Kotzebue Eskimojis tip off basketball season
Kotzebue's 2017-18 basketball season officially tipped off last weekend in the Dawg House, with the Eskimojis hosting Noatak's Little Dribblers. Each team played once on Friday and twice on Saturday for a total of 12 games.
"It was a great weekend of basketball," said Eskimojis third- and fourth-grade coach Jake Stoops. "Noatak loves its basketball and, in addition to bringing down four teams, had a large contingent of fans."
"Our girls said it felt like the 1A Region Tournament," said Mary Adams.
Adams began organizing fundraising and practices back in October. In all, Noatak brought 23 players to fill four teams. Brooklyn Hingsbergen, who last week transferred to JNES from Noatak, was able to give the Lynx an additional player.
Play opened Friday with a third- and fourth-grade girls game. Noatak jumped out to an 11-2 lead after the first quarter, and raced to a 25-8 win. Jasmine Schaeffer led all scorers with 13 points. It was a homecoming of sorts for Schaeffer, daughter of former Lady Huskies star Evelyn Conwell.
"Seeing Jasmine play was pretty cool," said Stoops, who coached Conwell and twin sister Allison in high school. "Jasmine was lighting us up on the court and the 'Twin Towers' were back in the building - with Evelyn coaching and Allison keeping the scorebook. I looked up at the region championship banner the twins helped us win in 2002 and had to smile."
The Eskimojis third- and fourth-grade boys were able to even the series in the next game with a 43-4 win. In all, nine Eskimojis scored, led by nine from Louie Gallahorn and eight apiece for John Tikik and Tyler Kramer.
Noatak's Connie Onalik topped all scorers with 13 points. Bryana Harvey hit for 12 and Sara Salazar added six to key a 24-17 Eskimojis win in the girls' fifth- and sixth-grade game.
The inside combination of Gage Swanson and Kevin Schaeffer got the Eskimojis fifth- and sixth-grade boys off to a quick start in Friday's finale. The duo combined for all 11 points in an 11-3 first quarter. Tyran Lane took the baton in the fourth quarter with six points to anchor a 45-31 win. In all, seven of eight Eskimojis found the scoring column. Ivan Jones paced Noatak with 11, and Fred Walton Jr. added 10.
On Saturday, Noatak's third- and fourth-grade girls finished off a three-game sweep with a 24-10 win, before holding off the Eskimojis, 19-12, in the final game. Schaeffer scored a total of 30 points in the three games, while Hingsbergen added 17. Offensively, the Eskimojis got big contributions from Mylie McConnell and Ashlyn Nelson, while Calani Hingsbergen, McKenzie Swanson and Elizabeth Brown had big weekends as well.
Likewise, the Eskimojis boys finished 3-0 with wins of 47-18 and 47-13 on Saturday. Tikik hit for a tournament game-high of 19 in Saturday's matinee, and had 36 for the weekend. Gallahorn added a three-game total of 33, as well as relentless defense in the open court.
"I like my team a lot," said Stoops. "We were able to suit 13 this weekend, and I tried to get everyone as much playing time as I could. Eleven of the 13 scored, but all 13 played well. I got home at midnight and got a text at 12:03 from John Tikik asking if we had practice on Sunday."
Noatak's fifth- and sixth-grade girls were able to reverse their fortunes on Saturday, and come back with wins of 21-7 and 30-28 to capture the series, 2-1. The one-two combination of Onalik (35 points) and Brooke Schaeffer (26 points) provided the offensive punch, which included five 3-pointers in Saturday's 2-point win. Salazar and Aliah Johnson-Barr provided consistent effort over the weekend, and Harvey finished with 20.
Big second halves keyed wins of 34-17 and 33-21 for the Eskimojis boys. In Saturday's matinee, the teams were tied 13 apiece at halftime, before a 21-4 second half put the game away. Finn Gregg single-handedly outscored Noatak 9-0 in the fourth quarter, and topped all scorers with 12 points. Noatak led 8-7 midway through Saturday's nightcap. But a 26-13 Eskimojis run sealed the win.
Gregg once again led all scorers with 12. Noatak's Evan Adams hit for 11.
"It was a great weekend of basketball," said Stoops. "I'm only sorry we didn't get this going years ago. It's such a good experience for our kids to play on the big stage, and they put on a great show for those who came out to watch them."
Stoops said wanted to thank the efforts that made the weekend possible.
"Jon and Tracy Gregg and Nicole Stoops were there every minute of the weekend, transporting the team from the airport, setting up the gym, coaching, refereeing, working concessions and then cleaning up," he said. "Robin Gage reffed 10 of the 12 games, Jared Cummings and Golden Eagle Outfitters donated a charter to help bring Noatak down, and Bish Gallahorn and Little Louie's restaurant provided breakfast and lunch for the visitors on Saturday. We would also like to thank all the Eskimojis parents who worked so hard to put the weekend together."
"Mary Adams was very good to work with," he added. "We started putting this together in October, and she did a great deal of work to get Noatak down here. I hope her kids and their families recognize what she did for them."
The Eskimojis are scheduled to play next at the Valley Youth Basketball Association's MLK Tournament on Jan. 13-15 in Wasilla.