Ninilchik's Krista Leman (14) drives past Bristol Bay's Callie Ann Riddle during the first half of the girls Class 2A state championship game in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, March 19, 2005.
AP Photo/Al Grillo
Sound the alarm. The Ninilchik girls basketball team has finally lost a Class 2A state championship game.
Bristol Bay knocked off the five-time defending state champions Saturday night in Anchorage by the score of 32-24, bringing an end to one of the greatest sports dynasties in state history.
"This is a little different feeling, but that doesn't diminish how proud I am of these kids," Ninilchik head coach Dan Leman said.
The game was delayed for about 20 minutes after a fire drill caused officials to evacuate Service High School. Leman joked that the interruption in the game may have hurt his team's early rhythm.
"I'm blaming it on the fire drill," he said.
Bristol Bay was led by 10 points all in the second half from Tiffanie Edwards. Ninilchik's Jennifer Erickson scored 10 points and ripped down 16 rebounds for the Wolverines, while senior guard Emily Wood added seven points.
Neither team was able to get much going in the first half. The first shot of the game didn't go up until nearly halfway through the first quarter, a sloppy period that ended with Bristol Bay holding a 5-1 advantage. Ninilchik finished the quarter with eight turnovers, while Bristol Bay handed it over seven times.
Leman said he was happy to see his team playing so well defensively early on but not as happy that Ninilchik couldn't get any offense going.
"It was mixed emotions. I was so proud we were working on defense, but frustrated that we were turning the ball over," Leman said.
In the second quarter, Ninilchik got two early buckets to tie the score at 5, but Bristol Bay finished the half strong, scoring seven of the next eight points to take a 12-6 lead into the locker room.
Both teams appeared to be trying to establish an inside presence, but with little success. Bristol Bay star center Danica Wilson was held to just four points on 1-of-7 shooting from the floor.
Meanwhile, Ninilchik was unable to get the ball down low to either Kendra Moerlein or Erickson, as a tenacious Bristol Bay defense played havoc with the Wolverines' backcourt players. Moerlein was limited to just four points on the night after leading the Wolverines in scoring throughout the state tournament.
"I thought our man-to-man defense was just great," Bristol Bay head coach Tim Helvey said.
Although the game was low-scoring, it was far from slow-paced, and much of the scoring trouble was due to tenacious defensive pressure from both teams. For the half, Ninilchik shot just 12.5 percent, while Bristol Bay was able to only convert on 20 percent of its tries from the floor.
In the second half, Ninilchik showed early signs of mounting a comeback, cutting the lead to 16-12 after Moerlein hit a pair of free throws. That would be as close as the Wolverines would get, however, as Bristol Bay closed the quarter on a 5-2 run to lead 21-14 with one quarter remaining.
The fourth quarter started with Bristol Bay having to sit Wilson after she picked up her fourth foul on Moerlein at the end of the third, but with their star player out, the Angels were able to get contributions from their other players most notably Edwards.
Edwards keyed a number of fast-break opportunities for Bristol Bay, as the Angels began stretching out their edge. By the middle of the quarter, Bristol Bay had a 29-17 lead and a raucous crowd behind it, leaving little doubt as to who would win the game.
However, Helvey said he wasn't totally sure his team had knocked off Ninilchik until the final whistle.
"With Ninilchik, you never know it's going to be yours," Helvey said.
For Bristol Bay, the win comes as an exclamation point on a stellar 23-2 season that saw them beat the defending champions three times during the season. The Angels' Edwards said the team simply had a feeling this would finally be year to knock off Ninilchik, after coming tantalizingly close last season, when the Wolverines won the championship after falling to Bristol Bay in the conference championship game.
"We just had this gut feeling we could beat them," Edwards said.
For Ninilchik, the loss comes as definite disappointment, but Leman said he's not looking at the loss as a setback for his program, but a big step forward for a team that showed a lot of heart in trying to defend its dynasty.
"To get here anytime is just an honor," Leman said.
Leman said his players of which only two are seniors should feel proud to have been part of a team reaching a state final and finishing the season with a 21-5 record.
"Some of them feel like they let us down, but they shouldn't feel that way at all," he said. "We just came up against a team a little better tonight than us."
Ninilchik girls 47, Galena 33
The Wolverines reached the finals with a victory over the Hawks Friday.
Ninilchik jumped out to a 13-6 lead after the first quarter and expanded the lead the whole game. Emily Wood had 13 points for Ninilchik, while Kendra Moerlein added 12.
WOLVERINES 47, HAWKS 33
Galena 6 7 6 14 33
Ninilchik 13 9 11 14 47
GALENA (33) Arkell 2 1-2 5, Burgett 4 2-5 10, Henry 1 0-0 2, Hetherington 0 0-2 0, Sheldon 1 1-2 3, J. Sommer 1 0-0 3, L. Sommer 5 0-4 10, Vasquez 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 4-15 33.
NINILCHIK (47) Dawson 0 2-2 2, Erickson 2 0-4 4, Leman 2 3-4 9, Moerlein 5 2-5 12, K. Skjold 1 0-0 2, Wolford 1 2-2 5, Wood 4 4-4 13. Totals 15 13-21 47.
3-point goals Galena 1 (J. Sommer 1); Ninilchik 4 (Leman 1, Wolford 1, Wood 1). Total fouls Galena 18, Ninilchik 14. Fouled out Arkell.
ANGELS 32, WOLVERINES 24
Bristol Bay 5 7 9 11 32
Ninilchik 1 5 8 10 24
BRISTOL BAY (32) Anderson 0 0-0 0, Edwards 4 2-2 10, Myers 1 1-2 3, Riddle 1 0-1 2, Smith 3 1-2 7, West 1 1-3 3, Wilson 2 3-4 7. Totals 12 8-14 32.
NINILCHIK (24) J. Bartolowits 0 0-0 0, Dawson 0 0-0 0, Erickson 3 4-7 10, Leman 0 1-2 1, Moerlein 0 4-6 4, K. Skjold 1 0-0 2, Wolford 0 0-0 0, Wood 2 0-0 7. Totals 7 9-15 24.
3-point goals Ninilchik 1 (Wood 1). Total fouls Bristol Bay 17, Ninilchik 13. Fouled out none.
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