Lady Wolverines shock Nenana, win conference playoffs

Cordova Coach Brad Sjostedt: ‘That was something else’

Cordova's Riley Butler (40) attempts a free throw during her game against the Susitna Valley Rams during the Interior Conference Basketball Tournament in Cordova on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

Decimated by injuries and illness, Cordova’s seven-player Lady Wolverine squad pulled off the biggest upset of the 2A Interior Conference Playoffs here last weekend, rallying late in the championship game on March 8 to shock No. 1 seeded Nenana by a 29-27 final.

Nenana had knocked off CHS 60-30 and 44-23 a week earlier in road games at Nenana. And to add more intrigue, key starter Jieller Tabara picked up four fouls in the first half of their title game match.

Left with few options, Cordova Coach Brad Sjostedt gambled and left the speedy Tabara in the game. Somehow, she managed to play the rest of the contest without fouling out.

After racking up 60 points against CHS on their home court, Nenana found themselves in a low-scoring, tight defensive battle. The Lynx led 11-8 after one quarter, and each team mustered only four points in the next eight minutes to make it 15-12 at halftime. Nenana stretched it to 26-20 advantage after three quarters, before the Lady Wolverines pulled off a remarkable comeback.

Key to the rally was a surprise full-court press from Cordova that caused several Lynx turnovers. Nenana did not make a single field goal in the final period, with their only point coming on a free throw. CHS outscored the Lynx 9-1 in a dramatic stanza that had local fans standing while chewing their nails most of the time.

Senior Abby Bourgeois, a mainstay for the Wolverines all season long, drained a big three-pointer late in the game, and then canned a pair of free throws in the final minute that proved to be the difference.

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Meanwhile, Nenana, normally deadly from the charity stripe, missed four in a row in the late going, and shot one out of six for the period.

Riley Butler, a 5-10 senior who missed several weeks midway through the season due to injuries, came up big with points and rebounds inside. She was the only player in the game to score in double digits, with 11 points.

Cordova Coach Brad Sjostedt summarized the game succinctly: “That was something else.”

Cordova topped SuValley 34-24 in their opening round matchup on March 7. Six Lady Wolverines scored, led by Bourgeois and Cali Sjostedt with 8 points apiece.

Following the loss to Cordova, Nenana bounced back to clobber SuValley 69-42 in consolation play for second place on Saturday, so both Cordova and Nenana advance to the State 2A tournament in Anchorage.

Cordova’s Abby Bourgeois, Jieller Tabara, Riley Butler and Cali Sjostedt were named to the 2A Interior All-Conference team. Ashley Agwiak of Nenana was named MVP, and the team Sportsmanship Award went to Effie Kokrine.

Individual scoring:

Game 1: Cordova: Bourgeois 8, Tabara 5, Mattson 2, Sjostedt 8, Arvidson 4, Butler 7. SuValley: Mischenko 2, Moore 3, Grenier 10, Mossonen 2, Johnson 3, Johnson, Eileen 4. Game 2: Cordova: Bourgeois 7, Tabara 5, Sjostedt 6, Arvidson 2, Butler 11. Nenana: DeLaRosa 2, Standifer 1, Franklin 6, Hansen 5, Agwiak 7, Lake 6.

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