Connecting You With AK Athletes Outside the 907

The Alaska Sports Blog provides daily posts on Alaska athletes doing great things at the professional, international and collegiate level outside the state. The blog was created to fill a void of coverage once Alaskans left the 907 area code. Since 2009 former Anchorage Daily News Sports Editor Van Williams has written more than 2,000 stories on over 300 Alaska athletes.

Click here to read more about Van Williams and the Alaska Sports Blog.

November 22, 2014

Damon Sherman-Newsome Basketball

Photo by Mitchell Layton

In need of a win, the Colgate University men’s basketball team turned to its best player in the closing moments on the road.

Damon Sherman-Newsome of Anchorage didn’t disappoint.

The 6-foot-5 guard bagged eight of his career-high 29 points in the final 70 seconds to lead Colgate over Campbell 54-48 in North Carolina.

With his team trailing 46-45 in the closing moments, the senior cashed in on a three-point play and then sank four consecutive free throws to seal the deal.

“It felt great, especially since it helped us win and honestly I just was put in spots to succeed towards the end,” he told me.

Sherman-Newsome, of Bartlett High fame, sank 10-of-14 field goals, including 3-of-4 3s, and 6-of-7 foul shots. He also grabbed a season-high seven rebounds.

Through the first three games, he is averaging a career-high 19.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.

“We are thrilled with the way Damon’s been playing,” Colgate coach Matt Langel told reporters. “He’s been a consistent guy for us early on this year. You can see that he’s out-of-season preparation is really paying off. He’s worked hard to get where he is right now and is our first-ever ‘Ace of Spades’ award winner for his performance in today’s game.”

Sherman-Newsome nearly doubled his scoring average last season from the year before, bumping it from 6.1 to 11.3. This year he’s threatening to double up again.

He’s come a long way since coming to Colgate in 2012.

“I think I am a different player,” he said. “I don’t hesitate as much and I find myself in the right spots more often than not. The game has slowed down a lot for me.”

Sherman-Newsome has now scored double figures in six straight games dating back to last season and his career-high 29 helped him surpass the 600-point mark for his career in 66 games.

Devon Bookert BasketballDevon Bookert ain’t messing around this year.

The Florida State University basketball player from Anchorage has big plans in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I want to be the best point guard in the conference,” he told me. “I’m trying to leave my mark here.”

Bookert certainly has all the makings to be special.

The 6-foot-3 junior standout is a dynamite shooter – in fact, he owns the best 3-point single-season percentage [.525] in school history.

He has experience [40 starts in last 49 games]. He takes care of the ball [1.5-to-1 assist to turnover ratio]. And he is already considered to be good [named to Bob Cousey Award watch list for second straight year].

It all starts behind the scenes, when the bright lights are off and nobody is watching.

“You have to prepare to be great,” he said. “There is greatness in preparation. The better you prepare the better you will do.”

Bookert, of West High fame, has earned a reputation for going hard in practice and going even harder in games.

“You go all-out so you’re conditioning is top notch,” he said. “It’s worth it to go hard because I know that will carry over to the game.”

Last season he sank two game-winning, buzzer-beaters – first to beat Northeastern at the Puerto Rico Shootout and then a second time to knock off Minnesota during the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple.

This 21-year-old has a knack for making big plays.

“You have to have an aggressive mindset,” Bookert said. “I’m more aggressive when it comes to making plays for the team, whether it’s an open shot or battling for the ball.”

Bookert admits he feels the pressure to get the Seminoles to the NCAA Tournament. Not only has he missed out the last two years, but he’s feeling the pressure from other Florida State sports teams.

“Soccer was ACC champion. Volleyball was ACC champion. Football is probably going to be ACC champion,” he said. “We want to win conference and be one of the best teams in the country.”

November 21, 2014

luke_heun_rugbyHis family’s legacy lured him to West Point, but Luke Heun of Palmer followed his heart to the rugby field.

“Oh man, I love it,” he told me.

The sophomore from Alaska is a key member of an undefeated Army team that won the Rugby East Conference title and is ranked No. 1 in the American Collegiate Rugby Conference.

Army will carry an 8-0 record into Saturday’s ACRC Bowl game in North Carolina against Life University in a matchup of nationally ranked rugby teams.

“Rugby is the best thing in the world,” Heun said. “Every day is like a new challenge. We call each other ‘Brother.’ We’re so close. We’re pretty much a family. It just makes you want to work your ass off.”

The Army Black Knights have already racked up victories over nationally ranked Kutztown, Air Force, Penn State and Wheeling Jesuit this season.

More than 50 men are on the Army rugby team, but Heun is one of 18 guys to score points.

“It’s not like football where you run into the end zone,” he said. “You gotta finish it by touching the ball in the try zone. It’s amazing to get that feeling.”

Heun, of Palmer High fame, came to Army to follow in the footsteps of his father Robert and his brother Zach, who are both West Point graduates. His other brother Jake is a professional MMA fighter.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to come here,” Heun said. “I want to lead soldiers.”

When he first arrived on campus he wanted to wrestle or play baseball. But that all changed after he was invited to play rugby.

He connected with it immediately.

“I wrestled and played football in high school; it’s unreal how easy the transition was,” he said. “Honestly, if it was offered when I was in high school I would have played all four years. That’s how awesome it is.”

November 20, 2014

Max Karnos Baseball
With his college choice behind him, Max Karnos of Anchorage can relax and just throw the baseball.

The 6-foot-4 right-hander earned that luxury after signing with Sacramento State during the NCAA early signing period.

He will still pitch his sophomore season at Western Nevada College, where he enjoyed a fabulous freshman campaign and was one of the JC team’s top pitchers.

“All the pressure is off,” Karnos told me. “I can just pitch like I always have and not really worry about which school I will sign with in the spring.”

The Alaska pitcher picked Sacramento State over Nevada, Central Florida, Oral Roberts and San Francisco.

Sacramento State won its first Western Athletic Conference championship last season, He will major in anthropology.

“I always hoped to make it to D1. Hopefully I’ll play one year and get drafted,” he said. “They have a good winning tradition. I want to go there and help them win another conference title and get them to the College World Series.”

Karnos, of South High fame, posted a 5-2 record and 3.91 ERA as a freshman at Western Nevada. He led the team with three complete games and 78.1 innings while ranking third with 61 strikeouts.

He credited WNC coach DJ Whittemore and staff for molding him into a more polished pitcher.

He was pretty good when he got to college.

But he’s way better now.

“They changed my mindset. I’m thinking of the game way different and I think it helped my game a lot,” Karnos said. “I’m throwing harder and I think my breaking stuff is better. I’m excited for this season.”

November 19, 2014

Keiahnna Engel BasketballShe scored in the first half and shared the ball in the second half, a combination that added up to a big night for Boise State’s Keiahnna Engel of Anchorage.

The junior guard finished with nine points, six rebounds and four assists in a 70-45 win over New Mexico State in Idaho.

She collected seven points in the first half to help Boise State build a 35-17 cushion. She had three assists and a steal in the second half.

The 5-foot-7 former Alaska player of the year had a career-high five offensive rebounds. She now has 100 offensive rebounds in 65 career games.

Engel, of Dimond High fame, was coming off a 13-point effort in a win over Montana State. It was enough to push her over the 400 mark for her career.

colter_lasher_basketballWith a dozen players logging double figures in minutes for the Houston Baptist University men’s basketball team, players don’t have much time to shine.

Colter Lasher of Anchorage certainly got his in an 89-53 win over Hillsdale in Texas.

The 6-foot-7 starting forward poured in a career-high 17 points in just 18 minutes.

Lasher, of Dimond High fame, sank 7-of-10 shots and grabbed seven rebounds. He also had three steals and a pair of assists in a do-everything kind of night.

The sophomore forward was coming off a 6-point, 29-minute performance in a loss to Northwestern.

Lasher’s breakout game had been building. Last year he started the final 11 games with Houston Baptist and recorded his first double-double in the finale.

Overall, he averaged 5.7 points in 26 games as a freshman. He spent a year at the Impact Academy in Vegas before going to college. He has developed into a nice player.

His previous career high was 14 points, set three times.

November 18, 2014
Ramon Harris Basketball

Photo credit by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette

They call him ‘Rockin’ Ramon Harris in Fort Wayne.

But against the Maine Red Claws they should have called him ‘Rebounding’ Ramon.

The third-year NBA D-League player out of Anchorage corralled a career-high 14 rebounds to go with 14 points in an 81-80 loss.

It was his second double-double in 83 career games.

Harris, of West High fame, helped the Fort Wayne Mad Ants win the D-League championship last season.

Primarily a role player in his past, the 6-foot-7 forward is starting and playing the best basketball of his life.

Through two games he is averaging 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Harris needs just 10 more points to reach the 500 benchmark. He is the career leader in points by an Alaska player in the NBA development league.

He played college ball at the University of Kentucky.

November 17, 2014

Jalil Abdul-Bassit BasketballIt’s called the Legends Classic and University of Oregon guard Jalil Abdul-Bassit reminded us of an Alaska legend by the way he played.

Looking like his dad, the senior shooter pumped in a career-high 17 points in just 19 minutes in an 83-66 victory over the University of Detroit in Eugene.

His previous career high at U of O was nine points.

Abdul-Bassit is the son of Alaska hoops legend Muff Butler.

The 6-foot-4 guard came off the bench to also grab six rebounds and collect an assist.

He made 6-of-8 field goals, including 3-of-5 3-pointers. He also made two of three free throws.

November 16, 2014

Sarah Tarver SoccerJuneau’s Sarah Tarver capped her college soccer career in style, earning an assist in her final game with Northern Arizona University in a 4-2 loss to Arizona State in the NCAA College Cup.

It was the first time Northern Arizona had reached the NCAA tournament since 2009, with Tarver’s senior class leading the turnaround and lifting the program back to prosperity.

NAU increased its win total in each of the four years Tarver played, going from 3 to 5 to 11 to 12. The team went from the basement to the penthouse, winning the Big Sky Conference title this year.

Tarver was a three-time all-conference pick at three different positions.

She didn’t miss a game in her career, playing all 79.

She recorded a total of five goals and three assists, including an assist in the 65th minute of today’s NCAA College Cup loss. She always played until the end. Even at the end.

Tarver also played one season of basketball at Northern Arizona, becoming one of Alaska’s rare two-sport athletes at the NCAA D1 level.

November 15, 2014

Damon Sherman-NewsomeColgate University senior Damon Sherman-Newsome of Anchorage looked good in the first game of the season.

The senior scored 11 points and posted game-high totals with three 3-pointers and six assists in a 57-52 loss to La Salle in NCAA D1 action.

It was his most assists in 64 career games.

Sherman-Newsome, of Bartlett High fame, needs just seven more dimes to reach 100. He has 555 career points.

The 6-foot-5 guard is coming off a super season in which he averaged 11 points and sank 41 percent of his 3s.

Jake Heun Mixed Martial ArtsAnchorage’s Jake Heun needed only 20 seconds to work over mixed martial arts veteran Ron Fields.

The victory came in last night’s Absolute FC 23 main event in Florida, with Heun winning the light heavyweight fight by TKO.

It was his seventh victory in 10 professional fights. It was also his quickest knockout of his career.

“The fight went how it was supposed to go,” he told me. “I think the head kick rocked him and then he was kind of done.”

Heun, of Palmer High fame, trains with the American Top Team out of Utah. He’s also trained in Florida and Hawaii, where he played college football at the University of Hawaii.

The 27-year-old Alaskan beat a fighter in Fields that came into the night with 28 career victories.

Heun ‘The Honey Bear’ has won five of his last six fights and was coming off his most significant victory in the World Series of Fighting.

November 14, 2014

Jenna Arlow VolleyballSterling College setter Jenna Arlow of Palmer reached the 40-assist plateau for the 11th time this season in a three-set loss to Kansas Wesleyan in NAIA volleyball action.

The 5-foot-5 junior pushed her season assist total to 1,345, which ranks No. 13 nationally. Her team has won 20 of 38 matches.

Arlow has had a career-high 51 assists three separate times, including last week against Grace.

She is having a career year this season, setting personal bests in assists, blocks [35], attack percentage [.262] and serving percentage [.863].

November 13, 2014

Damen Bell Holter BasketballFor the second time in his last three games, Hydaburg’s Damen Bell-Holter recorded a double-double in Turkey.

The 6-foot-9 starting forward for Pertevniyal Istanbul scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes.

His team won 90-81 over Socar Petkim, which was one of the best teams in the league.

Bell-Holter, of Ketchikan High fame, is averaging 16 points and 7.8 boards in five games.

Thomas Dolan Cross Country RunningAnchorage’s Thomas Dolan scored key points to help the Community Colleges of Spokane men’s cross country team win the Northwest Athletic Conference championship.

The sophomore was his team’s fourth runner and 11th overall out of 75 finishers.

He was also the top finishing Alaskan.

Dolan, of Bartlett High fame, covered the 8K race in 26:05, just missing All-American status by a few seconds.

Spokane won the conference title with 32 points; Lane Community College was second with 42.

November 12, 2014

Griffin Toomey FootballThe best punter in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is from Alaska.

Saint John’s Johnnies sophomore Griffin Toomey of Anchorage leads the NCAA D3 league with a 37.5-yard average and would lead it in air time.

He also leads the league in fair catches [11] and punts downed inside the 20-yard line [17].

Toomey, of South High fame, ranked second in the MIAC last year with a 37.1 average.

His longest punt this year is 56 yards. His career long is 64.

Saint John’s is 8-1 and is ranked No. 13 nationally after climbing five spots in the latest D3 football poll.

November 11, 2014

Jesse Ellis BasketballJesse Ellis of Skagway didn’t miss a shot as Central Methodist University opened the season with a big win over Stepehens in Missouri.

The senior guard made all six field goals and all four free throws en route to a career-high 16-point performance in a 100-43 victory on the road.

She also grabbed six rebounds and had two assists in 20 minutes.

Ellis is in her second season with the NAIA school. Last season she averaged 5.9 points in 31 games.

It was her seventh career double-figure scoring night.

November 10, 2014

Dylan Faber SoccerDylan Faber of Anchorage didn’t begin the season as the starting goalkeeper for the Northeastern University men’s soccer team.

But there’s no doubt he’s the No. 1 guy now.

Saving his best for the end of the season, Faber has stopped 55 of the last 56 shots he’s faced to post a 2-0-1 record in his last three starts.

He anchored Northeastern’s 2-0 victory over Elon in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, avenging a 5-0 loss earlier this season.

Faber, of West High fame, was coming off a 2-1 victory over James Madison and a 0-0 draw against Hofstra when he saved a season-high 10 shots on goal.

The 6-foot junior is 9-9-4 in 26 career starts.

Faber looks to continue his good run against Delaware in the CAA semifinals Saturday.

November 9, 2014

Zack Bowman FootballNew York Giants cornerback Zack Bowman of Anchorage added another victim to his list, picking off Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

It came in the first quarter of Seattle’s 38-17 win.

Bowman, of Bartlett High fame, has two interceptions in his first season with the Giants.

The 29-year-old played his first six seasons with the Chicago Bears.

Bowman now has 12 interceptions in 82 career games.

The record for most interceptions in the NFL by a player from Alaska is held by Reggie Tongue, who had 15 picks in 145 games from 1996 to 2005.

Daryn ColledgeDaryn Colledge of Fairbanks used to never miss a game.

Not in college, not in the NFL.

But all that football is starting to take its toll.

Plagued by migraines, a back injury and sinus infection, the 6-foot-4, 308-pound offensive lineman has now missed two straight games. The starting guard with the Miami Dolphins missed today’s game against the Detroit Lions.

Colledge, of North Pole High fame, used to own a 135-game consecutive game streak, the second longest active streak for offensive guards in the league.

He started his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, where he became the second Alaskan to win a Super Bowl ring, before going to Arizona and then Miami.

The 32-year-old Alaskan has battled health problems since Week 8 when he left the Jacksonville game early with a migraine after allowing two sacks in three drives.

At Boise State, Colledge started every game and was named the third-best tackle in college football by ESPN. He closed his career with a school record 51 consecutive starts.

November 8, 2014

Brad Oleson BasketballEver since he joined Barcelona, Brad Oleson of North Pole has never been featured as the go-to scorer.

But that appears to be changing this season.

For the second time in four games, Oleson reached double figures and scored key buckets down the stretch to help Barcelona stay undefeated in Group C play.

The 6-foot-3 guard bagged 16 points and went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers in an 80-78 win over Turkish power Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul.

He is shooting 8-for-17 from downtown in four Euroleague games and is among the league leaders at 47.1 percent.

Oleson, of UAF fame, came up big late in the third quarter when he sank a 3 and converted a reverse layup to highlight an 11-0 run that put Barcelona ahead for good.

Then in the fourth he drilled two more 3s to seal the deal.

Oleson is averaging 10.8 points in Euroleague action this year, up from his 7.4 career average in 77 previous games.

November 7, 2014

Aaliyah Lewis SoccerIt’s been a rewarding week for Alabama State University soccer player Aaliyah Lewis of Anchorage.

But she hopes the best is yet to come.

The super sophomore striker won Southwest Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors earlier in the week.

Then she scored her 17th goal of the season to help Alabama State beat Mississippi Valley State 2-0 in the opening game of the SWAC Tournament in the middle of the week.

Now she hopes her team can secure a NCAA Tournament berth by the end of the week.

“It feels amazing winning [POY] for my second year. It was a goal of mine and now I can focus on the next one – winning a ring,” she told me.

Lewis, of Dimond High fame, helped Alabama State inch closer to making school history by icing the conference tournament victory with a goal in the 82nd minute.

She is tied for sixth in NCAA D1 with 17 goals.

Alabama State is seeded third in the tournament and needs to win two more games to earn an automatic berth to the NCAAs as SWAC champion for the first time.

Lewis was a two-time Alaska Player of the Year as a junior and senior in high school. Now she’s a two-time SWAC Player of the Year her first two years of college.

“Things did start out shaky especially not having my sister. It was just hard to try and find a fit and a formation, but pulling up [teammates] Kayla and Shelbi really made the difference and it showed,” Lewis said. “We read each other so well and just work great off each other. I love having them up there.”

Last year, she scored 18 goals and Alabama State lost in the conference finals.

“To make NCAAs is a dream come true; it’s what every soccer girl dreams about, aside from national teams,” she said. “It would be such an achievement for me and my team. Last year really sparked a fire within us to finish what we started. We all want that chance so bad. I just hope we put forth the fight to get there and that I know we can do.”

November 6, 2014

Allison Leigh VolleyballPalmer’s Allison Leigh put the Quinnipiac volleyball team on her back in the second set, scoring eight points and slamming home set point with a spike.

It resulted in a 25-17 win, only the second time the NCAA D1 Bobcats have won a set in their last eight matches.

In the end, Quinnipiac lost in four sets to Fairfield in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to fall to 2-25 on the season.

Leigh, of Colony High fame, finished with 15 kills on 29 arm swings for a scorching .345 attack percentage. It was her best hitting percentage of the season and second-highest kill total.

The 6-foot-3 middle blocker has reached double figures in kills just twice. She’s better known for her defense.

At the net, she stuffs big hitters and is one of the best blockers in the MAAC with 1.23 blocks per set.

In 58 career matches, Leigh has 374 kills and a .227 attack percentage. She also had 248 blocks, including 77 solo stuffs.

November 5, 2014

Sarah Tarver SoccerDurable and versatile, Sarah Tarver of Juneau is one of the senior leaders for the Northern Arizona University women’s soccer team.

She hasn’t missed a game in her career, playing all 75.

She has earned all-league honors in the Big Sky Conference at three different positions.

Tarver earned her first All-Big Sky First Team selection this year at center back.

In 2011, she was a forward. In 2013, she was an outside back.

She has anchored the conference’s No. 1 defense, a group that yielded only 15 goals in 18 games and posted nine shutouts.

Tarver has 5-1—11 career scoring totals.

November 4, 2014

Damen Bell Holter BasketballDamen Bell-Holter is eating ‘em up in Turkey.

The 6-foot-9 forward from Hydaburg has worked his way into the starting lineup with Pertevniyal Istanbul of the country’s second division.

Bell-Holter is averaging 15 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his first four games with the team. He played last season in the NBA D-League.

He is coming off a 20-point, 14-rebound game.

But his team is 1-4.

November 3, 2014

Kyle Fossman BasketballHe hasn’t necessarily shot the lights out this season, but Kyle Fossman of Haines gave his German pro team a shot of adrenaline against the Rhondorf Dragons.

Fossman sank a buzzer-beating, game-winning 3-pointer to produce a 77-75 victory in triple overtime for the Fraport Sky of Frankfurt.

The 6-foot point guard finished with 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, all beyond the 22-foot arc.

Fossman, of UAA fame, also had nine rebounds and five assists and made only one turnover in 45 minutes.

Fossman’s game-winner moved his team to 4-2, tied for second in the Group South.

The game hadn’t gone especially well for the Alaskan. He missed a ton of 3s, had his shot blocked at the end of regulation and missed a layup in overtime.

But he would get it right.

Fossman scored his team’s final six points, including the one that counted most at the very end.

“I felt good after this win,” he told “I have to give the whole team credit … I didn’t feel as comfortable in the third OT as in the first two, but in the end it was our effort that got us the win.”

The rookie guard is averaging 7.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists in five games. He has made just 11-of-45 3s on the season, but he’s 1-for-1 on game winners.