-13 64.

SU VALLEY (44) DeJesus 0 0-0 0, Cox 0 0-0 0, Rauchenstein 1 1-2 3, Olner 3 0-0 6, Pilch 1 0-0 2, Haward 10 0-0 21, Lillie 0 0-0 0, Clark 0 0-0 0, Hammends 2 0-0 4, Bee 4 0-0 8. Totals 21 1-2 44.

3-point goals Nikiski 4 (Taylor 2, Quesnel, Holloway), Su Valley 1 (Haward). Total fouls Nikiski 7, Su Valley 9. Fouled out none.

Nikiski girls 61, Susitna Valley 30

Sarah Herrin led all scorers with 18 points as the Nikiski girls picked up an easy 61-30 District III/3A win Friday over Su Valley at Nikiski.

The Bulldogs had little trouble with the Rams, outscoring Su Valley 31-12 in the first half. Sasha Auldridge chipped in 11 points for Nikiski, while Anjani Salonen added eight and Krystal Gladden scored six.

Mary Pilch led Su Valley with eight points.

BULLDOGS 61, RAMS 30

Nikiski 13 18 20 10 61

Su Valley 4 8 8 10 30

NIKISKI (61) Salonen 3 2-3 8, Ellis 2 0-0 4, Gladden 3 0-0 6, Griffel 0 4-6 4, Auldridge 5 0-0 11, Thompson 2 0-4 4, Herrin 9 0-1 18, Hitchcock 2 0-0 4, Patterson 0 2-2 2, Frederic 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 8-16 61.

SU VALLEY (30) Pilch 3 2-2 8, Rauchenstein 3 0-2 6, Moore 2 0-0 4, Bartel 1 0-0 2, Drover 1 0-0 2, Wick 1 0-0 2, Hartley 2 0-0 4, Ostermick 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 2-4 30.

3-point goals Nikiski 1 (Auldridge). Total fouls Nikiski 8, Su Valley 12. Fouled out none.



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