Bears shine at Ninilchik tournament
If Noorvik High School head coach Darren Zibell had dreamed of seeing how his team would compete against some of the best small-school teams, he got his wish this past weekend at the Ninilchik Invitational Basketball Tournament. The Bears posted a 2-2 record in the four-day event, which featured perennial state powers in Unalakleet and Cook Inlet Academy.
Noorvik proved it could play with the state's best early. The Bears picked up 38 points from senior Dany Wells and raced to a 68-60 win over Cook Inlet Academy in the opening round.
Cook Inlet carried the fight to the Bears early. The Wolverines outscored Noorvik by a 16-13 clip in the frame.
Wells and the Bears' defense took care of whatever momentum CIA enjoyed in the second. The NHS standout scored 14 of his team's 19 second-quarter points and helped Noorvik race to a 32-25 halftime edge.
The Bears held CIA to just nine points in the second.
Noorvik didn't slow down from there. The Bears stretched their lead to double-digits, at 11, with a 22-18 run in the third quarter.
Quincy Williamson and Gordon Newlin Jr. also played well for Noorvik. Williamson tallied nine in the win, while Newlin chipped in 13.
With the win, the Bears advanced to face Unalakleet in the second round on Friday.
In Unalakleet, the Bears faced what may have been their toughest test of the season.
Sporting a lineup that featured three players standing at 6-foot-1 or better, Unalakleet used its size advantage to claim a 76-65 victory.
The Wolfpack, backed by nine first-quarter points from Gage Ivanoff, grabbed the upper hand early. Unalakleet held a slim 17-12 lead at the end of the first eight minutes of play.
Unalakleet, despite the play of Williamson, began exerting its size advantage inside from there. Stuart Towarak pumped in 12 of his 25 points in the second quarter and led a 24-14 run that sent the Wolfpack into the half with a 41-26 edge.
Williamson scored six of his 12 points in the second quarter.
Wells and Arthur Ballot Jr. helped Noorvik rally in the fourth. Wells scored 12 of his team-high 27 in the final stanza, and Ballot pushed in a pair of clutch three-pointers to spearhead a 27-point fourth quarter outburst.
Ballot finished the game with 10 points.
Despite the loss, Zibell said he was pleased with his team's poise.
"We played alright," he said. "They (Unalakleet) are long and tall. We kind of dug ourselves in a hole early, but the boys battled back and made a game of it. I'm proud of them for fighting through it."
The loss pushed the Bears into a rematch with CIA on Saturday. In that contest, the Bears picked up 22 points from Wells and 20 from Ballot and cruised to a 63-51 decision.
Ballott tallied 18 of his total on six three-point bombs.
Newlin also hit double figures in the win, netting 16.
The win over CIA pushed Noorvik into a showdown with Ninilchik on Saturday. Ninilchik managed to claim a 65-54 decision in overtime.
Wells continued his strong showing on the Kenai Peninsula by pumping in 28 points. Ballot added 12 more.