SEWARD -- The Nikiski boys basketball team was not about to let a few minor details get in the way of a good time Saturday in the fourth-place game at the District 3/3A boys basketball tournament.
The Bulldogs, knowing it would be their last game of the season, defeated Susitna Valley 79-48 to end their season at 8-16 overall.
Nikiski had defeated the Rams twice earlier this season, but the Bulldogs found themselves down 14-13 after the first quarter. In the huddle between quarters, Nikiski coach Reid Kornstad, sensing his team wanted to have some fun, told them to start taking care of the little things first.
"We tried to have fun too quick," said Kornstad, who completed his first season as a varsity head coach. "I told them the fun would come if we started doing the little things it takes to win."
The Bulldogs responded by opening up a 13-point lead in the second quarter with a 16-2 spurt. David Holloway ignited the tear with a 3-pointer with 6 minutes left until the half. After Scott Carlson collected a 3-point play to make the score 31-18 with 2:28 left in the half, the good times rolled.
"It kind of turned into street ball," said Carlson, one of five Bulldog seniors to play his last game.
Added senior Jeremy Kouf: "We really weren't concerned about the plays. We just wanted to have some fun."
When the Bulldogs opened the second half with a 15-2 run that gave them a 53-25 lead with 4:11 left in the third quarter, their main focus became getting Kouf or senior Jamie Queen a dunk.
After a series of rim-popping near misses, Nikiski finally got a dunk with 3:05 left in the third quarter. However, it came not from one of the seniors, but from sophomore David Holloway.
Holloway, who stands 6-foot-1, picked up a steal at half court and threw down a one-handed slam, much to the enjoyment of the crowd. It would be the only successful stuff of the contest.
"It was the first one I've done in a game," he said. "I started being able to dunk this year, and I've felt comfortable doing it since the middle of the season."
The play of Holloway, who had 18 points, and fellow sophomore Josh Reilly, who added 10, are a sign of good things to come at Nikiski.
"Their senior year, I think that sophomore group could make a run at state," Carlson said. "They play really well together as a team."
Several seniors hit double digits in their final Nikiski games, including Queen with 19 points and Casey Heath with 12.
Jeremy Vance, a senior who had not played basketball since he was a freshman, said the team was disappointed to not be moving on to state, but at the same time he was thankful for the experience he had this season with the other seniors.
"The whole reason I came back out this season was to have fun with these guys," Vance said. "We've had a great season this year."
Carlson also credited Kornstad with doing a good job in his initial tour as a coach.
"He did a great job," Carlson said. "We started coming together as a team toward the end of the year. We came together, but maybe it was too late."
Andy Lee scored 14 points for the 4-18 Rams.
Seward girls 56, Heritage 31
By winning the fourth-place game, the Seahawks ended up salvaging all they could after suffering a loss to Houston in Thursday's opening round.
"Houston had a great ballgame," Seward coach Roger Steinbrecher said of the upset. "In the second half, we had our lowest shooting percentage of the year.
"When things started rolling that way, we never found a way to stop it."
The coach, who missed state this year for the first time in his six seasons at the helm of the Seahawks, said his team got off to a slow start in the Friday victory over Susitna Valley.
"That loss did affect us on Friday, and it was good to see," said Steinbrecher, whose team finished at 15-8. "We worked so hard in practice to get to this point.
"If that loss does hurt a lot, that shows how much energy you've put into winning."
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