For the first time in nine years, Ninilchik won’t be playing in the Class 2A Girls State Basketball Championship game.
Heidi Esbenshade scored a game-high 23 points, including the tying 3-pointer with nearly a minute left, and top-ranked Yakutat canned a pair of free throws in the final 40 seconds in edging the second-ranked Wolverines, 41-39, in a semifinal game on Wednesday.
Yakutat will play in today’s 7 p.m. title game at Sullivan Arena against Point Hope, which defeated Galena, 60-27, in the other semifinal.
Senior Krista Leman scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second half for Ninilchik, which outscored Yakutat 17-6 in the third quarter and will take on Galena in today’s third-place contest at 11:10 a.m.
Trailing 24-16 at halftime, the Wolverines took their first lead of the game when Leman drained a 3 with roughly 3:10 left in the third period. Another trey by Leman and a lay-up by Kjersten Skjold gave Ninilchik a three-point advantage entering the fourth.
Leman then made it 35-30 before Sharnel Vale hit two foul shots, bringing the Eagles within one with about 2:30 left. Following two successful free throws by Leman, Esbenshade sank the tying three-pointer and Vale converted on a foul shot for the final margin.
Owning eight of the last 11 titles, including a stretch of five straight, Ninilchik won’t be participating in the championship game for the first time since the 1994-95 season.
Cook Inlet girls 40, Kake 34
Junior Brooke Forsi scored a game-high 21 points and the Eagles outscored Kake by nine points in the second half in advancing to the fourth place game, where they’ll take on Selawik at 8 a.m. today.
“We kept running and got some rebounds. Brooke got a few inside shots. We just outscored them there at the end,” coach Ted Forsi said of his team’s second-half surge.
Chelsea Hardcastle netted eight points and Melissa Moffis added six for CIA, which trailed by three at halftime.
But it was Forsi who stepped up, pulling down 15 points and collecting five steals.
“She had a great game. She just happened to be in right place at the right time for a lot of rebounds,” said Ted Forsi, adding he believes the victory is the first-ever at the state level for the CIA girls. He also said he didn’t think this was a possibility at the beginning of the season.
“Not really. We didn’t have these kind of expectations,” he explained “But we’re real happy. I’m happy for the kids, happy for the school.”
Yakutat boys 60, Cook Inlet 50
The CIA boys fell behind 37-24 at halftime and weren’t able to completely climb out of the hole in losing to Yakutat, which claimed last season’s 2A championship. Kyle Dierick paced Yakutat with 28 points and seven steals, while Jay Sin scored 12 points and recorded 10 rebounds and Jack Klushkan added 11 points.
Yakutat will take on Unalakleet in the fourth-place game at 9:35 a.m. today. For the second year in a row, Cook Inlet’s tournament run is over after suffering back-to-back losses.
Shane Moffis scored a team-high 17 points for CIA, Spencer McAuliffe netted 11 and John Forsi and Scotty Litchfield added seven apiece.
Yakutat 41, Ninilchik 39
Yakutat 12 12 6 11 -- 41
Ninilchik 8 8 17 6 -- 39
YAKUTAT (41) -- H. Esbenshade 23, Schumacher 4, Fraker 3, E. Esbenshade 2, Vale 9.
NINILCHIK (39) --- H. Skjold 10, Leman 14, Rohr 3, Rice 8, K. Skjold 4.
Cook Inlet 40, Kake 34
Cook Inlet 10 6 11 13 -- 40
Kake 9 10 6 9 -- 34
COOK INLET (40) -- Hardcastle 8, Kopp 2, Smithwick 2, Hillyer 1, Moffis 6, Forsi 21.
KAKE (34) -- Sternod 9, Wooten 8, Alsup 9, Jackson 2, Aceveda 2, Dolan 4.
Yakutat 60, Cook Inlet 50
Cook Inlet 14 10 11 15 -- 50
Yakutat 17 20 13 10 -- 60
COOK INLET ACADEMY (50) -- Litchfield 7, Rowley 2, Forsi 7, Moffis 17, McAuliffe 11, Munn 2, Doyle 4.
YAKUTAT (60) -- Ivers 1, Sin 12, Klushkan 11, Adams 6, Dierick 28, Hensley 2.
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