Sea Otters first, Warriors second at Nenana tourney

In a display of their on-land abilities, the Seldovia Sea Otter boys basketball team claimed first place in the eight-team Nenana Invitational Basketball Tournament on Saturday, winning 62-59 against Effie Kokrine. On the girls’ side of the action, the Nikolaevsk Warriors took second place to home team Nenana in a 40-36 game.

The Nikolaevsk boys placed sixth in the tournament, losing to Nenana, with a game score of 55-31. The Seldovia girls placed seventh to Tri-Valley in a 60-49 match-up.  

“Our first game was against Su-Valley. We beat them fairly well,” said Mark Janes, the Sea Otters’ head coach, of the 57-47 win. “Then we played Minto. They’re really fast and athletic and we squeaked by them, 72-66.” 

In the championship game against Effie Kokrine, “we were able to protect the ball, limit turnovers and squeaked by them in the last seconds,” said Janes.

Seldovia’s Aidan Philpot, Calem Collier and Seth O’Leary were named to the all-tournament team. Philpot was named MVP.

“This is the first time for Seth on an all-tournament team, but he had some really big rebounds,” said Janes. “He’s 5-feet-9-inches on a good day, but he has a nose for the basketball and is great under the basket.”

Janes described Collier as “one of the best players” at the tournament and Philpot as “really strong on both ends of the court. He works hard getting rebounds and I think everyone wanted to recognize his hard work. Three players on the all-tournament team is pretty impressive.”

The highly competitive nature of the Nenana tournament is “why we like going to it,” said Bea Klaich, head coach for the Nikolaevsk Warriors girls team. “Some of the best 1A and 2A teams in the state attend and often many of the teams that attend it make it to State.”

In the championship battle, top scorer for the Warriors in that game was junior Serafima Kalugin, the team’s 5-foot-10-inch co-captain. Kalugin and team captain Kilina Klaich also were named to the all-tournament team.

“Serafima Kalugin played terrific all around, scoring as well as rebounding well and playing great defense throughout the tournament,” said Klaich. “She received the MVP award of the entire tournament on the girls side.”

Klaich also praised Kilina Klaich and Vera Fefelov for doing “a great job running the offense and scoring when we needed buckets badly. Megan Hickman’s defense was a key to our success as well. I was proud of our bench who stepped up and played well whenever I needed them to.”

The biggest challenge the tournament offered the Nikolaevsk girls was “playing under pressure against the home team in front of a packed-out crowd. It was our sixth game of the week, too,” said Klaich. 

The high level of competition helped the Nikolaevsk boys team grow as a team, according to Head Coach Steve Klaich. 

“We come knowing where we need to improve and look forward to the challenge ahead,” he said.   

Between now and Regions competition March 4-7 and the State tournament March 14-18, Steve Klaich said the boys’ team will work on keeping their intensity at a high level for all four quarters of the game.

“We look good at times, but must maintain the intensity throughout the game,” he said.

A Seldovia basketball tournament, beginning today and continuing through Saturday, offers Seldovia and Nikolaevsk an opportunity to play a little closer to home this week. Others participating include Birchwood Christian School of Chugiak and Kodiak ESS, with students from Port Lyon, Ouzinkie, Karluk and Larson Bay.