Dating back to the 1930s, the basketball rivalry between Cordova and Valdez has always been intense.
Despite Cordova now being classified as 2A and rarely facing the 3A Buccaneers, that old antipathy surfaces when blue and white meets black and white, usually in what one would perhaps expect to be a love feast, the annual Valdez Valentine’s Tournament.
Memories were long and tempers were short in the Feb. 14 meeting between CHS and VHS.
Cordova advanced to the semi-final with a lopsided 66-38 win over Kotzebue in first round play on Thursday, Feb. 13, while Valdez, the tournament host, ended up with a bye after Unalaska was unable to make it to the tournament.
So, Valdez had a day to scout the Wolverines before the matchup.
In the first half, they still had no answer for Kaiden Graves, who poured in 23 points in that stretch, including five threes. CHS led 31-24, but as anyone who has watched basketball at Valdez Court knows, no lead is safe in Buccaneer Country.
Valdez, led by Jalen Freeman, who finished with 27 points, cut their deficit to four points, 43-39, with eight minutes left. The Bucs keyed on Graves, holding him to only one three-pointer, and Wolverine Christian Adams picked up the slack with 9 points in the final eight minutes.
But it came down to a 56-56 tie with five seconds left, and following a Cordova foul, Freeman hit both free throws to give Valdez a 58-56 win.
“We led 95 percent of the game and should have won,” lamented Cordova Coach Bert Adams, certainly not the first CHS mentor to exit with that feeling. “The guys played really well, we had a 10- to 11-point lead at times and controlled the tempo, until the momentum changed midway through that final quarter.”
CHS did get off a long three-pointer before the final buzzer, but it was no good.
The Wolverines have not topped Valdez since 2014.
Cordova went on to edge Mt. Edgecumbe 50-43 in the third-place game on Saturday, Feb. 15. Valdez lost to 4A Lathrop in the championship game, 51-39.
Wolverines Kaiden Graves and Christian Adams were named to the All-tournament team.
CHS is now 14-3 overall, with three pairs of conference games left, all here in Cordova, before conference playoffs in SuValley on March 6-7, 2020.
Game 1: Cordova: Pena 2, Graves 21, Dundas 10, Russin 3, Muma 3, Thorne 4, Adams, C. 10, Bradford 4, Estes 9. Kotzebue: Hensley 11, Williamson 8, Sheldon 5, Stalker 4, Wilmore 7, Allen 3. Game 2: Cordova: Pena 1, Graves 26, Dundas 6, Adams, C. 13, Bradford 7, Estes 3. Valdez: Chavez 12, Letendic 1, Kohrer 6, Freeman 27, Walsh 4, Lemure 8. Game 3: Cordova: Pena 3, Graves 15, Dundas 6, Adams, C. 12, Bradford 12, Estes 2. Mt. Edgecumbe: Loch 2, Ivanoff 3, Constantine 9, Myer 12, Allen 7, Toomer 8, Jackson 2.