Aniak places 5th at Class 1A state tournament

The Aniak Halfbreeds won their first two games at the Girls State 1A Tournament. They defeated Ninilchik and Shishmaref to take home 5th place honors. Above Coach Morgan encourages his team during a time out. photo by Greg Lincoln

by Tommy Wells

The Aniak Lady Halfbreeds turned in a strong performance this past weekend at the Class 1A state basketball tournament in Anchorage. The Aniak girls posted a 2-2 record in the four-day event and finished fifth in the final team standings following a tough 47-43 loss to Buckland in the third-place matchup.

The Lady Halfbreeds might well have finished even higher in the standings if not for a 17-point outburst by Buckland in the final eight minutes of play. The Lady Sissauni’s late run enabled them to rally from a 6-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter.

Aniak took control of the game midway through the first period of play. After Buckland had fought to a 9-9 tie with 2:51 left in the opening frame, Tierra Wolf kicked the Lady Halfbreeds’ offense into gear. She pushed home a three-pointer from the right side that staked Aniak to a 12-9 cushion. Samantha Hoeldt followed moments later with a running jumper in the paint to inflate the AHS lead to five, at 14-9.

Buckland came storming back in the second. The Lady Sissauni started the second with a 7-2 run and grabbed an 18-16 cushion before Alyssa Morgan put a screeching halt to the spree. Morgan ignited an 8-3 run over the final 5:10 of the half with a three-pointer. Cally Phillips, Anita Thomas and Kendel Peterson also added points in that period and sent AHS into the half holding a 24-21 lead.

Emily Peterson came up big for Aniak in the third. She spearheaded a 15-6 spurt in the third by sinking a pair of clutch treys – the last of which was a buzzer-beating shot that staked the Lady Halfbreeds to a six-point lead, at 36-30, at the start of the fourth quarter.

Buckland came roaring back in the fourth. They opened the stanza with an 11-2 run that put them on top, 41-38, with 5:25 left in the frame.

Kayla Morgan refused to let Aniak go down quietly. She buried a trey from the win with 4:25 remaining that tied the game at 41-41.

Alyssa Morgan finished the contest as the Lady Halfbreeds’ top scorer, netting 11 points. Hoeldt and Kayla Morgan added eight and seven, respectively.

Wolf also played extremely well for Aniak. She netted five points, 13 rebounds and four steals.

Aniak slipped into the third-place game with a 45-32 loss to defending Class 1A state champion Alak (Wainwright) in the semifinals on Friday. Despite the loss, the AHS girls picked up outstanding performances from Kayla Morgan and Wolf. Morgan tallied a team-high 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Wolf added 10 points and eight boards.

The Lady Halfbreeds kicked off their tournament appearance with a pair of wins. They defeated Ninilchick on Wednesday by a 34-32 clip, and then downed Shishmaref, 51-45, in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

During the awards, Kayla Morgan was named to the State 1A All Tournament Team.