Friday's nonregion high school basketball matchup between Skyview and Nikiski in the Bulldogs' yard proved to be a golden opportunity for both teams.
The Nikiski girls, 56-26 winners, had the chance to fine-tune their game as they prepare to host the District 3/3A tournament in two weeks. The Skyview girls had a chance to play against one of the top girls teams on the peninsula -- the best way to improve as a team.
The Skyview boys, 61-52 winners, were able to put together four solid quarters of basketball as they prepare to host the Region III/4A tournament, also in two weeks, while the Nikiski boys learned a valuable lesson -- bring your "A" game to every game.
"We finally played a solid game -- four quarters of good basketball," said Skyview's Tony Lewis.
The Panthers trailed 14-13 after the first quarter, but opened the second quarter on an 11-2 run, with eight of those points coming from Josh Rowell's work in the paint. Rowell finished with a game-high 33 points.
"I felt kinda on fire tonight," Rowell said. "I tried to recover from last weekend. I felt like I had to come out and do something. Plus, my team backed me up really good."
Rowell got some help in the paint from Adam Kosydar and Tony Lewis, and the Panthers were able to hit their outside shots as well.
"It's pretty much always been our game plan to go inside," Lewis said. "We've been working on our outside shots in practice, and that's another threat we bring to the game. Everything just came together for us tonight."
The Panthers took a 32-23 lead into the locker room at the half, and made it stand up through the second half.
Nikiski was able to challenge the Panthers in the fourth quarter, closing the gap to four points, 56-52, with a minute left to play, but the Bulldogs had to foul to stop the clock, and Skyview was 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the closing minute to seal the win.
"When you dig yourself a hole ... ," Nikiski coach Reid Kornstad said. "Skyview deserved to win. They outplayed us for 32 minutes."
In fact, Skyview coach Dave Blossom credited his team's defense, led by Mark McGarry, with making the difference in the game.
"We played good strong defense without letting their guys have any easy stuff," Blossom said. "Josh Rowell got 33 points, but a big key to this game was Mark McGarry shutting David Holloway down. (Holloway's 11 points were) not a factor compared to what he usually does, and McGarry kept him from getting their offense rolling on a regular basis."
Josh Reilly led the Bulldogs in scoring with 23 points, including eight during Nikiski's fourth-quarter rally. Jeremiah Taylor scored nine points for the Bulldogs.
"What came out tonight is, even though we're an experienced team, we still have to come out ready to play," Kornstad said.
Skyview's Lindsay Gephardt tries to get a shot past Nikiski's Karen Rabung and Sally Glaze during the fourth quarter at Nikiski Friday.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
For the Panthers, getting everyone on the same page in time for the region tournament was important.
"We've lost our last five or six games, so we needed a win to get our spirits up," Blossom said. "It's nice to come in here and beat a real good team."
Nikiski girls 56, Skyview 26
Nikiski coach Ward Romans was the first to admit that the game was much more challenging than the score would indicate.
"Skyview's a solid team," Romans said. "They're very patient, and as a result we had to play a lot of half-court offense. Skyview played from start to finish."
Romans appreciated the Panthers' effort, if for no other reason than it helped the Bulldogs prepare for the challenges they will face in their last district games and the upcoming tournament.
Skyview coach Joe Trujillo said he put the Bulldogs on the schedule for the same reasons.
"Ward has his girls about where he always has them at this point in the season," Trujillo said. "Sally (Glaze) and Karen (Rabung) are the type of kids you can't leave alone, but you can't key on either one because the other girls they have out there complement them so well."
In fact, while Glaze and Rabung combined for 35 points, Amanda Weaver chipped in with 13 points and April Lofstedt struck for seven points. Emilee Gillaspie accounted for the Bulldogs' other point.
Nikiski led 15-7 after the first quarter. Skyview was able to cut into the Bulldogs' lead on several occasions, but every time the Panthers put a couple of points on the board, Nikiski responded with a big run.
Trujillo was impressed with Christina Colvin's effort on defense as well as Anne Verba's spark off the bench.
"I keep telling people, we have a group of kids with five sophomores and five juniors, and only three of them had varsity experience coming into this year, and two kids transferred in that have a semblance of team play," Trujillo said. "It's taken us 20 games to get a feel for one another. It becomes apparent when we run into team the caliber of Nikiski."
Skyview was able to work the ball around Nikiski's end of the court, but Nikiski was able to either prevent the shot or come up with the rebound, cutting down on the Panthers' scoring chances.
"I hope we were eliminating second shots," Romans said. "Hopefully, we're forcing the other team into the worst possible shot, then limiting their second shot at the basket."
Romans added that his seniors -- Gillaspie, Weaver, Joy Carr, Lofstedt and Glaze -- have been integral to the team's performance.
"These guys have come up together, and there's something special about that," Romans said.
"We started playing together in elementary school," Lofstedt said. "It's cool to go through junior high and high school together."
Glaze said that Bulldogs weren't fine-tuning their game as much as their attitude against Skyview.
"We're working on playing with joy, just having fun," Glaze said. "When we get nervous, we don't play to our full potential. When we just go out and have fun, it doesn't matter who we play, just that we're playing together."
BULLDOGS 56, PANTHERS 26
Skyview 7 9 10 0 -- 26
Nikiski 15 16 11 14 -- 56
SKYVIEW (26) -- Verba 2 1-1 6, Beever 0 0-0 0, Faigle 0 0-0 0, Gephardt 0 1-2 1, Colvin 3 0-0 6, Carpenter 3 1-2 8, Fay 0 0-0 0, Dalebout 0 0-0 0, Creel 1 3-4 5, Garrant 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 9 6-9 26.
NIKISKI (56) -- Floyd 0 0-0 0, Gillaspie 0 1-2 1, Weaver 5 3-6 13, Lofstedt 2 2-2 7, Ellis 0 0-0 0, Rabung 4 7-8 15, Carr 0 0-0 0, Glaze 7 4-5 20, Gladden 0 0-0 0, Coveyou 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 18 7-23 56.
3-point goals -- Skyview 2 (Verba, Carpenter), Nikiski 3 (Glaze 2, Lofstedt). Total fouls -- Skyview 17, Nikiski 9. Fouled out -- Colvin.
PANTHERS 61, BULLDOGS 52
Skyview 13 19 12 17 -- 61
Nikiski 14 9 12 17 -- 52
SKYVIEW (61) -- McGarry 4 5-7 13, Shields 1 0-0 2, Travers 0 0-0 0, Lewis 1 2-2 4, Geller 1 0-0 2, Kosydar 1 1-2 3, Cooper 1 2-4 4, Rowell 16 1-4 33. Totals -- 25 11-19 61.
NIKISKI (52) -- Reilly 11 1-4 23, Mellberg 1 0-0 3, Crumpacker 0 0-0 0, K. Gerke 0 0-0 0, Taylor 4 0-0 9, Holloway 4 3-3 11, Bowlin 2 2-2 6, Hitchcock 0 0-0 0, Jorgensen 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 22 6-9 52.
3-point goals -- Nikiski 2 (Mellberg, Holloway). Total fouls -- Skyview 13, Nikiski 14. Fouled out -- none.
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