The Ninilchik Wolverines blew past Metlakatla to take home the boys Class 2A state basketball title at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage on Saturday, 78-52, rounding out an undefeated season and securing the small school’s first championship since moving to 2A level play.
Ninilchik took home the Interior Conference title on March 11 in Tok to get to the state tournament. The Wolverines advanced to the state championship game Saturday after their 77-57 win over Unalakleet on Friday night in Anchorage. They finished their regular season 26-0.
Ninilchik head coach Nick Finley said winning the 2A state is what the team deserved.
“They’ve worked very hard in the offseason, they worked very hard during this season and to go 26 and 0 is a very difficult thing,” he said.
Saturday’s state title was Ninilchik’s first since 2017, also led by coach Finley, and their third overall.
Finley said the team cohesion helped lead the Wolverines to a winning season, despite having players from different communities — Ninilchik, Nikolaevsk and Seldovia.
“We have kids from three different communities and the way that they’ve come together and meshed is just unbelievable,” he said. “It’s a very difficult thing to do when you have two kids coming from this community, one kid coming in from this community, and then we have our kids from Ninilchik.”
Finley said it’s almost like they’ve all been playing together since elementary school.
Ninilchik senior guard Lukah Kalugin, who is from Nikolaevsk, was Saturday’s player of the game for the Wolverines. He said he’s always wanted to win a state basketball title.
“It was amazing,” Kalugin said. “I’ve played basketball my whole life and I’ve been prepared for this since I was small.”
The senior led Ninilchik with 32 points Saturday night.
The Wolverines played aggressively from the start, scoring from the free-throw line and pulling down some key offensive rebounds. Ninilchik was ahead 18-11 at the end of the first quarter. Metlakatla came back, tying up the game in the last minute of the second quarter, before Ninilchik put in another basket. The Wolverines led 25-23 at the half.
Ninilchik widened the margin in the second half, creating more scoring opportunities than Metlakatla by looking for open gaps in the paint and moving the ball around the perimeter quickly on offense.
Finley said the difference at the start of the second half was the pressure his squad put on Metlakatla.
“We knew in the second half we would be able to wear them down with our full-court press and the pressure in the backcourt, and that’s what we did,” he said. “We were able to get easy buckets out of it, which led to confidence in our kids and that’s ultimately what the difference was.”
The Wolverines were up 54-36 at the end of the third quarter, and finished the game at 78-52.
Landon Colburn was the second-leading scorer after Kalugin, with 23 points for Ninilchik. Justin Trail had 10, Jaylin Scott had nine, and both Calvin Moore and Blake Lemons had two.
Shayne Anderson led with 13 points for Metlakatla. Aaron O’Brien had 12, Mason Rolando had seven, Harvey Booth had six, Trinity Jackson had five, Troy Russel had four, Frank Guthrie had three, and Cameron Gaube had two points.