Chugiak gets hoops sweep in front of ‘electric’ ERHS crowd
Tickets to Friday night’s Chugiak vs. Eagle River basketball doubleheader were red hot.
Crimson-clad fans of both teams who packed the gym at Eagle River High School for the rivalry games were rewarded with a high-energy evening and a fiery finish.
“I’ve never played in a game that big,” said Chugiak junior Tyler Trevino, who scored 15 points to lead the Mustangs to a 59-51 Cook Inlet Conference win.
The girls game wasn’t as close, with the high-powered Mustangs running away with a 70-30 win behind 21 points from Chasity Horn and 19 from Nicole Pinckney.
The annual “Birchwood Bowl” battle always draws a crowd, but this year’s games also featured a unique fundraiser in which both teams’ fans wore red t-shirts in recognition of National Wear Red Day, a nationwide heart health awareness event. Combined with the fact the game was played on a Friday night, and the recipe for an intense atmosphere was complete.
“When I would inbound the ball it felt like the Duke Crazies,” Trevino said of the crowd, which filled the stands and frequently erupted into massive roars down the stretch of the back-and-forth boys’ game.
Eagle River fell to 0-6 in the CIC with the loss, but the Wolves weren’t hanging their heads afterward, instead preferring to focus on the wild crowd.
“It was pretty electric,” said Eagle River’s Ryan Adkins, who scored a game-high 18 points and hit a pair of deep 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep his team in it.
Eagle River came out smoking hot, sending their crowd into a frenzy with a 14-5 run to start the game.
“I said before the game, ‘Eagle River’s going to play out of their minds in the first quarter, and after that the game starts,’” said Chugiak head coach Jocquis Sconiers, whose team improved to 4-3 in the CIC. “And that’s what happened.”
Chugiak responded to take a 29-21 lead at the half and led by 11 points going into the fourth quarter. But the Wolves came snarling back, and when Adkins hit a 3-pointer to take a 48-47 lead with four minutes to play, the Eagle River faithful became unglued.
“This is an amazing environment,” Sconiers said.
Chugiak’s fans were equally raucous, and when the Mustangs finished on a 12-3 run, the “Chu, Chu, Chuuuugiak” cheer echoed through the gym.
Eagle River coach Bob Adkins said his team has a long way to go, but is improving. And getting to play in front of a wild crowd gave him a feeling of pride.
“It’s what we want basketball games and sports here at Eagle River to be,” he said.
Josh Wilson scored 11 points to aid Chugiak’s balanced attack, which also got seven points each from Jason Lomboard and Kade Worley and six from Hunter Harr.
Even though watching his team blow a double-digit lead was “stressful,” Sconiers said Friday night’s slugfest was fun to be a part of.
“I really enjoyed it because that’s what rivalries are supposed to be about,” he said.
Aaron Davis scored 11 points for the Wolves, who also got seven from Daniel Toribo and six from Savion Wilson.
Sconiers praised the Wolves, who didn’t look anyting like a team without a conference win.
“Those guys over there are getting better,” he said.
Trevino agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“That’s a team on the come-up,” he said.
Chugiak plays next on Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Dimond. The Wolves are back in action Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at South.
Improving Eagle River girls no match for powerful Mustangs
The girls’ game wasn’t quite as intense, but it did feature an Eagle River squad that put up a far better fight than the team has in years past. The Wolves — long the doormat of the CIC — trailed by just 10 points late in a first half that saw the Mustangs finish on a 9-0 run and never look back.
Wolves coach Rashard Boston said he was happy with the way his team hung in against the Mustangs, who entered the game as the No. 4 Class 4A team in the state according to the most recent Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches poll.
“We’re one step behind, but we’re staring to catch up,” Boston said of his team, which in years past has been on the wrong end of some comically lopsided scores.
Boston said he’s been working on fundamentals with his team, and the work paid off earlier this week when the Wolves won their first conference game against Service.
“I’m very proud of how far they’ve come,” he said of his team, which fell to 1-6 in Cook Inlet Conference play.
Where the Wolves want to go is where Chugiak already lives. The Mustangs — who improved to 5-2 in the CIC — had everything working for them Friday, bombing from the outside, creating turnovers and driving into the lane with abandon. Horn and Pinckney were virtually unstoppable, with the former knifing through the defense with ease and the latter dropping bombs from all over the court.
Chugiak coach Ryan Hales said Horn’s athleticism presents problems for defenses. The freshman played point guard most of the night, which Hales said left the UAA-bound senior Pinckney free to roam the perimeter.
“It just adds another dimension for us,” he said of Horn’s ability to handle the ball.
Eva Palmer also hit double digits for the Mustangs, pouring in 13 points and nailing one of Chugiak’s eight 3-pointers. Ashylynn Burgess added six points for Chugiak, which plays next on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. at Dimond.
Chyna Finley scored seven points and Hannah Yaw had six for Eagle River, which was held to nine field goals. The Wolves return to CIC play at South on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.