Ninilchik girls earn state tourney berth

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Ninilchik girls basketball team isn't going anywhere except for next week's state tournament, that is.

Facing the prospect of staying home for state for the first time in over a decade, the Wolverines rallied from Friday night's loss at the hands of Bristol Bay to down Seldovia 55-37 and claim second place at the District 3/2A tournament Saturday at Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage.

Ninilchik was led by senior All-District performers Amanda Matson and Kendra Moerlein Saturday. Matson led the Wolverines with 12 points, while Moerlein added 11 points and seven rebounds.

Following the game, Matson said Ninilchik wanted to put Friday's loss out of mind as quickly as possible against Seldovia.

"I don't want to talk about last night," Matson said. "I guess it's better at regions than state."

For a while Saturday, it looked as if Ninilchik might look past the scrappy Sea Otters on its way back to a potential rematch with Bristol Bay.

The game was tight halfway through the second quarter, with Ninilchik clinging to a one-point lead. But with remarkable speed, the Wolverines showed why they've been ranked No. 1 in the state all season long.

Using nine combined points from Moerlein and Matson, Ninilchik finished the first half on an 11-0 run that gave them a 22-10 lead going into the locker room.

In the second half it was more of the same, as the Wolverines built a 29-point lead by the end of the third quarter.

"We always try to make the second half our best," Matson said.

Ninilchik head coach Dan Leman gave his team credit for refusing to give in following Friday's tough loss, the Wolverines' first in 12 years at the district tournament.

"The kids came back and played pretty well," Leman said.

He also credited Seldovia which got three players, Naomi Gallien (13 points), Ashley Darien (12 points) and Jennifer Giles (10 points) into double figures with coming out strong and making Ninilchik work for second place.

"They put up a great fight," Leman said.

Leman said Ninilchik's goal now is to get ready for the state tournament.

"They need to regroup a bit," Leman said. "We'll get a little rest, work a couple things and then come back up, see what bracket we're in and go from there."

Matson said if anything, the district tournament has shown the Wolverines that just because they're wearing the feared blue and gold uniforms, it doesn't mean they're going to automatically get a win.

"It was a learning experience," she said. "Next week we can't underestimate anybody."

Bristol Bay boys 45, Cook Inlet Academy 41

Three of the state's top 2A boys basketball teams all season long have been in District 3. Unfortunately for Cook Inlet Academy, the district only gets two berths in next week's state tournament.

One day after falling in the championship game to Lumen Christi, dropped a 45-41 decision Saturday to Bristol Bay in the second-place game of the District 3/2A tournament at Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage.

CIA shot just 26 percent from the floor Saturday, and found itself in a 33-19 hole early in the fourth quarter. The Eagles then found their stroke from deep, but it was too little, too late as Bristol Bay held on for the win.

Facing elimination late, the Eagles fought back behind some clutch shooting from guards Jeremy Franchino, Kyle Nettles and Bryan Powers. The trio combined for six fourth-quarter 3-pointers that got CIA to within four points with just under 13 seconds remaining.

CIA was unable to get any closer however, as Bristol Bay had just enough time to eke out the win.

CIA was led by forward Adam Cooper, who scored a team-high 12 points to go along with nine rebounds. Franchino and Nettles each chipped in nine points apiece, but were a combined 6-for-31 from the field on the game.

Cooper's inside play was not enough to stop a tough Bristol Bay team that did its damage by slashing to the basket and knocking down their midrange jumpers.

Graham Morrison and Allen Tibbetts did most of the damage for the Angels, who finished the game shooting 45 percent from the floor.

Morrison scored a game-high 15 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while Tibbetts was 6-of-10 from the floor for 13 points.

Following the game, CIA head coach Max Vavilov credited his team for refusing to give in despite facing such a large deficit.

"They didn't quit," Vavilov said. "It says a lot about this team's character."

Bristol Bay boys 48, Ninilchik 42

Allen Tibbetts had 19 points, Graham Morrison had 15 points and Corey Lind had 10 points as the Angels advanced to the consolation final and ended Ninilchik's season.

Conner Cooper had 17 points for the Wolverines, while Charles Pullium added 13 points.

Seldovia girls 45, Unalaska 38

Ashley Darien had 11 points and Tatiana Gruber added 10 points as the Sea Otters advanced to the consolation final. Trista Hopkins had 17 points for the Raiders.

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