It was a sweep for the Unalakleet Wolfpack on the girls’ and boys’ side of the ball at the 2A Ninilchik Invitational Tournament held at Ninilchik School, Feb. 5-8. Unalakleet’s two teams handled the competition with ease and won their respective championships. They beat Skyview 39-36 on the girls’ side, and 70-48 for the boys.
The host Ninilchik Wolverines didn’t go without a strong showing, finishing 1-2 on the boys’ side of the ball and 2-2 for the girls.
The Lady Wolverines came out firing for Coach Rod Van Saun, beating Noatak’s Lady Lynx, 42-38. Ninilchik played without their big center, Jessica Rogers, for the first two games as she was nursing a concussion suffered last week.
“Considering we were without our big center, I thought we brought energy the whole game,” Van Saun said. “I was really pleased with the effort, but we were outgunned without her (Rogers) in the second game.”
The Lady Wolverines lost to Unalakleet 62-38 in their second game.
Unalakleet is strong team, and Van Saun expressed a lot of satisfaction with the way his team fought it out against the tougher opponent.
“I was really pleased with the effort, and I felt that we fought like dogs all the way to the end,” Van Saun added.
The guard play, specifically from sophomore Alanna Goins, set the tone for the Lady Wolverines the entire tournament.
“She is really stepping up, handling the ball well, and running the offense at a level she has never achieved before,” Van Saun said. “This just shows how much she has grown this year.”
Ninilchik got a win in their third contest over the Noorvik Lady Bears, 46-26 on Friday. The Lady Wolverines closed out the tournament with a loss to the Noatak Lady Lynx, 48-34.
On the boys’ side, the Wolverines didn’t start exactly the way Head Coach Nick Finley would have liked, losing to Noatak 62-42. However, the Wolverines ran toe-to-toe on Friday with the Noorvik Bears, and pulled out an exciting 52-48 win.
“To start the game we emphasized coming out with energy, and that’s what we did,” Finley said.
Defense was key for Ninilchik in the win, and the Wolverines never let their defense slip. Senior Tyler Thorne had a huge game for the Wolverines in the win, dropping 15 points on the Bears and playing stifling defense.
“He (Thorne) effectively took out their best player and boxed up their point guard, taking each of those players out of the equation for Noorvik,” Finley said.
The next game was crucial for the Wolverines as they faced Noatak for a second time, with a chance to earn their way back through their bracket for a shot at the title eventually. Noatak had Ninilchik’s number for a second time during the tournament, and handed the Wolverines their second loss on Friday, 58-45.
Overall for both Ninilchik coaches, the tournament was a good experience for them and their teams. The Ninilchik squads are overall young teams, and when you add things up, there are five freshman and six sophomores getting significant playing time for both squads.
“We are a young team, and we need to keep working on our fundamentals,” Van Saun said. “When we lose it’s the same things that hurt us every time.”
The common theme overall from both coaches, however, is “great kids that are working really hard at getting better every single game and they’re learning something from these losses,” said Van Saun.
Both teams played again, at home, against King Cove on Monday night and will travel to Tok for another tournament this weekend. As for not making it to the final day of the Ninilchik tournament, the coaches agreed a little rest wouldn’t hurt in getting ready for this week’s games.
For the Wolverines, Tyler Presley averaged 15points per game and White averaged 20. Thorne added 10.6 points per game and fellow senior Robert Delgado added 16 points over the weekend. In the win over Noorvik, Presley went an impressive 10-11 from the free throw line down the stretch.
For the Lady Wolverines, Melissa Ehlers and Jordan Finney led all scorers with 10.5 points per game; Melissa Clark added 7.5 per game and Goins finished with 4.25 per game over the weekend.
Mike Tozzo is a special services teacher at Ninilchik School and a freelance writer.
2014 Ninilchik Invitational Tournament
Feb. 5-8, Ninilchik High School
Girls All-Tournament Team:
Meghan Powers – Skyview
Roberta Walker – Unalakleet
Sam Reynolds – Skyview
Jordan Finney – Ninilchik
Emily Outwater – Noatak
Tia Matchison – Chevak
Iva Joe Davis – Noorvik
Reanna Tulim – Chevak
Alanna Goins – Ninilchik
MVP – Johnisha Wilson, Unalakleet
Boys All-Tournament Team
Gage Ivanoff, Unalakleet
Ezra Arey, Noatak
Ivan Luther, Noatak
Austin White, Ninilchik
Gordon Newlin, Noorvik
John Night, Chevak
Tyler Thorne, Ninilchik
Time Duke, Skyview
Jacob Carlson, Skyview
MVP – Tristen Ticket, Unalakleet
Handler Award: (Most Heart)
Laurel Katchatag, Unalakleet
Robert Delgado, Ninilchik