On Jan. 8, 2023, the Cordova boys basketball team begins loading on a small plane to depart from Scammon Bay to Bethel following a four-day tournament there. Photo by Jake Borst

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.

Coach Jake Borst, front left, prepares to depart Scammon Bay after winning three games with the Cordova High School boys basketball team on Jan. 4-7, 2023. Photo by Jake Borst

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.

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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.

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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 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 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at dshorn44@gmail.com.