The Ninilchik High School girls and the Cook Inlet Academy boys basketball teams opened the season in familiar fashion Thursday, picking up wins at the Cook Inlet Classic.
In other games at Cook Inlet Academy's Memorial Gymnasium Thursday, the Bristol Bay girls, led by Danica Wilson's 21 points, defeated Galena 50-48. May Henry netted 22 for the Hawks. Matt Thurmond scored 15 points as the Galena boys defeated Bristol Bay 45-12.
"Cook Inlet is doing a really nice job getting teams for this tournament. In my view, it's become one of the premiere tournaments in the state," said Ninilchik girls coach Dan Leman, pointing out that the girls field features the first-, second-, and third-place teams from last year's 2A state championships.
The Ninilchik girls lost several starters from last year's championship squad, but the Wolverines were able to pull together Thursday to defeat the host Eagles 43-14.
"I thought we did some good things. I thought we played pretty good defense, but at times, we looked like a team playing its first game of the season," Leman said.
The Wolverines never trailed as Kendra Moerlein scored the first two points of the game.
CIA's Melissa Moffis matched that with a bucket at the other end of the floor, and the Eagles trailed by just three points, 7-4, when Moffis hit a jumper at the end of the quarter.
Emily Wood got the Wolverines going in the second quarter, though, opening the frame with a 3-pointer, then dropping two more treys back-to-back to give Ninilchik an 18-7 lead. The Wolverines made it 20-7 heading into the half, and the Eagles were never able to narrow the gap.
"We were struggling from the inside - Kendra usually plays a lot better there, but she was getting collapsed on pretty good. When Emily knocked down a couple of treys, that opened things up a little," Leman said.
Wood finished with 13 points and Moerlein had 11.
"We're coming together as a team," said Ninilchik's Mindy Dawson. "It was our first game, so we'll see what happens.
"Our press was pretty good. (Coach Leman) tells us defense is always first."
Dawson said that as the Wolverines get more games under their belt, they should improve. Leman said his squad has the disposition to do that.
"I think we're going to do well as the season goes on. It's a learning process, but they've got a great attitude. They care about what they're doing out there," Leman said.
CIA coach Greg Bell also is looking forward to improvement from his team, particularly once several players are able to return to the roster.
"I was happy with our defense. I thought we played hard," Bell said. "We struggled executing our offense. We're going to keep working, and get tougher and tougher out there. We need to work on getting our key shooters open - they didn't get many quality shots tonight."
Moffis led the Eagles with 11 points.
The Cook Inlet Academy boys started fast and never slowed down, notching a 70-24 win over the Wolverines.
"They're a good team. We'll be ready for them next time. We'll make some changes," said Ninilchik coach Keith Presley.
Mike Kytonen hit a 3-pointer to open the game for the Eagles, and Andy Hall converted a steal to give CIA a 5-0 lead.
Ninilchik answered with 3-pointer by Jesse Leman, but the Eagles kept running and opened a 19-5 lead by the end of the first quarter.
"It's nice to start off with a bang, especially against Ninilchik," said CIA's Jeremy Franchino. "In practice, we play a lot of fast-break, run-and-gun style. We look for the open guy rather than worrying about our own shots so much."
The Eagles were able to clutter up the passing lanes on defense, fill the lanes on offense and come up with rebounds at both ends of the floor. Blake Gabriel was dominant in the paint, scoring a game-high 19 points for the Eagles.
"What was good to see was the chemistry we had without veterans, and the chemistry that played over to the rest of the team," said CIA coach Bruce Gabriel.
Gabriel was able to move players in and out of the game, and his team never lost its stride.
Franchino finished with 14 points for the Eagles and Brian Beeson scored nine. CIA got scoring from all but two of the 10 players to get into the game.
"I'm thinking we've set the mark pretty high," said Bruce Gabriel. "We want to continue to play hard all year. I wasn't sure how we were going to come out, but we came out and ran our offense and ran our defense."
Tournament play continues today as the Ninilchik girls play Bristol Bay at 3:30 p.m., followed by the boys at 5:15 p.m. The CIA girls play Galena at 7 p.m., with the boys game slated for 8:45 p.m.
The tournament concludes Saturday with the Ninilchik-Galena girls at 11 a.m. and boys at 12:45 p.m., and the CIA-Bristol Bay girls at 2:30 p.m. and boys at 4:15 p.m.
WOLVERINES 43, EAGLES 14
Ninilchik 7 13 7 16 - 43
Cook Inlet 4 3 1 6 - 14
NINILCHIK (43) - H. Skjold 2 0-0 4, A. Bartolowits 0 0-0 0, Leman 1 3-4 5, Wolford 0 0-0 0, Rohr 0 0-0 0, Moerlein 4 3-4 11, Wood 5 0-0 13, K. Skjold 0 0-0 0, J. Bartolowits 1 0-0 2, Schnabl 0 0-0 0, Erickson 2 2-4 6, Dawson 1 0-0 2. Totals - 16 8-12 43.
COOK INLET ACADEMY (14) - Query 0 2-4 2, Lindow 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-1 0, Bell 0 0-0 0, Hillyer 0 0-1 0, Moffis 4 2-6 11, White 0 0-0 0, Forsi 0 1-2 1, Michel 0 0-0 0. Totals - 4 5-14 14.
3-point goals - Ninilchik 3 (Wood 3), CIA 1 (Moffis). Total fouls - Ninilchik 16, CIA 14. Fouled out - Hillyer.
EAGLES 70, WOLVERINES 24
Ninilchik 5 6 7 6 - 24
Cook Inlet 19 17 12 22 - 70
NINILCHIK (24) - Halpin 3 0-0 7, Vandaford 0 0-0 0, Amato 0 0-0 0, Doyle 0 0-2 0, Dwyer 0 0-2 0, Klapack 6 0-2 12, Chihuly 1 0-0 2, Leman 1 0-0 3, Cuffe 0 0-0 0. Totals - 12 0-2 24.
COOK INLET ACADEMY (70) - Franchino 6 2-2 14, Zufelt 2 0-0 5, Fowler 0 0-0 0, Byrd 3 0-2 7, Kytonen 3 0-0 7, Beeson 4 1-1 9, Forsi 2 0-2 4, Hall 2 1-2 5, Brown 0 0-0 0, Gabriel 9 1-2 70. Totals - 31 5-11 70.
3-point goals - Ninilchik 1 (Halpin), CIA 3 (Zufelt, Byrd, Kytonen). Totals fouls - Ninilchik 11, CIA 13. Fouled out - none.
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