Story last updated at 3:03 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2002

Wolverine boys fight furiously for No. 2
By Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: sports
  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Ninilchik's Jesse Hostetter tries to get by Cook Inlet Academy's Justin Franchino during the Wolverine's 43-40 double-overtime loss in the title game.  
ANCHORAGE <> There might as well have been a hat-waving carnival barker standing outside the Service High gym yelling "step right this way folks," because for two straight nights, the Ninilchik High School boys basketball team had standing-room crowds roaring as they played their way to the 2A state final.

After winning an unforgettable triple-overtime semifinal game against Point Hope on Friday night, the Wolverines came up short in an agonizing 43-40 double-overtime loss to District 3 rival Cook Inlet Academy in Saturday's championship game.

The final 11 seconds of the title game is an example of Ninilchik's tournament roller-coaster ride.

Trailing by three and in possession of the ball, the Wolverines: 1. Turned the ball over; 2. Stole it back; 3. Attempted a three-point shot; 4. Saw it blocked; 5. Grabbed the loose ball; and 6. Put up another three-point shot only to see it fall short as the buzzer sounded.

The game was close throughout, with the largest lead a seven-point edge for Ninilchik early in the third quarter. But the Wolverines struggled offensively in the second half and the Eagles closed the gap.

"Five overtimes finally caught up with us," Ninilchik coach Chris Hanson said. "We came out looking flat in the second half and I'd say the kids were pretty drained (after Friday's game.)"

Down by two with 2 minutes left in the second overtime, Buck Kvasnikoff was called for a questionable charge as he sank a lay-up. At the time, Hanson was not at all happy with the call, shouting that the CIA player was blocking and under the basket.

"It was a tough call, sure," Hanson said, after the game. "But you can't look at any one moment in double overtime game and say 'that was the ballgame.' "

Kvasnikoff recorded his second-straight double-double, pouring in 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. John Matson added 10 points for the Wolverines. Meanwhile, CIA's Justin Franchino also had 17 points and four steals to lead the Eagles.

After playing their hearts out, the Wolverines didn't want to talk about the pride of getting so far, of taking second place, of being the first Wolverines to make it to a state championship.

"Never for a moment did we think we were going to lose this game," John Matson said bitterly, shaking his head.

The Wolverines confidence was high as they rode the emotions of their epic 82-67 semifinal win over top-ranked Point Hope, ending the Harpooners' 15-game win streak. The Ninilchik victory, which had more twists and turns than a stadium pretzel, was fueled by a dominant game from Kvasnikoff, who scored 43 points and pulled down an amazing 22 rebounds.

After being shaken up by a hard foul, Kvasnikoff sent the game into overtime by hitting a do-or-die free throw.

While the Wolverine's pulled away finally in the third overtime, the most memorable moment of the game, and perhaps the tournament, came with one second left on the clock in the second overtime. Down by two, Point Hope's Othniel Oomittuk hurled a 90-foot inbounds pass to Harry Koonuk, who flicked the ball off the glass and in.

"I couldn't believe they got that basket," Kvasnikoff said. "What an awesome game.

"That's the kind of game you always dream about playing in."