36th Annual Cordova Tipoff features new team

Three-day round robin attracts teams from all over Alaska

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The 36th Annual Cordova Tipoff Tournament begins next Thursday, Jan. 18. The three-day round-robin affair was started by the Cordova Elks back in 1982, and over the years has attracted teams from all over the state.

The classy tournament program has always included a fine summary of all the teams that have come to Cordova for the affair, including a list of first and second place finishers as well as MVP’s by year. It’s a trip down CHS Memory Lane to note among past Wolverine MVP’s Michele Dundas and Richard Swenson in 1983, or Brandon Blake in 1986 and Linda Van Den Broek in 1990.

Can you guess who the only three time MVP was? None other than Linda’s younger sister Pam, in ’93, ’94, and ’95; and yes, the Lady Wolverines won all three of those Tipoffs. The only CHS boys repeat MVP was Dylan Cheshier, in ’13 and ’15.

Several Cordova Tipoff MVP’s still live yearround right here in Cordova: Nick Tiedeman, ’95; Russell Mallory, ’98; and John Wiese, ’02.

Another program tidbit is the list of past participants — all 51 of them. Take a guess at which school has come the most. It’s none other than nearby neighbor Yakutat, with eight appearances. And how about this? Cordova’s new boys coach, Bert Adams, played for the Eagles.

A large map of Alaska, overlaid with various colored strings stretching from a pin of Cordova to each of the visiting school’s locations has been part of the Tipoff Hallway Displays. It’s quite a lesson in state geography.

This year, another pin will have to be added.

Making their first appearance ever in Cordova will be the Unalakleet Wolfpack. Unalakleet is a town of 750 located on Norton Sound, 150 miles southeast of Nome, and their high school was recently renamed Frank Degnan High. With an enrollment of roughly 50 students, the Wolfpack teams are perennial 2A Northwest powers. They love the up-tempo, run-and-gun style of play. Last year the Wolfpack boys topped Cordova in the first round of the State 2A tournament 75-55; this year their girls defeated Cordova in the Rally the Regions tournament, 59-49.

The Unalaska boys defeated both Cordova and Unalakleet by similar scores in the same Rally the Regions tournament, so it should be quite a matchup for both the CHS girls and boys in the Tipoff.

And how can you not like the name of their boys leading scorer, and MVP of this year’s Rally the Region tournament, Arctic Ivanoff? The Wolfpack perimeter skills will bring back memories of sharp-shooting Barrow Whaler squads that used to frequent CHS in the late 1980s.

Not to be overlooked will be the Palmer JV’s and the Anchorage Christian School JV’s, who round out this year’s Tipoff field. Palmer is a large 4A school that plays stiff competition in the MatSu Valley. The letters ACS — varsity or JV, always quicken the heartbeat of local fans, some whom have still not recovered from the 1986-87 season in which it was ACS that knocked CHS out of a trip to the State 3A finals and ended their perfect 27-0 record.

The Tipoff games begin at 4 p.m. Thursday and continue through Friday and Saturday.  Cordova girls and boys will play the late games each day.

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Dick Shellhorn, author, reporter, ref and grandpa, can be reached at shorn@gci.net. Shellhorn was born and raised in Cordova, Alaska, and has lived there his entire life. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 40 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and third place in 2017.