Any time a rural basketball team upsets a big-city squad the comparisons to the popular movie Hoosiers are inevitable. But Kodiak’s historic 55-52 victory over East Anchorage did provide a Hollywood-type script.
You had one of the state’s smallest Class 4A schools taking on one of the largest. Kodiak coach Amy (Rakers) Fogle was looking to become the first Alaska woman to lead a 4A boys team to a state title. And Kodiak was shooting for its first state championship while East was gunning for its 16th in 31 years.
With perhaps half of the town’s 6,000 residents in the stands at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, the Bears pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Alaska sports history to cap a historic undefeated 28-0 season. “Basketball is huge in Kodiak and the way the community gets behind its sports and activities is amazing,” Fogle said in 2018.
Trailing by 12 points in the third quarter, Kodiak fought back to take a 42-41 lead behind
7-footer Nick Billings, who threw down a thunderous two-handed jam in traffic to set up a frantic fourth quarter. Billings was just one of two players on the team over 6 feet tall.
Curtis Mortenson opened the final stanza with back-to-back jumpers, including a 3-pointer, to put the Bears ahead for good at 47-43. With his team nursing a one-point lead with 21 seconds to play, Kodiak’s Phil Nisbett drilled a pair of free throws to conclude the score at 55-52.
Billings denied East’s bid to force overtime by blocking a 3-point attempt at the buzzer, setting off a wild celebration from Kodiak’s players and fans.
— Van Williams