Nikiski girls finish 3-0 to take crown

Posted: Sunday, December 21, 2008

By winning the Kenai River Challenge tournament at Kenai Central on Saturday, the Nikiski girls showed they are serious about getting back to the Class 3A state basketball tournament after a one-year absence.

The Bulldogs defeated Cordova 38-30 on Saturday to complete a 3-0 run through the tournament. That run included victories over the Wolverines, who finished fourth in the state last year, and Mt. Edgecumbe, which finished fifth at state. The Bulldogs had a string of 17 straight Class 3A state appearances snapped last season.

"This was a great tournament for us," said Nikiski coach Ward Romans after his squad improved to 5-0 overall. "We beat a couple of teams that ended up fourth and fifth in the state last season, and return some seniors.

"I'm happy with where we are right now, but we've also have areas where we can improve, and that's exciting."

The Bulldogs, using a man-to-man defense, held the Wolverines to 11-of-46 shooting from the floor. Cordova is usually an efficient team from the floor, having finished 16-of-32 in a victory against Kenai on Thursday. The Wolverines are now 3-1 this season.

"They were the toughest team we've faced all year," said Chris Ganaski, an assistant coach who is filling in for head coach Virginia Anderson. "They play really tough defense."

The Bulldogs also showed some versatility that will give opponents some problems on defense.

In its first two games of the tournament -- wins against Kenai and Soldotna -- Cordova was able to stay in a 1-3-1 zone. By the start of the second quarter Saturday, the Bulldogs had forced the Wolverines out of that zone.

"They were getting too many easy shots," Ganaski said. "That zone didn't work against this team because they were shooting better and they were driving better."

Despite having to switch out of the zone and shooting just 5-of-24 from the floor in the first half, Cordova trailed just 14-13 after a first half that saw two ties and two lead changes.

One big development in the first half was Cordova's Olivia Kelly, named the best offensive player at the tournament, getting her third foul in the final minute of the second quarter.

Kelly then picked up her fourth foul in the first minute of the third quarter and would not go back in the game until the fourth quarter. Cordova also lost starter Liz Collins for a few minutes in the third due to a shoulder injury, and Marissa Merritt, who made the state all-tournament team last year, for the last 1:09 of the third when she got her fourth foul.

Nikiski took advantage by outscoring Cordova 13-3 over the final 6:19 of the third quarter to take a 28-18 lead.

While the Bulldogs continued to clamp down on defense, they also started getting penetration against Cordova's man-to-man defense.

Romans said that one of the exciting things about this year's team is that Lacey Carlson, Rachel Romans, Eliza Chadwick and Abby Chadwick all have point-guard skills and can shoot the ball well. Romans said it's been a long time since he's had four players on his team with those skills.

"That's going to cause some matchup problems," Romans said. "These girls deserve credit for how hard they've worked on their shooting. They've just shot and shot and shot."

In the fourth quarter, the Wolverines had their starters back on the floor and cut the lead to 30-24 with 5:21 left on a jumper by Kelly. That was as close as Cordova would get as Nikiski continued to find ways to get to the basket on the offensive end. After a 5-of-19 effort from the floor in the first half, Nikiski was 10-of-24 in the second half.

Cordova's Teal Webber had 15 points to lead all scorers, while Romans and Carlson led a balanced Nikiski attack with eight points apiece. Abby Chadwick was named the best defensive player in the tournament.

Soldotna girls 65, Houston 22

The Stars finished up the tournament with a 1-2 record, while the Hawks fell to 0-3 in the tourney.

Soldotna grabbed a 21-4 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. Jessi Stenga had 14 points to lead all scorers.

Mt. Edgecumbe girls 42, Kenai 38

The Braves finished the tournament with a 2-1 record, while the Kardinals finished at 1-2.

Mt. Edgecumbe came back from a 21-14 deficit at the half and a 29-25 deficit after three quarters to get the win. Tricia Ivanoff had nine points to pace the Braves, while Ashlyn Ross dumped in 10 points for the Kardinals to lead all scorers.

Bulldogs 38, Wolverines 30

Cordova 9 4 5 12 --30

Nikiski 10 4 14 10 --38

CORDOVA (30) -- Collins 1 1-2 3, Roenhildt 2 0-0 4, Beedle 0 0-0 0, T. Webber 5 3-4 15, Phillips 0 0-0 0, M. Webber 0 0-2 0, O. Kelly 2 1-3 6, Merritt 0 0-0 0, A. Kelly 0 0-0 0, Gilman 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 10 5-11 30.

NIKISKI (38) -- Romans 3 2-4 8, A. Chadwick 2 0-2 4, Johnson 2 0-0 4, Carlson 3 2-2 8, E. Chadwick 2 3-6 7, Anderson 0 0-0 0, Rorrison 3 0-3 6, Peek 0 1-2 1. Totals -- 15 8-19 38.

3-point goals -- Cordova 3 (T. Webber 2, O. Kelly 1). Team fouls -- Cordova 17, Nikiski 14. Fouled out -- none.

Stars 65, Hawks 22

Houston 4 6 6 6 --22

Soldotna 21 18 11 15 --65

HOUSTON (22) -- Wagner 0 0-3 0, James 0 3-4 3, Acton 0 1-2 1, Thamm 0 0-0 0, J. Shannon 1 5-8 7, Ritter 1 2-2 4, R. Shannon 0 0-2 0, Katzenberger 3 1-4 7, Shaffer 0 0-0 0, Lena J. 0 0-0 0, Sharpe 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 5 12-25 22.

SOLDOTNA (65) -- Forbes 2 0-0 4, Sholin 2 0-0 4, Stenga 5 4-4 14, Jensen 3 0-0 6, Dykstra 2 1-4 6, Heffner 2 2-3 6, Hardcastle 2 2-2 4, VanAntwerp 2 0-0 5, Duke 1 3-4 5, Hardy 1 0-0 2, Truesdell 2 0-2 4, Satathite 2 1-2 5. Totals -- 26 13-21 65.

3-point goals -- Soldotna 2 (Dykstra 1, VanAntwerp 1). Team fouls -- Houston 20, Soldotna 21. Fouled out -- Forbes.

Braves 42, Kardinals 36

Mt. Edgecumbe 7 7 11 17 --42

Kenai Central 8 13 8 7 --38

MT. EDGECUMBE (42) -- Beaver 2 0-2 4, Redfox 1 0-0 2, Ivanoff 2 5-7 9, Berlin 1 1-2 3, Weber 3 0-0 8, Binkowskie 0 0-1 0, Cronk 3 0-2 6, Tuk W. 2 0-0 4, Kewzn 2 2-4 6. Totals -- 16 8-18 42.

KENAI CENTRAL (38) -- Hull 0 0-0 0, Delaney 2 2-4 6, Coupchiak 0 0-0 0, Ross 4 2-4 10, Flanagan 0 0-0 0, Beeson 3 0-2 7, Wortham 4 1-3 9, Graves 0 0-0 0, Wensley 2 1-2 6, Young 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 15 6-15 38.

3-point goals -- Mt. Edgecumbe 2 (Weber 2); Kenai Central 2 (Beeson 1, Wensley 1). Team fouls -- Mt. Edgecumbe 18, Kenai Central 21. Fouled out -- Kewzn.

Tournament defensive award -- Nikiski's Abby Chadwick.

Tournament offensive award -- Cordova's Olivia Kelly.

Skills contest

3-point contest -- Jessica Duke, Soldotna.

Spot shooting -- Hannah Delaney, Kenai Central.

Free-throw shooting -- Khelby Kennedy, Kenai Central.

Coaches' shooting contest -- Stacia Rustad, Kenai Central.



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