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At Subway Basketball Showdown, Close Games and Family Pride

Nome girls, in white, fight with Unalakleet girls, in brown, fight to recover the basketball
The Nome girls basketball team faces Unalakleet at the 2018 Subway Showdown (Photo courtesy of Janeen Sullivan, used with permission)

Nome hosted a competitive weekend of high-school basketball at the Subway Showdown tournament last Thursday through Saturday.

Nome-Beltz Athletics Director Pat Callahan says in the past, teams from Anchorage or South-Central have flown up. This year featured Kotzebue, Point Hope, and Unalakleet, and Callahan says a “regional edition” of the tournament wasn’t a bad thing:

“Lots of relatives within the region I think really appreciated coming out to the games, and then seeing relatives and names that they’re familiar with.”

One family name that popped up frequently was Ivanoff: Unalakleet senior Arctic Ivanoff and his cousin, sophomore Aiden Ivanoff, led the point tallies in each of their team’s games. They helped boost the Wolfpack boys to a first-place finish with a perfect 3-and-0 record.

That finish didn’t come without some hard work, though. The game against Nome Friday evening featured a close first half, but the Wolfpack pulled away after halftime to win 69–49. Unalakleet head coach Thurman Jack says they still need to work on their transition offense and defense, but moments like that were highlights:

“I think the two runs that we had against Nome and against Point Hope to start that third quarter really showed on defense what they’re capable of doing, and then when they get out and run on offense, it’s really hard to slow them down.”

The Unalakleet girls faced a tougher tournament, losing all three games and finishing in last place. Two of the girls made the all-tournament team, though — Allie Ivanoff and Jewel Wilson — and Brianna Ivanoff was the champion in the girls’ free-throw competition.

The girls’ tournament was a close one, with Kotzebue, Nome, and Point Hope all finishing 2–1. Officials used a point-differential formula to name the winner: Kotzebue took first and Nome second.

The Nanooks girls have a new head coach this year: Joe Musich, who was previously an assistant coach for the team. He says he’s implemented some new strategies: set plays and a whole new rotation on offense, and zones to complement a man-to-man defense. Musich says he’s seeing better communication, too:

“It’s really important on defense that everybody knows where they’re at, and who’s cutting to the lanes, who’s open and where they’re open. And if they don’t communicate out loud, then the defense breaks down.”

In close games like the match-up with Point Hope, when the Harpooners closed a big Nome halftime lead in the third and fourth quarters, they were communicating off the court, too:

“They were talking during our timeouts that they were confident in themselves and in each other. They knew that as long as they held it together that they had a chance of winning that game, and they did just that.”

The Nome boys also finished 2–1 and had their own close fights, like a game against Kotzebue, where they broke away from a close halftime score to defeat the Huskies. Gareth Hansen gave the Nanooks a jolt of energy by making 12 of his 14 free throws. He also won the 3-point and free-throw competitions.

Both Nanooks teams take on Bethel this upcoming weekend, the boys away and the girls at home. And Unalakleet will host regional teams next weekend at its Christopher Lockwood Basketball Invitational.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Arctic and Aiden Ivanoff as brothers (rather than cousins). The error has been corrected.

Image at top: The Nome girls basketball team faces Unalakleet at the 2018 Subway Showdown (Photo courtesy of Janeen Sullivan, used with permission.)

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