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Prep Hoops: Fort Yukon Eagles earn first 1A girls championship with gritty win over Newhalen

by | Mar 17, 2024 | Basketball, Cover Story

Fort Yukon players get the party started. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

The ASAA girls 1A state basketball title has a new home in Fort Yukon.

The Eagles won their first girls championship in a gritty 62-51 matchup against the Newhalen Malamutes in front of a crowd of supporters donning signs that read “EAGLE POWER” and “GO FORT YUKON”.

“These girls are tough. Never count them out,” said Fort Yukon coach Joshua Cadzow. “From Day 1, I knew this was our goal.”

“It’s going to be wild when we get home,” he added.

The Eagles’ persistent offense was led by an impressive 19 points apiece from sophomores Kylee Carroll and Nellie Ward. Carroll earned Player of the Game recognition for her standout performance, which included sinking three of her five 3-point attempts.

Carroll said her height advantage and the team’s communication helped on the court, despite Newhalen’s notoriously stout defense.

“They didn’t have nobody as big as me so my teammates knew to give [the ball] to me and just try to push them around down low,” she said, later adding, “We were telling each other to switch, move, call for the ball, just make sure you’re talking at all times so we can hear you.”

Both teams had a trio of scorers hit double digits. For Fort Yukon, senior Twila Strom joined Carroll and Ward with 12 points. The Malemutes’ top scorers were all freshmen – player of the game Analeigh Wassillie (16), Ida Lester (12), and Dannikia Wassillie (11). Fort Yukon sophomore Jane Ward was also instrumental for the Eagles, tallying eight rebounds and four steals.

1A Girls All-Tournament
April Uttereyuk, Scammon Bay
Arienna Hart, Nunamiut
Ashley Olanna, Brevig Mission
Ava Myers, Skagway
Brook Schaeffer, Noatak
Dannikia Wassillie, Newhalen
Hilary Larson, Napaskiak
Ida Lester, Newhalen
Isabella Peterson, St. Mary’s
Jane Ward, Fort Yukon
Kiah Melton, Buckland
McKinley Holien, Klawock
Naomi Savetilik, Fort Yukon
Nellie Ward, Fort Yukon
Olivia Harvilla, Bristol Bay
Twila Storm, Fort Yukon

Fort Yukon outscored Newhalen 17-10 in the first quarter, coming out swinging with a quick 10-2 lead behind an opening shot from Carroll, three-pointers from both Nellie and Jane Ward, and a layup from senior Twila Strom. Newhalen fought the Eagles’ lead with a six-point run led by four points from Ida Lester and a pair of steals and two points from Pagan Lester.

“I just told them we need to play position basketball, control the ball, don’t rush anything,” said Cadzow about his pre-game prep with the team. “Don’t push it to their pace. They’re faster than us for sure.”

Newhalen’s speed and pressure was able to narrow the lead to just 3 points as the clock ticked towards halftime, capitalizing on the Eagles’ tired legs before a layup from senior Marissa Peter and four more points from Carroll secured a 29-22 Fort Yukon lead to close out the first half.

Momentum shifted towards the Malamutes for their biggest run of the game in the third quarter, earning a brief lead amid shouts of “defense!” from supporters. Despite the Malamutes outscoring the Eagles 20-16, the quarter ended with Fort Yukon earning back a 45-42 lead.

Fort Yukon coach Joshua Cadzow watches the action. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

As the final minutes of the game ticked down, back-and-forth chants of ‘way to go, Eagles’ and ‘let’s go, Malamutes’ filled the Alaska Airlines Center. Fort Yukon kept shooting to expand its lead in the final half of the fourth quarter, aided by some impressive cross-court heaves from Strom that set up the team’s shooters for success.

“It was just off to the races,” Cadzow said. “About four minutes left in the fourth I said ‘hey, this is it, go finish it.’ I sent them out, I said ‘you put the pressure on them now,’ so we did that, and it worked perfectly.”

And how does it feel to be a first-time state champion?

“Amazing,” said Carroll.

NEWHALEN (51) – Ishnook 0, Chukwak 0, Bybee 0, A.Anelon 0, McCoy 0, D.Wassillie 11, A.Anelon 4, Neketa 2, Moses 0, P.Lester 6. I.Lerster 12, A.Wassillie 16.
FORT YUKON (62) – M.Peter 4, S.Carroll 0, Savage 0, Cadzow 0, Storm 12, Lay.Peter 0, Thomas 2, Lac.Peter 0, L.Peter 0, Mahler 1, J.Ward 5, K.Carroll 19, N.Ward 19.
Newhalen 10 12 20 9 – 51
Fort Yukon 17 12 16 17 – 62

Newhalen’s Dannika Wassillie glides in for two. Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

Story made possible by:

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Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Alaska Airlines | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Joe Alston | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Aspen Endodontics | Glen Bailey | Kathie Bethard | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Continental Auto Group | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris | The Conway Family | Donley Family | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Foley & Pearson | JL Properties | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Amy and Jason Miller | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | Rick Mystrom | Kathleen Navarre | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Dave and DeAnne Rand | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Replacement Glass | Residential Mortgage | RSA Engineering- Sarah & A.J. Schirack | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Peter Pounds | Dan Rufner | Harlow Robinson | Pete Robinson | Moria Smith | Taylored Restoration | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Team Heat | Todd Whited | UAA Seawolves | Don Winchester

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Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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