High School Sports

Nome-Beltz boys outlast Houston in double overtime to advance to 3A state basketball title game

The last time the Nome-Beltz boys basketball team faced off against Houston, it was in the semifinal round of the 2022 3A state basketball tournament.

At that time, the eventual state champion Nanooks were the underdogs who upset the Hawks, who were undefeated and the tournament’s top seed.

On Thursday night at the Alaska Airlines Center, the two teams clashed in the semifinals for the second straight year with the same opportunity at stake — a chance to play in the state title game.

While Nome-Beltz was the higher seed this time around, the end result was the same after spectators were treated to a double overtime thriller, with the Nanooks prevailing 68-63.

“You just got to earn it,” Nome-Beltz head coach Patrick Callahan said. “Nobody is getting out of your way this time of year.”

Sophomore Finn Gregg is one of just three players who returned from last year’s title-winning team. After being in a reserve role as a freshman, he was the engine that made the Nanooks go against the Hawks and finished with a game-high 27 points.

“We came in knowing it was going to be a battle,” Gregg said. “We never gave up and that’s been us all season. I’m so proud of how we handled that adversity.”


What made Gregg’s stellar performance all the more impressive was the fact he played through debilitating cramps and an injured thumb for most of the second half and all of overtime.

“I’ve never had cramps in my life so it was new for me and I had them in both legs and couldn’t shake it,” Gregg said.

There was no doubt that Gregg was struggling with the issue. At one point, his teammates had to carry him off the court near the end of the first overtime period only to see him return in the second OT for the game-winning 3-point play.

“He wants it more than the other guy,” Callahan said. “He has carried us all season and it was an awesome thing to see.”

The game unfolded like a heavyweight bout, with each team going back and forth and neither ever leading by more than five points.

“It was always going to be an uphill battle, and our defense wasn’t very good but we got through,” Callahan said.

[Sitka’s Mt. Edgecumbe girls roll past Monroe Catholic of Fairbanks in 3A state basketball semis]

Houston opened the game with a 5-0 run but Nome-Beltz quickly answered. The foes kept trading blows until the end of regulation with the game tied 57-57.

The first overtime period was scoreless until the Hawks drew first blood on a layup from Cole Taylor. But the Nanooks would quickly respond, only to see Taylor give his team the lead for a second time on another layup.

Nome-Beltz’s Jade Greene was able to drive for the next tying score to knot the game back up at 61-61.

The Hawks tried to take the clock down and give themselves the last shot to win the game in the first extra period.

But Houston wasn’t able to get a shot to fall and ended up being outscored 7-2 in the second overtime period.

Nome-Beltz’s Richard Gross scored the second OT’s first bucket on a putback layup at the 3:20 mark and Taylor tied the game less than a minute later on another layup.

From there, it was all Nanooks the rest of the way as they scored the final five points to ice the game. The winning play came from Gregg, who drove for a spinning layup that he successfully made while drawing a foul in the process.

“I’m so grateful to be in this position and have my teammates set me up for that,” he said. “It just shows all the effort we put in during the offseason working out for us.”

He completed the 3-point play at the free-throw line with 2:15 left on the clock, and that score was sustained until Orson Hoogendorn tacked on one last layup as time expired.

“In March, you just try to stay alive and we’re still alive,” Callahan said.


Houston had four players reach double figures in scoring and were led by Hayden Howard’s 21 points followed by Keldin Nicoll (15), Taylor (14), and Noah Whitted (12). Deegan VanDussen only scored one point but recorded a game-high 13 rebounds.

The other Nanooks to reach double figures in scoring were Greene with 20 points followed by Gross (16).

Up next for second-seeded Nome-Beltz is another rematch from last year’s state tournament: They’ll take on top-seeded Grace Christian for a second year in a row in Saturday’s championship game.

“They’re a really good team and were ranked No. 1 for most of the season,” Gregg said of Grace Christian. “We’re really looking forward to the challenge and want to go at them. We know they’re going to come at us so it’s going to be a good battle.”

[Grace Christian boys topple Mt. Edgecumbe to return to Alaska 3A state basketball title game]

Both teams are undefeated against 3A competition this year and are coming into their highly anticipated matchup riding lengthy win streaks. Callahan believes that his team is up to the task and looks forward to coaching against his longtime friend Jason Boerger, who is head coach of the Grizzlies.

“Jason’s dad was my high school coach so we have a lot of tie-ins there and I’m excited,” he said. “There’s no better team in Alaska than Grace Christian, so if you’re going to win the state championship, you have to go through the best team.”

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.