Kotzebue teams celebrate victories in Husky Shootout

Kotzebue Husky girls and boys basketball teams conquered most of the games at the Husky Shootout over the weekend.

“The best part was that the Dawg House was packed again, after so many years quiet with COVID,” girls’ coach Jade Hill said. “There was so many fans and the crowd cheering, fan craziness was amazing! It was super loud in the stands.”


The Kotzebue Huskies girls team won Buckland 57-51, won Redington 30-27 and lost to Nome 18-43. After the tournament, the team is now 4 wins and 9 losses in the season, Hill said.

When the Kotzebue Huskies girls played Buckland on Jan. 26, their opponent led the majority of the game with “two very strong post players and a strong point guard that shot well,” Hill said.

“This game challenged our team to their press break and handling the press, which we broke in the second quarter and continued through the game,” she said.

Huskies were able to outrun Buckland and finish with a six-point win, Hill said. Freshman No. 23 Ashlyn Nelson earned 17 points and No. 33 Mylie McConnell 13 points in the game.

The girls also defeated Redington on Jan. 27, though not without a fight, Hill said.

“We struggled with the defense and stopping their guard shooter, who was able to capture some key points in the second half,” Hill said. “We held strong and continued to work hard on offense to finish the game with a three-point win.”

The final game of the weekend was against Nome, and it was a loss for both Kotzebue Husky girls and boys. The girls lost 18-43 in a game that was their second match-up against Nome who “has a strong senior lineup with shooting abilities and work under the basket,” Hill said.

“Although we had good looks at the basket, we had a tough time finishing and scoring,” she said.

For example, freshman No 23 Ashlyn Nelson, who averages 12 points, finished this game with 4 points, she said.

Still, the team has been “growing in skills from game to game,” with girls improving individually and in their teamwork, she said.

“We began the season with a lot of inexperience on the court, but have grown tremendously each game,” she said. “With the leadership of our seniors, the freshmen have really begun to stand out as key players in each game.”

Kotzebue Husky Boys team also won the first two games of the weekend comfortably by a pretty good margin – 82-49 against Buckland and 62-35 against Redington. In the third game against Nome, they lost 40-51, mostly because their opponent had a strong defense and the Huskies’ scoring was down, boys’ coach Fritz Westlake said.

Overall throughout the games, the team has been struggling with rebounding the ball, Westlake said. The reason for the challenge is, the team lost the starting center player to a really bad ankle injury earlier this year, he said.

Still, the boys have been growing this season and were able to get easy baskets on fast break points this year, said Westlake, who has been coaching the team for four seasons.

“We’re getting the ball out quick and getting the ball down before the defense has a chance to set,” he said. “Our guys have put in a lot of work to be in good physical condition to be able to run down there and beat the other team down the court.”

Junior co-captain Zack Roetman moved from forward last year to guard this year, “and he thrived in that position,” playing well for the team, Westlake said. Senior guard Devin Sheldon is also having a great year as far as scoring the basketball, Westlake said.

“He’s not only the captain and the leader, but he’s our leading scorer,” Westlake said about Sheldon. “He also handles the ball, which is needed against pressure defense.”

Both Kotzebue Husky girls and boys are now almost in the middle of the season and are focusing on conference games which will define their standing in the regionals and a chance to win at state.

“I think that the two spots for state at regions are going to be hard-fought,” Hill said.

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.