Traveling all the way to little known Scammon Bay, the Cordova High School boys basketball team won three games in the double-elimination Kickoff Klassic on Jan. 4-7.
Located on the Bering Sea, 144 miles north of Bethel, 12 teams from villages scattered around western Alaska joined the Wolverines for four days of non-stop basketball action in the isolated community of 550, where their spacious, modern gymnasium is clearly the center of wintertime activities.
The games were streamed live for fans throughout the region, but in the background one could hear play-by-play radio broadcasts in Yup’ik on the Internet, being sent to fans who could not get the games.
Not surprisingly, travel delays for the small planes bringing the teams in quickly scrambled the tournament brackets but once everyone arrived it was up-tempo basketball and noisy partisan fans that are the trademark village hoops.
On Wednesday, Jan. 4, Cordova topped Chevak 72-63. Jaykob Thorne led CHS with 23 points, Junior Itliong, John Itliong and Xavier Russin were all in double digits.
On Jan. 5, CHS fell to Hooper Bay 42-37. John Itliong led Cordova with seven points and multiple assists.
Cordova, with one loss in the double elimination format, had to play two games on Friday, Jan. 6. They rambled past St. Mary’s, 79-24, and Chiko Jacob was top scorer with 13 points. The Wolverines also topped Chevak again last Friday, this time 48-33.
Next up was a noon rematch with Hooper Bay on Saturday, Jan. 7, with the winner advancing to the championship against Scammon Bay. Once again, Hooper Bay prevailed in a close contest.
“It was tight all the way”, said CHS Coach Jake Borst.
Cordova was within three points with two minutes to go, but just couldn’t take the lead.
CHS finished third — with a lot of memories of one of the more unique road trips in Wolverine basketball history.