St. Mary’s battles to fifth at state tournament

St. Mary's Dakota Sipary gets ready to outbound the ball to her teammates during their game with the Noorvik Bears during the state 1A quarterfinals last Thursday. St. Mary's won 43-27.

by Tommy Wells

The St. Mary’s Eagles made sure the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta was recognized at the girls’ Class 1A state basketball tournament this past weekend in Anchorage. The Lady Eagles posted a 2-2 mark at the four-day tournament and placed fifth in the final standings at the 16-team event.

St. Mary’s kicked off the tournament on Wednesday with a stellar showing against Shishmaref in the play-in round. The Lady Eagles picked up double-digit scoring performances from Naomi Paukan, Johanna Prince and Susan Prince en route to a 59-46 victory over the Lady Northern Lights.

St. Mary’s controlled the tempo for much of the first half against Shishmaref. The Lady Eagles reeled off a 34-21 run in the first two quarters and took a 13-point lead into the half.

Shishmaref, a perennial state power from the Bering Sea Conference, rallied back in the third. The Lights scored 13 points in the frame and went into the fourth trailing by just six, at 40-34.

St. Mary’s closed out the first-round win from there.

Paukan led all St. Mary’s scorers in the win by throwing in 18 points and nine rebounds. Johanna Prince tallied 17, while Susan Prince chipped in 11 points and six boards.

The Lady Eagles also garnered solid outings from Dakota Sipary, who finished with seven points, and Megan Westdahl, who added six points and a team-high 12 rebounds.

The win over Shishmaref propelled the Lady Eagles into the quarterfinal round of the championship bracket on Friday to face off with another perennial state power in Noorvik.

Johanna Prince and the St. Mary defense made sure the Lady Bears wouldn’t build any momentum early. The Lady Eagles held Noorvik scoreless from the field in the first quarter and raced into the half holding a 23-7 cushion.

Prince finished as St. Mary’s top scorer, netting 15 points in the 16-point romp. Paukan added nine.

The Lady Eagles’ title hopes came to an end in the semifinal round on Friday as King Cove pounded out a 74-31 decision. King Cove, which averaged better than 70 points per game through the tournament, was the eventual Class 1A state champion, downing Tri-Valley in the finals on Saturday 72-34.

The loss to King Cove dropped the Lady Eagles into the third-place game against Klawock on Saturday.

Despite 10 points from Traci Evan and Johanna Prince, the Klawock Lady Chieftains took a 50-37 decision.

Prince completed a double-double effort by netting 11 rebounds.

Defending Class 1A state champion Aniak also turned in a solid showing in Anchorage. The Lady Halfbreeds went 1-2 in the meet, including a thrilling 48-41 decision over rival Russian Mission in the first round of the consolation bracket.

In that win, Aniak broke open a close game with a 13-3 run in the second quarter and took a 17-7 lead into the half.

Russian Mission didn’t go down quietly. Sparked by the play of Leah Kozevnikoff, the Lady Mustangs opened the second half with a 22-13 run and went into the fourth down by just one, at 30-29.

Kozevnikoff starred for Russian Mission, finishing just two steals shy of a triple-double. She chalked up 25 points, 11 rebounds and came away with eight steals.

Aniak answered in the fourth. They sealed the win with an 18-12 run in the final eight minutes.

Kayla Morgan paced the AHS assault offensively by netting 19 points to go with her game-high 15 rebounds. Miranda Peterson added 15 points, eight rebounds and eight steals, while teammate Shannon Alexie tossed in 10 points.

Russian Mission had fallen into the consolation bracket via a 64-44 loss to Klawock in Wednesday’s play-in round. In that loss, Kozevnikoff was again a one-woman wrecking ball. She finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and six steals.

Teammate Susanna Pitka tallied 12.

Aniak’s season came to a premature end on Friday with a tough 56-49 loss to the Newhalen Lady Malamutes who had only six players.

Morgan turned in a solid showing in the loss with 14 points and 13 boards. Emily Peterson also did well, contributing six points.

The Newtok Jaegers also made the trip to Anchorage for the state tournament. The Lady Jaegers, facing a tough lineup, suffered back-to-back losses, including an 88-31 first-round setback to King Cove.

Marilyn Fairbanks scored 14 points which included 2 three pointers. Albina Andy had 8 plus 3 steals.

They finished the tournament on Thursday with a 45-27 loss to Peninsula Conference champion Cook Inlet Academy.

Regina Andy led all NHS scorers against Cook Inlet with eight points which included two 3 point shots. Erin Carl had three steals.