By McKibben Jackinsky
Search through a list of basketball fouls and its doubtful you’ll find “hugging.” However, with a confused look, a smile and a shrug of his shoulders, that was the best description referee Mike Etzwiler could give for what was happening in the Warrior Dome as Nikolaevsk varsity teams played the alumni on Friday.
In the Lady Warriors game, expressions of “thank you” and “excuse me” could be heard uttered by varsity players as they went toe-to-toe against a team that included their mothers and aunties. Recognizing their age and family relationships gave them an upper hand, the alumni creatively used it to their advantage with moves that occasionally included — you guessed it — hugs. Catching the most hoots and hollers was the good-natured mother-daughter match-up between Serafima Kalugin and her mother, Angie.
“Yes, the girls definitely have respect for the older gals, and made comments to this effect, ‘I didn’t know they could play like that, they are pretty good,’” said Nikolaevsk Lady Warriors Head Coach Bea Klaich. “Those ladies were all excellent athletes and won lots of games in their junior high school and high school days.”
In spite of the good manners, the crowd’s loud support of the babushkas (the Russian word for “grandmother” familiar in the school of mostly Russian Old Believer students), and the alumnae’s expertise, the varsity managed to maintain their lead throughout the game. The first quarter ended with the varsity ahead 10-2. By half-time the distance separating the younger players from their elders had widened to 22-5. Senior Kilina Klaich’s three-pointer, followed immediately by two-point baskets sunk by her and teammate Megan Hickman gave the varsity an additional boost and the third quarter ended with the varsity claiming a 20-point lead, 36-16. The 20-point difference continued into the final quarter, with the game ending varsity 44, alumnae 24.
“It’s a lot of fun seeing the girls I coached so long ago play against my current team,” said Klaich. “With the exception of two of the ladies that played, I coached all of them in junior high. The year I had most of those girls, we had an undefeated junior high season. They were tall and very good athletes.”
The alumnae game was not only a community reunion of sorts, but also an opportunity to have some fun and gave Klaich a view of what this year’s varsity team looks like in action.
“I think we’ll have a solid program and I’m looking forward to some younger girls stepping up into the spots that were vacated last year,” said Klaich, who lost three starters from last year’s team.
Elders beat the boys
There was a fiercer, less polite, air of competition when the varsity boys met their alumni competitors. The action quickly rotated from one end of the court to the other with the two teams appearing evenly balanced.
By half-time only a nine-point lead separated the varsity with 38 from the alumni’s score of 29. In the third quarter, the alumni poured on the pressure, ending with a slight two-point, 50-48 difference.
Then, in the final quarter, the alumni tied the game 60-60 with less than three minutes left on the clock. That momentum carried them through the end of the game to a 69-63 victory, thanks to a one-of-a-kind play that was the favorite moment of the game for Nikolaevsk boys varsity Head Coach Steve Klaich and drew thundering cheers from the crowd.
“I loved the Eric-Tutt-to-Joel-Tutt Alley Oop pass that went off of Joel’s head, nearly hit the ceiling and dropped through the basket,” Steve Klaich.
Watching the current Warrior team take on former team members is a “win-win” for Steve Klaich.
“I love the alumni games as all of the players are ‘my boys.’ I have coached them all,” he said. It also was a positive environment in which to compete, have fun and renew friendships, he added.
“With this being my 26th year coaching the Nikolaevsk high school boys, I have fond memories of every player on the floor. … The Nikolaevsk alumni game is a community ‘family reunion’ that is permeated by laughter, competition and a fun evening for players and fans alike.”
Having seen his team in action, Steve Klaich is optimistic about the season ahead.
“We moved the ball very well and have a lot of players contributing on both ends of the floor,” he said.
The spirit of family togetherness carried over into the officials of Friday’s game, with Dave Etzwiler joined on the floor by his sons Chris and Mike. For Dave Etzwiler, it was his last game before officially retiring. Chris and Mike Etzwiler have been officiating Nikolaevsk games for about the last 10 years.
“The opportunity to thank and recognize Mr. Etzwiler officiating his last game before retirement was great,” said Steve Klaich.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.
Nikolaevsk Warriors — girls varsity
Coach: Bea Klaich
Anastacia Dorvall, freshman
Vera Fefelov, freshman
Ellena Gordeev, sophomore
Nadejda Gordeev, junior
Megan Hickman, junior
Chelsea Johnson, eighth grade
Veronica Jones, senior
Serafima Kalugin, junior
Kilina Klaich, senior
Kristin Klaich, freshman
Nikolaevsk Warriors — boys varsity
Coach: Steve Klaich
Nikit Fefelov, sophomore
Jonah Fefelov, junior
Neil Gordeev, junior
Anfim Kalugin, freshman
Felemon Molodih, junior
Kalenik Molodih, freshman
Greg Trail, junior
Sergey Yakunin, freshman
Brian Whaley, sophomore
Nikolaevsk alumnAE – women
Olempiada Anfilofev, 1995, Nikolaevsk resident
Hope Brown, not an alumna, Nikolaevsk resident
Ducia Fefelov, 1998, Nikolaevsk resident
Hionia Gatts, 1995, Anchorage resident
Angie Kalugin, 1980s, Nikolaevsk resident
Tisa Kuzmin, 2006, Nikolaevsk/Washington resident
Ducia Lasiter, 1995, Homer resident
Pavla Tyson, 1996, Nikolaevsk resident
Akilina Willars, 1999, Anchorage resident
Nikolaevsk alumni – men
Denis Basargin, 2003, Anchorage resident
Anatoli Fefelov, 2013, Anchorage resident
Mark Fefelov, 2011, Washington, D.C., resident
Nick Gordeev, 2005, Homer resident
Chris Kalugin, 2010, Nikolaevsk resident
J.R. Kalugin, 1993, Vancouver, B.C., resident
Blake Klaich, 2013, Fairbanks resident
Danny Kuzmin, 2004, Nikolaevsk resident
Sam Kuzmin, 2003, Nikolaevsk resident
Andre Tipikin, 2012, Nikolaevsk resident
Eric Tutt, 2006, Homer resident
Joel Tutt, 2006, Homer resident
Anthony Yakunin, 2014, Nikolaevsk resident