In the annual, three-day Warrior Rumble at Nikolaevsk School, the Fort Yukon Eagles boys team and the Newhalen Malamutes girls team took first place in basketball action. The Nikolaevsk Warriors boys and girls teams took second and the Newhalen Malamutes boys and Fort Yukon Eagles girls were third. The boys and girls teams from the fourth school to participate in the tournament, the Tri-Valley Viking Warriors, were presented with sportsmanship awards.
“Teams are invited to attend the Rumble often a year or more in advance,” said Steve Klaich, head coach for the Nikolaevsk boys team. “Our tournament has a great reputation and teams often ask for an invitation.”
Event organizers look for the strongest teams from the state, with invitations to 1A, 2A and 3A teams as a result.
“This tournament allows us to get high-level competition in a fun and competitive environment,” said Klaich of three days of basketball in the Russian Old Believer community east of Anchor Point. “Our parents serve a delicious Russian meal and host a fantastic hospitality room that coaches and players from around Alaska love.”
Newhalen and Tri-Valley tipped off the action Thursday, with the Newhalen girls claiming a 58-30 victory and the Newhalen boys following suit with a 59-25 win. The competition continued into the evening, with the Nikolaevsk girls taking a 41-21 win over Fort Yukon and the powerhouse Fort Yukon boys team pounding their way to a 70-56 victory over Nikolaevsk.
“I felt that in the second half the (Nikolaevsk) boys became tentative and lost their aggressiveness,” said Klaich. “That led to turnovers that made the difference in the game. We finished with 32 turnovers.”
There is a good chance the Warriors will get a re-do, however, in the Nenana Invitational Tournament Feb. 5-7, when both schools, as well as Tri-Valley, Seldovia, Su-Valley, Huslia, Minto and Nenana compete.
In Thursday’s game, the Eagles took an early lead, but before the end of the first quarter, the Warriors pushed ahead, 14-10, and continued in the lead by the end of the half, 35-24. In the third quarter, the gap narrowed and then reversed, with the Eagles gliding into a slim 45-44 lead when the buzzer sounded.
The Warriors fought to tie the game early in the final quarter of play before Fort Yukon sailed on to a 70-56 win.
“The Nikolaevsk boys have played Fort Yukon several times over the past few seasons. They are a very well-coached team that offers great competition by a tall and athletic group of young men,” said Klaich. “I feel that Fort Yukon is one of the top two or three 1A boys team in the state, so it is a great measuring stick of where we are at early in the season.”
The Nikolaevsk’s girls only loss during three days of competition was to Newhalen, the defending 1A state champs, with the Malamutes scoring a 55-44 victory. The game offered the Warriors some valuable lessons.
“We learned that we can play with them, but we need to get better. We made way too many turnovers and missed too many free throws,” said Bea Klaich, head coach for the Nikolaevsk girls team. “It’s early in the season for us, so we have time to fix those problems. I think my girls are up to the challenge of getting better every day.”
The Warriors boys and girls teams stay close to home this week. In a Tuesday match-up with Ninilchik, the Nikolaevsk girls won 38-16 and the boys won 61-51. They played Nanwalek on Wednesday and Cook Inlet Academy on Friday, followed by games against Kalskag on Monday. The Warriors travel to Anchorage to pay Lumen Christi Feb. 3 before continuing to the Nenana Invitational Tournament.
“I am thrilled at where the Nikolaevsk boys are at this point in the season,” said Klaich. “This group of athletes move and share the ball better than any team that I have had in a long, long time. We are deep and play with intensity, a great recipe for the remainder of the season.”
Looking at the remainder of the season, Bea Klaich said the girls have their work cut out for them, but she believes the team is up to the task.
“I have five returning girls from last year and seven new girls that have played for me at some point, but did not play for me last year. I lost three starters from last year’s team, so we took a big hit, but I think some of the new girls are going to ‘step up to the plate’ and help us get better,” said Bea Klaich.
“I’m looking forward to seeing this group get better. I think they can accomplish a lot if they will work hard and have fun.”
Newhalen girls 58, Tri-Valley girls 30
Newhalen boys 59, Tri-Valley boys 25
Nikolaevsk girls 41, Fort Yukon girls 21
Fort Yukon boys 70 Nikolaevsk boys 56
Fort Yukon girls 46, Tri-Valley girls 30
Fort Yukon boys 74, Tri-Valley boys 30
Newhalen girls 55, Nikolaevsk 44
Nikolaevsk boys 67, Newhalen boys 39
Newhalen girls 75, Fort Yukon girls 35
Fort Yukon boys 63, Newhalen boys 39
Nikolaevsk girls 47, Tri-Valley girls 29
Nikolaevsk boys 53, Tri-Valley boys 32
Tournament first place boys:
Tournament first place girls: Newhalen
Tournament second place boys: Nikolaevsk
Tournament second place girls: Nikolaevsk
Tournament third place boys: Newhalen
Tournament third place girls: Fort Yukon
Sportsmanship boys: Tri-Valley
Sportsmanship girls: Tri-Valley
Freethrow boys: Nikit Fefelov, Nikolaevsk, 17 of 20
Freethrow girls: Kilina Klaich, Nikolaevsk, 15 of 20
3-point shooter boys: Lukas Zackar, Newhalen, 17
3-point shooter girls: Nadejda Gordeev, Nikolaevsk, 10
All tournament team boys: Franklin Carroll, Fort Yukon; Jonah Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; Lukas Zackar, Newhalen; Douglas Kalmbacher, Newhalen; Aaron Solomon, Fort Yukon; Logan Juhl, Tri-Valley; Neil Gordeev, Nikolaevsk; Jerry Carroll, Fort Yukon; Felemon Molodih, Nikolaevsk; Nikit Fefelov, Nikolaevsk; BJ Yanuchi, Tri-Valley
All tournament team girls: Serafima Kalugin, Nikolaevsk; Rhiannon Nanalook, Newhalen; Kilina Klaich, Nikolaevsk; Zabrina Byfuglien, Tri-Valley; Olivia Juhl, Tri-Valley; Megan Hickman, Nikolaevsk; Shiann Nanalook, Newhalen; Aquinnah Tremblay, Fort Yukon; Mariah Peter, Fort Yukon; Jenna Van Dyke, Fort Yukon
MVP boys: Jerry Carroll, Fort Yukon
MVP girls: Rhiannon Nanalook Newhalen