The Cordova boys basketball team receives the championship trophy in Nenana on March 9, 2024. Photo courtesy Arissa Pearson

After narrowly avoiding an upset in their first game of the 2A Interior Conference Playoffs at Nenana on Thursday, March 7, the Cordova High School (CHS) boys bounced back to play fine basketball the next day, shutting down SuValley in a low-scoring affair reminiscent of days of yore. 

CHS opened against Tok, a team they had toppled at Tok 75-44 just a week before the playoffs. Tok was seeded No. 4, while Cordova was No. 1.    

Tok came to play, and was tied with the Wolverines, 24-24, at halftime. Tok extended the advantage to 37-30 at the start of the fourth quarter. The lead changed hands five times in the final minutes and was knotted 48-48 with 45 seconds left on the clock. Cordova managed to score twice in the remaining time to survive and advance to the championship game.   

John Itliong was top scorer for Cordova with 19. Chiko Jacob added 14, James Corales put up 8, Vincent Nothstine scored 6, Noah Pearson had 3, and Floyd Witsoe had 2. 

“That was kind of a rocky start,” commented CHS boys coach Jake Borst afterwards. ”Sure am glad that one is over.” 

He added: “Thankfully we usually play much better after a bad game.”  

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Their opponent in the title game on Friday, March 8, was number three-seeded SuValley. They had upset second seed Ninilchik in a full-court pressing game on Thursday, March 7. That game included four dunks on breakaway lay-ins by SuValley. 

Cordova switched gears entirely, going to a methodical passing game that neutralized SuValley’s up-tempo style. CHS ate up chunks of clock, and also out-rebounded the Rams. 

At the end of the first quarter Cordova led 24-13; in the second quarter each team had only one field goal. Cordova stuck with the plan, and with one minute left in the fourth quarter CHS was clearly on its way to state as the scoreboard read Cordova 43, SuValley 23.  

Borst took a timeout and ran in the reserves to savor the moment. 

Jacob lead Cordova in scoring with 12 points, Itliong and Witsoe added 7 each, Nothstine had 6, Pearson scored 5, Calvin Fry had 4, and Corales had 2.   

Borst acknowledged that in sports, it’s one thing to design a plan, and another thing to make it work. In a postgame comment, he said: “I was proud of the way the boys executed the game plan.” 

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