• Nikolaevsk’s Blake Klaich scores 49 points, named tournament MVP
By Sean Pearson
For the first time since the tournament’s inception in 2002, both Nikolaevsk girls and boys basketball teams won their ConocoPhillips Warrior Rumble Basketball Tournament in Nikolaevsk over the weekend.
Nikolaevsk’s Eric Mametieff and Blake Klaich combined for 106 points in three games to lead the Warriors to the tournament win. Klaich was also winner of the boys’ free-throw competition and named the tournament’s most valuable player.
The Warriors opened the tourney on Thursday with a convincing 56-44 defeat of Wasilla Lake. Nikolaevsk looked to be in trouble early on, giving up 13 points in the first quarter, while only managing to score six of their own. A second-quarter improvement left the Warriors just one point behind as the two teams entered the locker rooms at the half.
Nikolaevsk scored 35 points in the second half to log the win. Mametieff led the Warriors with 25 points for the game, while Klaich added 12.
On Friday, Nikolaevsk jumped out to a 22-10 halftime lead to skate past Peninsula rival Ninilchik for a 44-33 victory. High scorer for the game was Anthony Yakunin with 16. Mametieff and Klaich added nine and 11 points, respectively. Ninilchik’s Jack Wheeler led his Wolverines with 13 points.
Another scoring run by hot-handed Klaich and Mametieff on Saturday gave the Warriors the final win of the weekend over Lumen Christi and first place in the tourney. Klaich had 26 points to Mametieff’s 23, as Nikolaevsk topped Lumen Christi 62-57.
The Archangels had a 51-49 lead after three quarters of play, but allowed 13 Warrior points in the final quarter to give up their edge.
Mametieff said he was “definitely happy” that his team won the tourney, but wasn’t completed satisfied by their play.
“We’ve still got a long season ahead of us, and many things could happen in that time,” he explained. “Our goal is to constantly strive to improve as a team and as individuals, and just keep our play at the highest level possible.”
Mametieff said he feels the team plays well together, but always sees room for improvement.
“We still need to work on everything as a team; just being together in general,” he said. “Teamwork and trust are always ongoing issues.”
Mametieff gave much of the credit for the team’s success to the coaching staff, as well as the strong play of teammate Klaich.
“He is just a great athlete, and his leadership on the court is definitely his biggest strength,” Mametieff said. “He keeps our attitudes high when we get down on ourselves.”
On the girls’ side of Rumble action, the Lady Warriors also wrapped up the tournament title by topping Lumen Christi 42-30 on Saturday. Nianella Dorvall had 18 points, while Sophia Kalugin had 10.
The Lady Warriors opened play on Thursday with a 38-20 win over Wasilla Lake, before blowing past the Ninilchik Lady Wolverines 42-19 on Friday. Serafima Kalugin and Dorvall each had 12 points to lead Nikolaevsk, while Jordan Finney led Ninilchik with nine points.
The Lady Wolverines held on through a low-scoring first half, trailing 9-14 at the half. But a 15-6 third quarter and 13-4 fourth-quarter performance by the Lady Warriors took Ninilchik completely out of the game.
Serafima Kalugin led Nikolaevsk with 13 points, while Dorvall added 12. Ninilchik’s Finney led the Lady Wolverines with nine points.
Nikolaevsk head coach Bea Klaich said winning the Rumble was a “great accomplishment,” especially since all the games were conference games.
“Wasilla Lake, Ninilchik and Lumen Christi all played hard and didn’t make it easy for us,” Klaich said. “I have a lot of respect for those teams, and our conference tournament should be very competitive.”
Klaich said she feels her girls are playing well and beginning to understand their roles in the game more and more.
“Limiting turnovers when pressured is something we are working hard to improve,” she explained. “And good decision-making is something else we need to work on.”
Klaich said having a deep bench helps tremendously when injuries or foul trouble arise.
“I’ve got some terrific young players who can step up to the plate with confidence,” she said. “All five of my starters made the all-tournament team — (no coaches voted for their own team) — which shows the other coaches have a lot of respect for my girls. That was a great compliment.”
Klaich said she continues to be impressed by the work ethic of her team, and sees improvement in their play every day.
“We are having a lot of fun and hope to be playing to our potential by our conference tournament at the end of February,” she said.
Lady Warriors Sophia Kalugin, Kilina Klaich, Serafima Kalugin, Nianiella Dorvall and Kayla Stafford were each named to the all-tournament team. Melissa Ehlers and Krista Sinclair of Ninilchik were also named to the team. Stafford won the three-point shooting title, while Lady Wolverine Melissa Clark took the free-throw competition.
The boys all-tourney team comprised Warriors Mametieff and Yakunin, as well as Jayke Cooper and Jack Wheeler of Ninilchik. Nikolaevsk also won the boys sportsmanship award.
Both Nikolaevsk teams traveled north to take on Birchwood Christian School in Chugiak on Tuesday, but results were not available by press time. From there, the teams head up to Nenana for the NIT Tourney this weekend.
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