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White Mountain Hosts Strong Competition at Valentine’s Basketball Tournament

In the women's final, RJ's Ninjas (white) defeated Ernie’s SKK Ladies (blue), 81 to 76. Photo: Mitch Borden, KNOM.

WHITE MOUNTAIN, Alaska — Basketball teams from around the region clashed on the court this weekend at White Mountain’s annual tournament. After 31 years, organizers say the competition has never been better.

“So it’s 8:30 a.m. right now, and we have a full day of basketball ahead of us here in White Mountain, Alaska,” said Irving Ashenfelter.

Ashenfelter is the director of the Robert “Putto” Charles Memorial Basketball Tournament. He’s also a referee, score-keeper, and player. That means he’s in the gym before anyone else arrives, and he’s there after everyone else has gone home. It’s a lot of work, but he says it’s worth it to see such good basketball.

“The level of athleticism these days is pretty dang awesome,” he said. “We’re seeing more and more teams bringing the competitiveness to another level that we haven’t seen here in White Mountain for a long time. It’s just phenomenal.”

Players from Golovin Irene A’s take the court in the first round. Golovin lost in the final to defending champion CNC Sherman, 95 to 106. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.

Players from Golovin Irene A’s take the court in the first round. Golovin lost in the final to defending champion CNC Sherman, 95 to 106. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.

This weekend, that phenomenal play led to a lot of close games and come-from-behind victories. The most dramatic, perhaps, was the Elim men’s defeat of Brevig Mission in the final 15 seconds of the fourth round.

For Ashenfelter, though, it’s the women’s bracket that has really stood out.

“It was usually, in the past, that the men would bring along their significant others, and they’d form a team. But now we’ve got women that are bringing the team. And the men are tagging along sometimes,” he said.

Weezer Walcott played in her first White Mountain tournament 10 years ago. She said the women’s games have gotten more intense, especially in the last few seasons. Her team, Beah’s, is from Nome and Unalakleet. They battled back from a first-round loss to reach the semifinal.

“We’ve played together for a couple of seasons now, and we’re handling the ball better in pressure situations when the game’s close at the end,” said Walcott. “If we do lose, we’re not losing by 20 or 25 points anymore. It’s a pretty close game.”

With White Mountain’s tournament all wrapped up, the next game for many players will come during the Iditarod Basketball Classic in Nome in March.

In the women’s tournament, RJ’s Ninjas won for the second year in a row after defeating Ernie’s SKK Ladies, 81 to 76. Last year’s men’s champion also repeated: CNC Sherman beat Golovin Irene A’s, 106 to 95.


  1. Hannah Katongan , Beah's on February 15, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    Thank you KNOM for reporting on the tourney .

  2. Luann Harrelson on February 16, 2016 at 12:42 am

    This “small” ‘commentary’ is just a snippet of this tournament. It is indeed appreciated that regional commentary is noted, but there is so much more to this tournament, as there are many perspectives to any event. Our community enjoys this tourney. We look forward to ‘our’ company coming. This is our home and we extend that feeling to all those who arrive. There is a history before it became what it is today. Many people lead to what we enjoy today. But, the sense of a ‘fun’ tournament is still there, with a competive edge, where opponents acknowledge the skills of their rivals in a manner that is respectful and, in many cases, in awe, is remarkable. Shout out to those early founders, and those who run this today. All in all, the school plays a great and amazing role, we are so appreciative of their positive support. Our players and our fans inspire our tournament. We look forward to next year!

  3. […] The volunteers have been doing a fair amount of travel throughout the region lately. Maddie flew to Shishmaref for her most recent episode of Story 49. Mitch and Laura spent this past weekend in White Mountain covering the Valentine’s Day basketball tournament. […]