The field of teams here for the 36th Cordova Tipoff on Jan. 18-20 was so evenly balanced that a tie-breaker based on points differentials had to be used to determine Palmer the winner.
Cordova, Palmer and Unalaska all finished the three-day round robin competition with identical 2-1 won-lost records. Ironically, the fact that CHS played in two of the closest and most dramatic games worked against them, as they ended up finishing third.
Cordova faced Palmer in the first round of the tournament late on Thursday, Jan. 18. The game did not start until 10:30 p.m., because the start time for earlier games between Unalakleet and ACS JV was delayed waiting for the arrival of Unalakleet on the afternoon Alaska Airlines flight.
Those fans that stayed around until after midnight were in for quite a treat.
Cordova trailed the entire game on Thursday, but pulled it out in the wee hours on Friday.
CHS was down 13-8 at the quarter, 27-24 at halftime, and 36-34 after three quarters. Twenty minutes into the next day, led by the heroics of Wolverines Cody Sjostedt and Christian Adams, CHS rallied in the last minute of play. The duo had all 13 of Cordova’s points in the final stanza, and it was Sjostedt’s lay-in with seconds left that gave the Wolverines a 47-46 win.
Sjostedt finished with a game high 20 points; Adams had 14. Palmer had three players in double digits, led by Lavar Marshall with 18.
The Wolverines also had a nail-biter against the ACS JVs. This time Cordova led most of the way, only to have the Lions rally from a 14-point deficit to pull within one point with a minute left. This time it was Adams who had a pair of crucial baskets in the closing moments to key the CHS win by a 63-58 final. Adams and Sjostedt again led the Wolverine attack, this time with 21 and 15 points respectively. Kaleb Smith topped the ACS scoring with 23.
Despite the absence of likely 2A Player of the Year Arctic Ivanoff, Unalakleet’s high scoring senior who didn’t make the trip due to an injury, the Wolfpack, featuring four other Ivanoffs, roared past Cordova 67-50 in a much-anticipated Saturday final.
Like many other Northwest Alaska small schools, the Wolfpack is known for its run-and-gun style, and they put it on display in the first eight minutes, jumping to a 25-11 advantage that Cordova could never overcome. Turnovers against a relentless Unalakleet defense hampered the Wolverine effort early in the game. CHS did settle down and outscore Unalakleet in two of the final three quarters
The Ivanoff quartet of Nathan, Aidan, Dylan, and Duncan combined for 51 points. Aidan Ivanoff finished with 82 points in three days, with 25 of those coming against Cordova. Sjostedt led the Wolverines with 21.
Cordova received the Tipoff Sportsmanship Award, and three Wolverines — Cody Sjostedt, Christian Adams and Dauri Rodrigues — were named to the All-Tournament team. Kaleb Smith and Eric Hobbs of ACS, Lavar Marshall and Amiquq MacLean of Palmer, and Nathan Ivanoff from Unalakleet round out the All-Star squad. Aiden Ivanoff was selected as Tournament MVP.
Game 1: Cordova: Rodrigues 5, Gatton 8, Sjostedt 20, Adams 14. Palmer JV: MacLean 10, Smith 4, Marshall 18, Rogers 2, Brown 12. Game 2: Cordova: Rodrigues 10, Graves 7, Gatton 4, Bailey 2, Fronafel 2, Sjostedt 15, Adams 21, Estes 2. ACS JV: Smith, K. 7, Smith C. 23, Hahakala 10, Hobbs 16, Thomas 2. Game 3: Cordova: Rodrigues 2, Graves 6, Bailey 6, Sjostedt 21, Adams 11, Estes 4. Unalakleet: Ivanoff, N. 17, Ivanoff, A. 25, Sarren 6, Haugan 2, Ivanoff, D. 4, Wilson 8, Ivanoff 5.