Sports

Alaska sports week in review: Grace Christian basketball continues to roll, Chugiak hockey claims CIC title with room to spare

The Grace Christian boys basketball team pulled off an upset against Heritage Christian

This past week in Alaska sports featured some excellent performances and exciting finishes at the prep, collegiate and professional levels across the Alaska sports landscape. There were also some athletes with Last Frontier roots that shined Outside. On the prep sports scene, the Grace Christian boys basketball team stayed hot and pulled off a stunning upset for a second weekend in a row while the Chugiak boys hockey team cruised to a conference title. On the college scene, the University of Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team broke even on a two-game road stand while the men’s team dropped back-to-back games.

Headlines and highlights

The Grace Christian boys basketball team took home the hardware at a tournament for the third weekend in a row by becoming the first Alaska team to win the Alaska Airlines Classic since 2019 and the first from the 3A level to do so since 2006. It seemed like their thrilling narrow victory over previously top-ranked 4A Dimond the week prior in the championship game of the Alaska Prep Shootout couldn’t be topped and would go down as arguably the biggest upset of the season.

However, the Grizzlies outdid themselves and defied even longer odds in the title bout this past Saturday when they stunned Heritage Christian of North Ridge, California, in a 53-50 win. Led by senior and tournament MVP Sloan Lentfer Grace Christian prevented the athletic Warriors from taking over the game with tenacious defense and tremendous physicality.

“Our intention coming into the game was to be physical,” Grace Christian coach Jason Boerger said. “We’re bigger and physical and that’s who we are. We wanted to do that, but we also knew that Heritage Christian is so gifted and so talented that they really storm out in the first quarter. A big effort was just to try to control the tempo at the start of the game.”

[Tournament terminators: Grace Christian pulls off upset to claim Alaska Airlines Classic title]

The Classic wasn’t the only prep basketball tournament that took place in town this past week as the 2023 O’Brady Invitational tourney was played during the same time frame across town at South High School. This three-day event featured exclusively Alaska teams from all around the state and ultimately served as a showcase for the West Valley boys team. The Wolfpack tore through the bracket led by seniors Malachi Bradley, who was named tournament MVP, and Stewart Erhart who was the 2022 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year for basketball. They opened it with a 31-point win over Kodiak, followed by a 20-point victory over Juneau-Douglas, and capped it off with a 34-point win over Lathrop to remain undefeated at 12-0.

On the prep hockey scene, Chugiak continued to dominate and establish itself as the team to beat at the Division I level by blowing out Service 8-0 on Saturday. The win not only marked the Mustangs’ 13th win in a row and improved their overall record to 14-0-1, it also secured both the Cook Inlet Conference regular season title and the top seed in next week’s regional tournament with another game left to play.

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Scholastic bowling saw a stunning upset last week during Tuesday’s matches that now leaves the Eagle River boys as the only undefeated team through the first 10 matches of the 2022-2023 season and they have their girls team to thank. Both of the Wolves’ teams defeated Dimond 22-13, handing the Lynx girls their first loss of the season.

In prep nordic skiing action, the Chugiak-Eagle River Stampede took place this past Saturday and after missing the Lynx Loppet the week prior due to an illness, Service Skimeister, Aaron Power, made his return to the trails and emerged triumphant as he led the Cougars boys team to victory. His mark of 30:29.2 was good enough for first place. On the girls side, Service’s Olivia Soderstrom narrowly came in first with a mark of 36:15.2 but it was West that claimed the overall team win in the division thanks in large part to having four skiers in the top 10, the most of any team.

On the college hoops scene, both of the UAA teams played a pair of road games against Western Oregon and Saint Martin’s. The women’s team played a couple of close contests and came out on top of one and narrowly lost the other while the men’s team dropped both, losing by nearly double digits in the first and getting blown out in the second.

The leading scorer for the women’s team this past week was senior guard Jahnna Hajdukovich with 33 combined points, 22 of which came in a historic performance in the team’s 69-61 win over the Wolves on Thursday. She became the first player in program history to knock down seven 3-pointers on less than 10 attempts by going 7-of-9. Junior guard Dathan Satchell led the men’s team in scoring in both of their losses and recorded a combined 39 points between the two games.

The Anchorage Wolverines were back in town and got back in the win column this past weekend by sweeping the Kenai River Brown Bears in a two-game home series. Minnesota natives Jackson Reineke and Wilson Dahlheimer both recorded a pair of goals over the course of the two contests and as a team, Anchorage outscored Kenai 9 goals to 3 in the sweep.

Anchorage Wolverines forward Fedya Nikolayenya

Earlier in the week, their teammate and Minsk, Belarus native Fedya Nikolayenya was announced as the latest member in the 2023-2024 recruiting class for the University of Alaska Fairbanks men’s hockey team.

Alaska stars shining Outside

Eagle River’s Kaylin Garner and Homer’s Haylee Owen helped the Johnson & Wales University women’s hockey team complete a late rally and engineer a dramatic comeback in a 5-4 overtime victory over Salem State this past Friday. The two sophomores both scored a pair of goals with less than eight minutes left in the third period. Garner’s second goal of the night came in the final minute and tied the game to force an extra period where the Wildcats would complete the comeback just 33 seconds into overtime.

Anchorage’s Finnigan Donley had quite the impressive showing at the World Junior Alpine Championships this past week. At just 17 years old and still a senior in high school, he is the youngest member of the U.S. Team but that didn’t stop him from placing 13th in Friday’s super-G and 29th in Thursday’s downhill event, which was good for first in his U-18 age group.

[Growing up blocks from each other in Anchorage, two skiers are competing on the world stage in Austria]

Alaska Pacific University Ski Team member, Rosie Brennan, teamed up with fellow Olympic skier, Julia Kern, to finish third in Sunday’s FIS Cross Country World Cup team sprint in Livigno, Italy. It was her first action since taking part in the Tour de Ski.

“We slowly clawed our way back up and Julia made a strong effort on her second leg to tag me in a place where I had the space I needed to do some work,” Brennan wrote. “I was able to close the gap to the leaders and tag Julia at the rear of the lead pack for her last leg. She skied so well and stayed patient as long as she could before unleashing an absolutely epic finish to nab us the last podium spot. The fast and flat course didn’t suit my strengths, but I did what I could to keep Julia in the mix. We had great skis today and it was a great way to cap off the weekend.”

Last week’s results

Prep Basketball

Girls

Tuesday

Ronan 44, Metlakatla 40

West Anchorage 63, Tikigaq 55

Wednesday

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Tikigaq 62, Ronan 43

West 40, Metlakatla 25

Colony 66, Service 6

Thursday

West 51, Ronan MT 41

Tikigaq 70, Metlakatla 58

Boys

Thursday

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West 65, Ronan MT 45

Heritage CA 66, Ketchikan 16

East 52, Higley AZ 43

Grace Christian 63, Metlakatla 37

South 57, Palmer 33

Lathrop 56, Ninilchik 44

West Valley 58, Kodiak 27

Juneau-Douglas 64, Bartlett 53

Colony 52, Thunder Mountain 41

Minto 68, Huslia 53

Edgecumbe 104, Houston 88

Kotzebue 80, Tanana 18

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Friday

Heritage Christian 50, East 35

Grace Christian 58, West 53

Ronan 56, Metlakatla 51

Higley 63, Ketchikan 60

Colony 52, Thunder Mountain 41

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Wasilla 93, Soldotna 60

Houston 74, Sitka 66

Minto 77, Tok 57

Petersburg 53, Wrangell 40

Kotzebue 83, Aqqaluk 42

Hooper Bay 91, Scammon Bay 65

Shaktoolik 45, Shismaref 39

Shaktoolik 79, Gamble 62

Saturday

Grace Christian 53, Heritage Christian 50

Ketchikan 70, Met 53

East 68, West 62

Kodiak 41, Palmer 32

Bartlett 62, Ninilchik 57

Juneau 67, South 40

West Valley 81, Lathrop 47

Edgecumbe 70, Redington 21

Petersburg 56, Wrangell 51

Monroe 77, Chugiak 29

Wasilla 72, Soldotna 40

Cordova 64, Glennallen32

Bowling

Tuesday

Boys

Bartlett 35, Chugiak 0

West 22, Service 13

Eagle River 22, Dimond 13

South 29, East 6

Girls

Chugiak 25, Bartlett 10

Service 29, West 6

Eagle River 22, Dimond 13

East 27, South 8

Thursday

Boys

Dimond 35, South 0

Eagle River 30, Service 5

West 29, Bartlett 6

East 33, Chugiak 2

Girls

Dimond 33, South 2

Eagle River 22, Service 13

Bartlett 24, West 11

Chugiak 27, East 8

Hockey

Tuesday

Chugiak 5, West 3

Wednesday

Service 15, Bartlett 6

Thursday

Juneau-Douglas 13, Bartlett 0

South 7, Eagle River 1

West Valley 3, Diamond 3

Friday

Kenai 4, Service 1

Chugiak 6, South 0

West Valley 3, Diamond 2 (2OT)

Houston 9, Juneau-Douglas 1

Saturday

Chugiak 8, Service 0

College

Women’s Basketball

Thursday

UAA 69, Western Oregon 61

Saturday

Saint Martin’s 66, UAA 65

Men’s Basketball

Thursday

Western Oregon 84, UAA 76

Saturday

Saint Martin’s 100, UAA 73

NAHL

Friday

Anchorage Wolverines 4, Kenai River Brown Bears 2

Saturday

Anchorage Wolverines 5, Kenai River Brown Bears 1

Three things to watch for this week

Rivalry Week

College

Basketball

UAA vs. UAF at Alaska Airlines Center, Saturday 3:15 p.m.

The Seawolves will be looking to snap a two-game losing skid and get back on track in their second matchup with their state rival and sister school program. The first meeting resulted in a resounding 81-59 victory for UAA on New Year’s Eve. Their leading scorer on the night was senior Da’Zhon Wyche with 24 points but since his eligibility has since expired, they will need to find a different recipe to beat the Nanooks, who are also on a two-game skid after losing back-to-back games to the same opponents as the Seawolves played last week.

Hockey

UAA vs. UAF at Seawolf Sports Complex, Friday 7:07 p.m.

The two schools’ men’s hockey programs will face off to close out the Governor’s Cup with a two-game series with the first contest taking place in town while the second will be played in Fairbanks. The Seawolves have yet to beat their state rivals this season as the Nanooks lead the season series 4-0. This will be the first time both teams are back in action since the first week of January.

NAHL

Fairbanks Ice Dogs vs. Anchorage Wolverines at Ben Boeke, Friday and Saturday 7 p.m.

The Seawolves and Nanooks won’t be the only rivals squaring off in town this week as the Anchorage and Fairbanks rivalry extends to the junior hockey level as well. The Wolverines will host the Ice Dogs in a two-game series this weekend but unlike the college matchup, both contests will be in town. That means Anchorage hockey fans will have a chance to watch both of their hometown teams if they wanted or get a double dose of Wolverines. Anchorage leads the season series 4-2 with the last meeting in this heated rivalry resulting in a 5-4 triumph for the Wolverines in November.

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

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