Chugiak guard Dylan Fullmer drives past East's NaVarr Lopez during Chugiak's 66-51 win on Jan. 4 at Chugiak. Fullmer scored eight of his 12 points in the third quarter as the Mustangs used a 25-11 run to pull away in the second half.
STAR PHOTO by Matt Tunseth
The Chugiak boys opened their Cook Inlet Conference season in fine form, using a gritty, defensive style to force 26 turnovers in a 66-51 win over East on Jan. 4 at Chugiak.
"It's always good to start the conference with a win," said coach Orin Wear after his team shot down the T-Birds.
Colby Mitchell led Chugiak with 23 points and 11 rebounds against East, while Greg Ghramm added 13 points and six steals for Chugiak, which nabbed 17 steals, including five by Logan Johnston.
Chugiak opened the game on a 12-0 run behind five points from Mitchell, a trey by Ghramm and a sweet backdoor lay-up from Dylan Fullmer. East stormed back in the second, cutting the lead to two before Chugiak ended the half on a 7-0 run, capping the surge with a big two-handed dunk from Mitchell just before the buzzer sounded.
"That pumped us all up," Fullmer said of Mitchell's baseline jam. "We couldn't wait to get back out there."
Fullmer exploded for eight points in the third as Chugiak took over. He nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the frame, and Ghramm added his second deep ball of the night as Chugiak pushed its lead to more than 20 points and coasted down the stretch.
The Mustangs mainly play a 2-3 zone defense that relies on quick guards to force opposing teams into bad decisions. When the system works, Fullmer said the Chugiak guards can be as pesky as they come.
"We don't want to go for every steal, but we go for the ones we can get," he said. "Anything to disrupt their offense."
Wear praised Ghramm, a tough, 5-foot-10 senior guard who earned a reputation as one of the state's best athletes as an all-state running back for the Chugiak football team.
"He works hard, and he just loves to compete," Wear said.
Chugiak didn't get much time to bask in the glory of its undefeated conference record, as the Mustangs couldn't hold onto a late one-point lead against Bartlett, falling 71-60 to the Golden Bears on Jan. 8.
Ghramm led the Mustangs with 24 points in the loss, while Mitchell added 16 points and 14 rebounds. Damon Sherman-Newsome led Bartlett with 26.
Chugiak fell to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in the CIC with the loss.
Despite the setback, Chugiak appears to have the makings of a team that can challenge for one of the top three spots in the CIC this season. To do so, however, Fullmer said the team will have to continue to hustle for steals and out-work their opponents down the stretch.
"The first few weeks of practice, coach just ran us. We didn't even pick up a ball," Fullmer said.
The idea, he said, is to make sure the Mustangs can both keep up with the more athletic teams in the CIC and be ready to knock down shots in close games down the stretch.
"In the fourth quarter when they're breathing hard, we'll be ready to play," he said.