Connecting You With AK Athletes Outside the 907

The Alaska Sports Blog is sponsored by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and provides daily updates on local athletes at the professional, international and college level outside the state. The blog was created in 2009 to fill a void of media coverage once Alaskans left the 907 area code. Former Anchorage Daily News Sports Editor and Alaska Press Club award winner Van Williams has been with the blog since the beginning and has written more than 2,500 stories on over 300 Alaska athletes.

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

February 7, 2016

Zoe Hickel hockey

Zoe Hickel

Zoe Hickel of Anchorage scored her third goal with the Boston Pride in the inaugural National Women’s Hockey League.

She found the net in the second period of a 6-1 win over the New York Riveters in the Big Apple.

Hickel, of South High fame, has tallied 3-4-7 totals in 14 games.

Boston sits in second place in the NWHL at 11-3, right behind the Connecticut Whale [12-3].

Laci Effenberger basketball

Laci Effenberger

Two years ago, Laci Effenberger of Ketchikan thought her college basketball career was finished after a seventh knee operation.

Now she’s draining seven 3-pointers a game.

The 5-foot-7 senior made seven 3s for the second time this season, most recently last night in an 84-62 win over Stanislaus State in California.

She finished with 21 points, nearly twice her season average.

The night before in a 55-53 victory over Chico State she made two triples to give her 63 threes this season to break the previous single-season record of 62 set by Amy Elliot in 2008.

Now she’s got 70 3-pointers on the season and will only add to that total with five games left in the regular season before the CCAA tournament and NCAA D2 championships.

Effenberger, of Ketchikan High fame, also has an impressive personal streak going in which she has made at least one 3-point shot in 39 straight games dating back to last season.

She is shooting .348 percent [70-for-201] from downtown and averaging 11.5 points in 23 games.

Cal State East Bay is 19-4 and sits atop the CCAA standings at 13-2.

February 6, 2016

Devon Bookert BasketballOne of Alaska’s most exclusive clubs added another member today.

Devon Bookert of Anchorage became the 19th Alaska NCAA D1 basketball player to reach the celebrated 1,000-point career benchmark.

The senior guard with Florida State University scored 9 points in a 91-71 blowout win over Wake Forest in ACC action in North Carolina.

Bookert, of West High fame, now has 1,008 career points and is the second Alaska man since last season to join the 1K club.

The 6-foot-3 shooter ranks 44th on the school’s all-time scoring list.

Bookert also collected 5 assists, 2 rebounds and a steal in today’s win, which pushed FSU’s winning streak to four games.

Bookert isn’t just a shooter as evident of his season highs: 21 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals.

“He is steady, makes shots, smart, takes care of the ball and he’s just one of those guys that you win with,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell told reporters last week.

“He is just a winner. He makes big plays and big shots, he plays with poise and he’s a good player.”

Alaska NCAA D1 Basketball 1,000-point Scorers

1,974 Trajan Langdon [Duke, East High]
1,607 Chris Devine [Santa Barbara, Chugiak High]
1,506 Carlos Boozer [Duke, Juneau-Douglas High]
1,389 Damen Bell-Holter [Oral Roberts, Ketchikan High]
1,341 Mario Chalmers [Kansas, Bartlett High]
1,337 Andre Laws [San Diego, East High]
1,279 Kyle Bailey [Santa Clara, Lathrop High]
1,227 Jason Erickson [Montana State, Chugiak High]
1,030 Damon Sherman-Newsome [Colgate, Bartlett High]
*1,008 Devon Bookert [Florida State, West High]
2,033 Kelsey Griffin [Nebraska, Chugiak High]
1,766 Jeannie Hebert [Miami, Monroe Catholic High]
1,664 Talisa Rhea [Seattle, Oregon State, Juneau-Douglas High]
1,596 Andrea Lloyd-Curry [Texas, Sitka High]
1,519 Brit Jacobson [Kansas State, Chugiak High]
1,374 Molly Tuter [Arizona State, Soldotna High]
1,346 Chandice Cronk [Santa Clara, Wasilla High]
1,233 Jessica Moore [Connecticut, Colony High]
1,149 Natalie Jones [Arizona, East High]

February 5, 2016

Janay DeLoach track and field

Janay DeLoach

Janay DeLoach of Fairbanks saved her best for last at the New Mexico Classic in Albuquerque.

The 30-year-old soared to a silver medal in the women’s long jump in an indoor track and field competition that pitted her against rival Brittney Reese.

Both won medals at the 2012 Olympics and are considered two of the top three women’s long jumpers in the country.

Today, Reese went 21-5½ on her first attempt to barely hold off DeLoach, who leaped 21-4¾ on her last jump.

Two weeks ago, DeLoach, of Eielson High fame, jumped 22-1¾ to win the Air Force Invitational in Colorado Springs.

February 4, 2016

WoolstonLiving away from the last three years of high school wasn’t easy for Shelby Woolston of Anchorage. But the sacrifice of being removed from family and friends paid off with an offer to play college soccer.

The 17-year-old signed her letter of intent with Point Loma Nazarene, a NCAA D2 school in California and a member of the Pac West Conference.

“The women’s soccer program just recently became Division II and has already won two conference championships the past two years,” Woolston told me. “I am so excited to be a part of a program that is really thriving.

“Another big thing for me is that I have lived nine hours by plane from home for the last three years at a boarding school in Rome, Georgia, and that has made it really hard for me to go home and for my family to visit and watch me play soccer.”

Woolston played her freshman year at South before being recruited by the Darlington School, which offers college prep education and elite soccer training.

“I believe that this experience has been worth it in every aspect,” she said. “It is fun playing soccer every day with people who love it as much as I do and traveling to tournaments all around the country. I also think it has been great in preparing me for college soccer in that I am in charge of making sure I keep up with my school work, including when we are traveling.”

Woolston grew up playing club youth soccer with Cook Inlet Soccer and Crossfire Alaska.

She also grew up playing forward until her first year at Darlington when she moved to center defender. She offered to step up and fill in for an injured teammate. The move became permanent.

“After that day there was no going back,” Woolston said. “My coaches saw potential in me as a defender and really have showed me how to pick my head up and create space for myself, finding feet, making good passes; those are some of my strongest points and I think will really help me at the next level.”

Woolston picked Point Loma over a number of other schools, most of them on the East Coast.

“I was really set on being closer to home for the next four years,” she said. “Being on the West Coast at a great school, with a strong soccer program, and in a beautiful city, Point Loma seems the perfect fit.”

February 3, 2016

Adam Klie basketballNo matter how much recognition Anchorage’s Adam Klie receives for his play on the basketball court, the grind never stops for the UC San Diego junior guard.

So even though the California Collegiate Athletic Association named him CCAA Player of the Week for the second time this season, Klie could still find flaws in his game.

That’s the price of trying to be perfect.

“I think there is a lot of room for improvement with how I am playing,” Klie told me. “Right now, we as the team and myself included, are playing well enough to win games and put ourselves in a position where the next game means even more and that’s exciting.

“At the same time, I know that I have to keep getting better and playing better so that we as a team are playing our best as the importance of games is only magnified.”

Klie, of Service High fame, averaged 10.5 points and a team-high seven rebounds in two back-to-back road wins that kept UC San Diego atop the CCAA standings at 12-2.

In a 41-35 win at No. 13 Cal Poly Pomona, Klie recorded his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also added two assists and two steals.

At Humboldt State, he had nine points, four rebounds, two steals and an assist in a 73-69 win.

“I am not shooting it great and turning it over too much, but I have plenty of confidence that I can clean that up,” Klie said. “We always talk about how winning games just makes the next one more important and that’s how we are taking it right now.”

The 6-foot-4 wing is averaging 14 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds in 20 games. He also leads the Tritons with his .519 field goal percentage, 63 assists and 17 steals.

In conference Klie ranks third in field goal percentage, eighth in assists, 12th in scoring and 13th in rebounding.

As you see from the stats, he brings high energy and a good attitude to every game; whether his shot is falling or not.

“I think when you are struggling in certain areas you have to find ways to contribute in others,” Klie said.

UC San Diego is 17-3 this season and ranked 10th nationally for NCAA D2.

February 2, 2016

Brayton Keith basketball

Brayton Keith

Twice this NWAC men’s basketball season Centralia College has surpassed 90 points in game.

The first time freshman Brayton Keith of Anchorage didn’t score a point.

This time, though, he got involved in the scoring frenzy.

The 6-foot guard was recently inserted into the starting lineup and against Grays Harbor he make the most of his opportunity, scoring a season-high 14 points as Centralia posted a 98-88 victory.

Keith, of East High fame, nailed 3-of-4 3s and 3-of-4 free throws in a season-high 26 minutes. The points, the playing time, the 3s, the foul shots were all season highs.

It was the first time he cracked double figures as a college player in 17 games.

Keith is averaging 3.9 points per game in limited playing time. Play the kid more and it looks like he will score more.

Sam Wicks swimming

Sam Wicks

A couple of Alaska swimmers went head-to-head over the weekend in the swimming pool during a NCAA D1 meet between Boise State and Oregon State.

Anchorage’s Sam Wicks of BSU and Jesikah Cavanaugh of OSU squared off in the 200-yard medley relay, which was won by Boise State.

Wicks led off the relay to help her team post a victorious time of 1 minute, 42.86 seconds. Cavanaugh swam the anchor leg for her team, which placed fifth in 1:54.74.

Both swimmers are of East High fame.

Wicks, a senior, collected two victories on the day as Boise State won the meet 150-104.

She also won the 100 freestyle in 51.29 and was fifth in the 100 breast stroke in 1:06.38.
Jesikah Cavanaugh swimming
Cavanaugh, a junior, was third in the 100 butterfly in 1:01.33 and fourth in the 200 fly in 2:11.60.

February 1, 2016

Brad Oleson basketball

Brad Oleson

As he gets older, Brad Oleson of North Pole has to pick his spots.

He picked a great time to get hot over the weekend as No. 2 Barcelona escaped No. 14 Blusens Monbus 69-62 in Spain’s famed ACB.

The 32-year-old starting guard scored 9 points on 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.

Oleson, of North Pole High fame, is averaging 5.4 points in 16 games this season, his 12th as a professional.

The 6-foot-3 sharpshooter has made 17-of-35 3s for a team-best .486 percentage.

January 31, 2016

Cayle Byers WrestlingCayle Byers of Peters Creek won a dramatic match to secure a berth to the Olympic Trials in wrestling.

The former NCAA All-American now wrestling with Titan Mercury captured his third-place match at 213 pounds with a 2-1 victory over David Zabriskie of Lehigh Valley at the Dave Schultz Memorial International in Colorado Springs.

He was among a group of freestylers to qualify for the Olympic Trials, April 9-10 in Iowa.

Byers, of Chugiak High fame, won the weight class last year with his first-ever win over NCAA champion Dustin Kilgore, 12-8, in a slugfest.

Byers was an All-American at Oklahoma State University.

colter_lasher_basketballColter Lasher of Anchorage bagged his first double-double of the season for Houston Baptist University in a 70-69 thriller over Sam Houston State.

The 6-foot-7 junior had 14 points and 10 rebounds as he continued to flourish since being inserted back into the starting lineup.

Lasher, of Dimond High fame, made 3-of-6 3s and has drained 8-of-14 in the last three games compared to 12-for-47 the previous 16 games.

January 30, 2016

Jess Reiter basketball

Jess Reiter

Jessalyn Reiter of Delta Junction is heating up for a NWAC playoff run.

The Everett Community College freshman has averaged 10.6 points over the last 10 games to help her team move into a game out of first place in the North Division.

The 5-foot-9 guard is doing most of her scoring from the 3-point line, where she has made 42-of-125 attempts for 34 percent.

Five times in the last 10 games she has made three or more 3s, including twice with five in one game.

Reiter, of Delta High fame, ranks third on the team in minutes [30.5] and second in scoring [9.8]. Her season high is 22 points.

Everett is 11-9 overall and 4-2 in the NWAC.

January 29, 2016

Jesse Cherry Runners WorldOne of Alaska’s greatest marathon runners has gone vogue.

Chugiak’s Jesse Cherry is headed to the Olympic Marathon Trials next month in Los Angeles.

The 28-year-old runner is featured on the cover of the iconic magazine ‘Runner’s World’ in the February issue.

“It was an amazing and fun experience,” Cherry told me.

“Seven locations and dozens of clothing changes during a 12-hour day. I never thought I’d be showing so much leg to the entire nation.”

Cherry, of Chugiak High fame, owns the second-fastest 26.2-mile time by an Alaskan of 2 hours, 16 minutes, 31 seconds.

Last June at the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, he clocked a time of 2:16:34 to earn an automatic berth to the Olympic Trials.

It was only a few months earlier Cherry won the Oakland Marathon in 2:25:14 in his first race in three years.

Cherry is one of just six Alaskans to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon, joining Chris Clark and Kristi [Klinnert] Waythomas, David Morris, Kris Mueller and Will Kimball.

January 28, 2016

Travon Brackett basketball

Travon Brackett

Tested against the top NJCAA team in the country, Travon Brackett of Anchorage passed with flying colors.

The sophomore forward with Ancilla College pumped in a team-high 16 points in an 85-76 loss to No. 1 Lansing Community College in Donaldson, Indiana.

Brackett, of West Valley High fame, also grabbed six rebounds as the Chargers saw their six-game winning streak snapped.

It was his second highest point total in 21 games and just off his season high of 18 points.

Brackett is averaging 8.8 points and leads Ancilla with 6.1 rebounds per game.

Ancilla is 16-5 overall and 6-2 in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association.

January 27, 2016

Hannah Mattson BasketballThe University of Portland is having a tough season, but that doesn’t mean you just throw in the towel.

Hannah Mattson of Fairbanks needs that towel because she is putting in work on the basketball court.

The 5-foot-9 junior guard is having a career year when it comes to minutes, points, assists, steals and 3-point shooting percentage and is on pace to break her season best in rebounds.

She’s not playing garbage minutes either.

Mattson, of West Valley fame, has started 19 of 20 games.

She is averaging 21.0 minutes, 4.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists and shooting .444 percent on 3-pointers.

In her most recent game against Saint Mary’s, Mattson matched her season high with 9 points on a trio of triples.

Jack Hobbs basketball

Jack Hobbs

Jack Hobbs of Anchorage came off the bench to make some big 3-pointers for the University of Hartford, especially in the second half.

He finished with 9 points in 10 minutes in tonight’s 105-100 OT loss to Maine in America East action.

Hobbs, of South High fame, finished 3-of-4 from 3-point land – the third time this season that the 6-foot-7 shooter has made that many 3s in a game.

With his team nursing a 52-49 lead early in the second half, the sophomore scored Hartford’s next six points.

He made a 3 to make it 55-49 and then canned another trey to make it 58-53. He also added a season-high two assists.

Hobbs is shooting 10-for-31 [.323] from beyond the arc in 22 games this season, although his overall field-goal percentage is .466.

He is averaging 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

January 26, 2016

Ramon Harris Basketball

Photo credit by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette

Even though he approved the trade, Ramon Harris of Anchorage didn’t necessarily want to leave the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

But the lure of more playing time proved too tempting.

The Iowa Energy traded for one of the best 3-pointer shooters in the NBA D-League in a move that should lead to more minutes for the 6-foot-7 forward. The Mad Ants cleared the trade with Harris before pulling the trigger.

“I made my decision solely on the thought of going to a franchise where they’re expecting me to play, and that was it,” Harris told the News-Sentinel. “It’s a sad feeling, leaving Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne will always have a place in my heart.”

Harris, of West High fame, ranks No. 15 in the league with a career-best .403 shooting percentage. He was near the top 5 earlier this season.

This was his fourth season with the Mad Ants, who he won a D-League championship with in 2014 and made the Finals with in 2015.

“Ramon has meant so much to this franchise and we have not been able to give him the role and the minutes he needs to further his career,” Fort Wayne general manager Brian Levy told the newspaper.

Harris started 41 of 153 career games for Fort Wayne and averaged 6.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

The 27-year-old is only Alaskan to reach the 1,000-point plateau in the D-League.

He will join the Energy for their home game Thursday night.

Zac Naylor SoccerIn an effort to improve his all-around soccer skills, Zak Naylor of Anchorage has willingly moved positions with the Vancouver Victory indoor team.

But that doesn’t mean he has stopped scoring goals.

The 22-year-old has netted four goals in five games with the Victory despite moving to defense.

“It was my choice. I see more of the field and can pick out passes to my teammates,” he told me. “Indoor is a lot strategy and IQ, and I am learning a lot.”

Naylor, of South High fame, just wrapped up his college soccer career at Concordia University, where he scored 7 goals and 20 points in 34 games in two years.

Before that he was at Edmonds Community College, where he delivered 18 goals.

He’s always had a knack for finding the back of the net, but these days he’s more focused on stopping goals from being scored.

“The indoor field is a lot smaller, which means faster paced and a lot more intense,” he said. “Reminds me a lot of my hockey playing days with how physical it is and the ability to use the walls as your teammate.

“Overall it’s a very fun, fast-paced game that keeps you on your toes. A lot of the guys I played with Concordia are also on the team so we gel really well together and that makes for a good amount of success.”

But Naylor has a bigger goal in mind. He plans to attend an upcoming tryout for the Kitsap Pumas.

“Looking forward to Pumas tryout and taking my career professionally,” he said.

January 25, 2016

Gabi Fenumiai basketball

Gabi Fenumiai

Gabi Fenumiai of Juneau scored the most points but Kristin Smeaton of Dillingham was on the winning side when the two Alaskans squared off in a NAIA game in Oregon.

Southern Oregon University beat Evergreen State College 107-65, but Fenumiai was the story of the night in a losing effort.

The 6-foot starting junior center pumped in 32 points – nearly half of her team’s total – on 13-of-17 shooting from the floor and 6-of-7 shooting from the foul line.

Fenumiai, of Juneau-Douglas High fame, has eclipsed the 30-point mark twice in the last three games.

Last week she pumped in a school record 36 points in addition to ripping down 12 rebounds. It was her fourth double-double.

This is the second school record for Fenumiai. She also owns the career rebounding record [515] at Peninsula College.

Meanwhile, Smeaton was part of her own school record at Southern Oregon.

Kristin Smeaton basketball

Kristin Smeaton

The 5-foot-8 senior guard came off the bench to score 13 points in 19 minutes and help the Raiders surpass the 100-point mark in consecutive games for the first time in school history.

Southern Oregon is 18-1 this season.

Smeaton, of Dillingham High fame, has doubled her rebounding total from last season [23] to this season [53], thanks to two games with a career-high 10 boards.

She has also improved her scoring, highlighted by games of 13, 11 and 9 points. Last year she scored a total of 35 points.

Colter Lasher BasketballLosing his starting job with Houston Baptist may have been exactly what Colter Lasher of Anchorage needed.

He’s been a beast in the two games since his return.

The 6-foot-7 junior forward has flirted with double-doubles in each of the last two games since being added back to the starting lineup after a three-game demotion to the bench.

Lasher, of Dimond High fame, bagged 16 points and 9 rebounds in tonight’s 109-84 victory over Hillsdale Baptist.

That performance came two days after he collected 15 points and 8 boards in a victory over Lamar that moved Houston Baptist to 7-0 in league.

Lasher made 12-of-21 field goals, including 5-of-8 3s, in the last two games – his best stretch of the season.

He is averaging 9.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in 18 games for the NCAA D1 Huskies.

January 24, 2016

Dane Kuiper basketball

Dane Kuiper

For more than two months, Dane Kuiper of Wasilla has paid his dues as a freshman by staying seated on the bench for the University of New Mexico.

On Saturday night he finally got his shot to shine.

And his future looks brighter than expected.

The highly touted 6-foot-7 forward saw his first significant playing time and delivered 11 points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in an 83-64 road win at San Jose State.

Kuiper, of Wasilla High fame, came off the bench to log a season-high 28 minutes in addition to logging season highs for basically every category.

“For anybody, it’s pretty hard not to play. But at the same time, you have to know it’s for a reason,” Kuiper told reporters. “You either have to start practicing harder or do the little things to get your [playing] time.”

Kuiper left Alaska after his sophomore year and transferred to helped guide Tempe Corona del Sol to a pair of state championships in Arizona, where he was rated as that state’s top player for the 2015 recruiting class.

He had scored a total of seven points and played double-digit minutes only once in the first 11 games.

He didn’t pout, he put in work.

“I trust in coach and he trusts me,” Kuiper said. “I just had to stick with the process and keep practicing hard and earn my spot so when I get my opportunity, I’d make it count.”

January 23, 2016

Laci Effenberger basketball

Laci Effenberger

Cold spells come and go, but a shooter’s confidence must remain steady.

So when Laci Effenberger of Ketchikan missed her first eight 3-pointers, the Cal State East Bay guard could only believe she would make the next one.

And she did.

The 5-foot-7 senior drilled a key 3 late in the third quarter that sparked East Bay to a 60-56 road win at Sonoma State in California.

Effenberger finished 1-for-10 from the field, but that one bucket was big.

It extended her 3-point shooting streak to 34 games.

Remember, this is 23-year-old basketball player that has overcome seven knee surgeries to stay on the court. Now she’s virtually made a 3 in every game of her two-year career at East Bay [34 of 36].

Effenberger, of Ketchikan High fame, is averaging 11.5 points in 19 games.

Janay Deloach Track and FieldJanay DeLoach of Fairbanks had a good day at the Air Force Invitational in Colorado Springs.

She beat an Olympian and shattered a meet record.

The 2016 Alaska Sports Hall of Fame inductee won the women’s long jump by a full meter and prevailed in the 60-meter hurdles with a record time, beating fellow Olympian Lolo Jones, to boot.

Her time of 7.94 seconds beat the old mark of 8.04 that had stood for 19 years.

DeLoach, of Eielson High fame, continues to crush it in the long jump, no matter what foot she jumps off.

The 30-year-old jumped 22 feet, 1.75 inches or 6.75 meters. She beat the second-place jumper by more than three feet.

A broken left ankle in 2013 forced her to abandon her traditional takeoff and switch to using her right leg. She still managed to qualify for last year’s World Championships and became first woman to jump 6.95 meters off either leg.

In the finals of the hurdles, DeLoach beat Jones, who ran 8.0 and also beat the previous record.

DeLoach, a former Olympic bronze medalist, is a professional sponsored by Nike.

January 22, 2016

Adam Klie basketball

Adam Klie

Anchorage’s Adam Klie collected his second double-double of the season as the UC San Diego men’s basketball team remained atop the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

The 6-foot-4 junior guard bagged 19 points and 10 rebounds in a 74-51 win over Cal State Dominguez Hills that pushed the No. 17 Tritons to 9-2 in league.

Both totals are just shy of career highs [24 & 11].

Klie, of Service High fame, sank 9-of-12 shots and added three assists, a steal and blocked shot.

This was the fourth time he has scored 19 points this season.

He is averaging a career-high 14.2 points this season and has poured in 834 for his NCAA D2 career.

Desmond Johnson basketball

Desmond Johnson

South Mountain freshman Desmond Johnson of Anchorage is racking up a ton of assists in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference.

More importantly, though, he’s taking care of the ball.

Johnson, of East High fame, ranks sixth in the league at 6.0 assists per game but among those top six he has the best assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4.

Five times he has reached double figures in assists, highlighted by a season high 15. He had 10 just the other night.

The 5-foot-10 guard also ranks eighth in the league with 1.8 steals per game, showcasing his full-court game.

He’s also one of the better rebounders for his size, averaging 4.2 boards.

Johnson is scoring 7.3 points on 50 percent shooting, including 40 percent from 3-point land.