Amie Smithwick drained a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter to give Cook Inlet Academy a two-point lead over Point Hope in the opening round of the Class 2A state basketball tournament at Sullivan Arena. The Eagles wouldn't trail for the rest of the game.
CIA notched a 49-41 win over the Harpoonerettes to earn a spot in the semifinals against Skagway today at 3:15 p.m. The Ninilchik girls will play in the other semifinal after topping Noorvik on Thursday.
Once the Eagles realized they didn't have to sprint to break Point Hope's press, they settled down and took control of the game, said CIA head coach Rustin Hitchcock.
"If we just kept our cool, then we knew we would be fine," said Eagles forward Tiana McGahan.
A second-quarter letdown allowed Point Hope to go on a 6-0 run and take a 20-16 lead.
Hitchcock attributed the breakdown to first-game jitters. He said the team was worried about repeating last year's state performance, when the Eagles went two and out.
CIA ended the half on an 11-1 run. The Eagles led by six at the break.
Unity was the message during halftime, Smithwick said.
"Once one of us gets down we all get down, and we all know that," she said. In the second half, CIA communicated better and encouraged the other players on the court, Smithwick said.
"We finally got our rotation in," she said.
CIA built a 10-point cushion by the end of the third period. Two Donna Nash treys cut that lead in half midway through the fourth quarter. CIA's Sadie Arneson then grabbed an offensive rebound and got the put-back. After a Point Hope bucket, Arneson hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it an eight-point game.
"I don't want to make excuses," said Point Hope head coach Ramona Rock. "CIA is a good team."
Rock said some of her shooters had an off game.
McGahan led all CIA scorers with 13 points. Tiffany Smith had 11 and Smithwick chipped in eight. Kelsie Leaf, who had a 3-inch height advantage over Point Hope's tallest player, had seven points and 16 rebounds.
Nash had a team-high 15 points for Point Hope.
McGahan, who also had 10 rebounds, went 9-of-10 from the line. CIA made 13-of-18 free throws as a team.
"State is one of the most important games to make your free throws," McGahan said.
The Eagles owned the glass, getting 52 rebounds to Point Hope's 31.
"We got the rebound margin and the victory," Hitchcock said.
McGahan said CIA's defense and transition game was key. The Harpoonerettes committed 22 turnovers in the game. CIA had 25.
"We did a good job of picking steals," McGahan said.
The Eagles had 16 steals as a team. Smithwick led with six. Smith and Megan Bauder each had four.
Hitchcock said his team didn't play its best game, but still came away with a win.
"We know we can only improve as the competition gets better," he said.
Playing hard the entire game propelled CIA to victory, Smithwick said.
"We're in really good shape," she said. "When it comes to state, it's whoever wants it more."
After the game, CIA was already preparing for the semifinals.
"It's good to get the first win," McGahan said. "But only part of our job is done."
Ninilchik 52, Noorvik 46
It's all coming together for Ninilchik's girls -- bad news for the rest of the teams at the Class 2A state tournament at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena.
Lindsey Rohr and Lindsay Schnabl, both seniors, are the only returners to this year's squad. Three other seniors -- Cassie Fefelov, Stevie Klein and Brittani Motoyama -- transferred to Ninilchik this year and the rest of the team is made up of first-year freshmen and sophomores.
"We're just now starting to click," Rohr said. The girls take on Northway in tonight's semifinals at 5 p.m.
"We definitely work better now at the end of the season," Fefelov said. "We're definitely starting to peak now."
Not only are Schnabl and Rohr the lone returners, they're the only players with state tournament experience. As senior leaders, Rohr and Schnabl settled the team's pre-game jitters, Fefelov said.
"Lindsey and Lindsay told us, 'It's just state. Calm down,'" Fefelov said. "They've been here four years. That really helped us calm down."
The momentum shifted in Ninilchik's favor when Noorvik's top player, Jessica Williams, committed her fourth foul with 6:02 left in the game. The Wolverines built a six-point lead with Williams, who led all Bears scorers with 18 points, on the bench.
Williams knocked Rohr to the floor and fouled out with 1:25 to go.
"Once she fouled out, that opened the middle for us," Wolverines head coach Rod Van Saun said.
"That's their main player," Schnabl said. "Once she fouled out, that was a big comfort."
Holding a one-point lead, Ninilchik opened the fourth quarter with eight consecutive points. Noorvik could not recover.
After a Fefelov bucket, Motoyama came up with one of her five steals, drove the length of the floor and put in the layup. Schnabl and Rohr both went 1-of-2 from the line then Rohr forced a turnover and Klein got the bucket. The Wolverines held Noorvik scoreless through the first half of the final period.
Rohr paced Ninilchik with 20 points. Schnabl had 14 and Motoyama and Fefelov each chipped in six.
"Lindsey Rohr played her best game of the entire season," Van Saun said.
Free throws were the difference late in the game. Both teams shot nearly 43 percent from the field and had similar rebound totals. Free throws, however, accounted for 14 of Ninilchik's points and just five for the Bears.
"Free throws win games all the time," Rohr said.
With Noorvik trailing by four with just over a minute to play, the Bears were forced to foul. Rohr went 5-of-6 in the final minute and 8-of-10 for the game. The Wolverines were 14-of-22 from the line as a team.
"We made our free throws down the stretch," Van Saun said.
With all of the senior leadership and athleticism on the team, Ninilchik can't be counted out of any game, Van Saun said.
Noorvik defeated Ninilchik by 11 the only time the two met earlier in the season at the Yakutat tournament. The key to Noorvik's victory was its pick and roll.
"When we played them in Yakutat, they picked and rolled us like crazy," Rohr said. On Thursday, the Wolverines defended the play much better, she said.
Rohr scored eight second-quarter points to knot the score at 23 by halftime. Eleven first-quarter points by Williams -- nine of them coming on three, 3-point plays -- gave Noorvik a five-point lead. Four Schnabl points quickly cut the deficit to one in the second quarter.
Down four, Rohr drove the lane and scored followed by a steal and the bucket to tie the game at 21 with 1:19 to go in the half. After a Ninilchik turnover, Motoyama blocked a Noorvik shot, grabbed the ball and launched a pass to Rohr. Rohr drew a shooting foul as she went up for a layup. She sank both free throws.
Prior to any game, the team discusses its defensive strategy, Schnabl said.
"We only talk about defense," she said. "Defense wins games and we just proved it."
Eagles 49, Harpoonerettes 41
CIA 16 11 10 12 -- 49
Point Hope 11 10 6 14 -- 41
CIA (49) -- T. Smith 5 1-2 11, T. McGahan 2 9-10 13, L. Bauder 0 0-0 0, M. Bauder 2 1-2 5, S. Arneson 2 1-2 5, A. Smithwick 3 0-0 8, K. Brush 0 0-0 0, K. Leaf 3 1-2 7. Totals -- 17 13-18 49.
POINT HOPE (41) -- H. Minix 0 0-0 0, C. Kowunna 4 1-2 9, D. Nash 5 2-2 15, A. Koenig 1 0-0 2, R. Tooyak 1 0-0 2, A. Sage 0 0-0 0, G. Koonuk 0 0-0 0, M. Lane 2 1-4 5, C. Tooyak 4 0-3 8. Totals -- 17 4-11 41.
3-point goals -- CIA 2 (Smithwick 2); Point Hope 3 (Nash 3). Team fouls -- CIA 12; Point Hope 13. Fouled out -- None.
Wolverines 52, Bears 46
Ninilchik 11 12 13 16 -- 52
Noorvik 16 7 12 11 -- 46
NINILCHIK (52) -- B. Motoyama 2 2-3 6, S. Klein 2 0-2 4, L. Schnabl 4 4-6 14, L. Rohr 6 8-10 20, C. Fefelov 3 0-1 6, E. Ehlers 0 0-0 0, K. Smith 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 18 14-22 52.
NOORVIK (46) -- J. Williams 7 4-5 18, E. Zibell 6 1-2 14, L. Wells 2 0-0 4, K. Sheldon 1 0-0 2, K. Sampson 1 0-0 2, R. Jackson 3 0-0 6, T. Hailstone 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 20 5-7 46.
3-point goals -- Ninlchik 2 (Schnabl 2); Noorvik 1 (Zibell 1). Team fouls -- Ninilchik 8; Noorvik 17. Fouled out -- Williams.
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