1A Alaska Coastal Conference Tournament – Part 1

The Nightmute Nighthawks are back on the Alaska Coastal Conference 1A bracket since 1997. Here they play with the Nunapitchuk Wolves during last week's opening round of the tournament. From left are: #10 Cherish Carson, #42 Terrence Wiseman, #21Tyson Nicholai, and #24 Corey George. photo by Greg Lincoln

by Greg Lincoln

The 35th annual 1A Coastal Conference Basketball Tournament is underway here in Bethel at the WarriorDome. Girls varsity teams from the Island League: Chefornak, Toksook Bay, and Newtok/Mertarvik; the Midcoast League: Kipnuk, Kongiganak, and Quinhagak; and the Kusko League: Kasigluk-Akiuk and Napaskiak are participants in the event. On the boys side it is Chefornak, Nightmute, and Toksook Bay for the Island League; Kasigluk-Akiuk, Napaskiak, Nunapitchuk for the Kusko League; and Tuntutuliak and Kipnuk representing the Midcoast League.

Adoring fans gathered in the WarriorDome to cheer for their hometown teams and filling the gym with a deep “oooh” every time a player fires a three. Quarterfinal games started early Saturday at 8:45am with the boys game 1 between the top seed and last year’s 2022 1A State Champions – the Toksook Bay Islanders coached by Simeon Lincoln, and the Napaskiak Hawks coached by John Sipary. Toksook won 85-38.

Game 2 for the boys was the Tuntutuliak Bluejays coached by Carlotta Evan vs. the Kasigluk-Akiuk Grizzlies coached by Paul Andrew at 10:30am. The Bluejays won the game, 58-40.

The first girls contest took place at 12:15pm between the top seed Chefornak Lady Shamans of the Island League coached by Eva Panruk and their closest village neighbors – the Kipnuk Lady Falcons of the Midcoast League coached by Naomi Paul. The Lady Shamans won 42-34.

The second girls game was between the Newtok/Mertarvik Jaegers coached by Jimmy Charles Jr. and the Kongiganak Lady Wolverines coached by Elizabeth Phillip. The Lady Wolverines won 72-33.

On the boys side, game 3 was between the Kipnuk Falcons coached by Adolph Paul and the Chefornak Shamans coached by Robert Panruk in a supercharged close contest. The two neighboring villages played their hardest. The Shamans won by 2 points, 59-57 to advance to the semis.

Boys game 4 was the Nightmute Nighthawks coached by Jimmie Tulik and the Nunapitchuk Wolves coached by Wassillie Frank. The Nighthawks made it to the district tournament since 1997 where they won the Sportsmanship Award. Coach Frank’s Wolves won 52-42.

The Napaskiak Lady Hawks coached by Kim Nicholai defeated the Lady Islanders of Toksook Bay, coached by Frank Pitka in girls game 3. The score was 56 Lady Hawks, 33 Lady Islanders. The Napaskiak Hawks mascots danced around the gym to support their fans and players.

The final game of the night was a nailbiter barnburner of a game between the Quinhagak Lady Seahawks coached by Gloria Cleveland and the Kasigluk-Akiuk Lady Grizzlies, coached by Peter Nicholas for girls game 4. The Grizzlies mascot walked around the gym urging fans to cheer. The game was won by the Lady Grizzlies despite the Quinhagak’s swarming defense 42-39.

That concluded the games for Day 1. Fans exited the WarriorDome to get rest before the consolation bracket games and the semifinals while student athletes helped tidy up the gym and bleachers.

On Day 2 Sunday fans had to line up and wait for sometimes up to 4 hours before they could get a seat. Tournament organizers kept the line moving. Concessions were courtesy of the Warrior Wrestling Team.

The first game for the girls semifinals was between the Chefornak Lady Shamans and the Kasigluk-Akiuk Lady Grizzlies at 3:45pm. It was 113 decibels in the gym from all the cheering – said one of the tournament VIPs. During the last minutes of this game, the Lady Shamans made a valiant effort, scoring two back to back baskets to come within 2 points of the Lady Grizzlies. In the final minute, the Lady Grizzlies made 2 baskets sealing their win into the championship round. The score was 45-39.

The second semifinal game was on the boys’ bracket at 5:30pm – the Toksook Bay Islanders vs. the Tuntutuliak Bluejays. The Islanders won this contest 90-51. The defending Islander champions advanced to the semifinals.

The next game was game 8 for the girls – the winner would play the Kasigluk-Akiuk Lady Grizzlies in the championship game. The Lady Hawks of Napaskiak defeated the Lady Wolverines of Kongiganak, 41-34. The Lady Hawks advanced to the championship match to take place on Monday, March 6th.

The last game of the night was the semifinal between the Chefornak Shamans and the Nunapitchuk Wolves. Both teams gave tremendous effort – the Wolves shrinking a 16 point deficit at one point to come within one point of the Shamans and the Shamans giving it all they got to maintain their lead. The Shamans won 54-49 and will play their Island League counterparts, the Nelson Islanders for the championship and a chance to represent the 1A Alaska Coastal Conference at the State tournament that starts on March 15th, 2023.

Great job everyone!