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SoHi girls, boys basketball teams fall at Wasilla

Posted: January 28, 2012 - 10:19pm

WASILLA — You’ll have to forgive Braydon Kuiper if he woke up with a backache Saturday; he spent much of Friday’s 64-55 win over Soldotna carrying his team.
The 6-foot-6 senior forward scored 21 of his game-high 31 points for Wasilla in a hard-fought win over a scrappy SoHi squad. He was part of a potent one-two punch with 6-10 senior post Connor Devine, who added 16, including two decisive layups late in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.
Especially in the first half, Kuiper established good position under the basket and exploited a Stars defense that was slow to adjust, SoHi head coach Matt Johnson said.
“He killed us, just killed us,” Johnson said. “Our defensive rotation was not good. We know Braydon’s good in the post and he did a really good job of posting hard.”
That senior savvy was crucial for a Warrior squad that came out a little sluggish a day after suffering its first in-state loss of the season to Bartlett, Wasilla head coach Ryan Engebretsen said.
“He just took that senior will and got us a huge win today,” he said. “He put us on his back in that second quarter.”
The game started a little slow for both squads, but Kuiper and Devine combined to score all of the Warriors’ points to take a narrow 19-14 lead into the second quarter. But the Stars came out firing in the second, cutting the lead to a bucket, 19-17, on a Colton Young 3-pointer, and took the lead halfway through the quarter, 26-25.
It would prove the last lead for SoHi. Wasilla quickly recovered the lead on a Kuiper bucket from under the basket, and the teams maintained their respective paces with WHS maintaining its five-point lead going into the halftime break, 35-30.
The third quarter was another low-scoring slugfest as the teams saved their energy for a pair of fourth-quarter flurries. Leading 45-41 going into the final quarter, Wasilla seemed primed to put the Stars away, opening the fourth, scoring the first five points and opening up what would prove to be the largest lead of the game at nine points, 50-41.
That’s when the Stars, behind the sharp shooting of Evan Withrow and Cory Carver, mounted a late surge to tie the game at 53 with 3:25 left to play.
That’s when Devine, on the bench most of the quarter in foul trouble, came in. With Soldotna post Garrett Bosick having fouled out, the senior had easy looks for two quick layups. Kuiper capped a 6-0 mini run to seal the win.
“In the back of their minds, we knew we couldn’t make a shot from outside, and we knew where our strengths were (in the post), so we gave it to Connor inside, and he finished,” Engebretsen said.
Coming off the loss to Bartlett, the Warriors didn’t look especially sharp Friday, but winning ugly is still a win, he said.
“SoHi’s scrappy and they’re quick,” he said. “Their guards are good, they can shoot a little bit, so you have to guard the three-ball, and they’re quick enough to go around you and make you pay for it. There were a couple times we fell asleep and let them score easy buckets.”
The loss was disappointing, Johnson said, but also shows the Stars can compete with some of the state’s best teams.
“Our kids worked hard, I just thought we didn’t execute defensively the way we needed to to win the game,” he said. “That team’s a handful. We’ve played a couple of the top teams in the state and taken them down to the wire. Our kids aren’t afraid to battle. You would have a hard time convincing them they don’t belong with a team like Wasilla. That’s the attitude you have to compete.”
Wasilla girls 62, Soldotna 52
Maybe somebody forgot to tell Soldotna the Wasilla girls are the defending state champions. Perhaps the Stars overlooked the Warriors’ front line dominated by 6-footers. If could have been an inspired halftime pep talk.
Whatever the reason, the Stars found their rhythm in the second half, outplaying the Warriors for the final 16 minutes of a loss Friday at Wasilla High School. Unfortunately for SoHi, the Warriors were dominating for the first two quarters.
“The were very intense, good hustlers and they kept working, working, working,” WHS head coach Jeannie Hebert-Traux said of a second half that saw the Stars outscore Wasilla 36-26. “That showed us we need to work harder now in practice. “We almost had them, and they brought themselves back in the game. Offensively, we just didn’t run our stuff. They got some shots to fall and we missed, and it was a snowball effect. You have to be lucky sometimes and win the ugly ones.”
On the Stars’ bench, head coach Doug Blossom said he was proud of his team’s effort, adding that his girls may have allowed themselves to be intimidated by Wasilla’s reputation early on.
“You saw how many shots we missed in that first half,” she said. “Those were easy shots. I thought we threw the ball around instead of shooting the ball. In the second half, we relaxed and shot the ball. I think our girls came out a little tentative, but for that second half I’m proud of them. I felt a couple times near the end we had a chance to win.”
It’s tough enough to edge the Warrior girls for two quarters, let alone a full game. Wasilla started fast, running out to a quick 10-0 lead to start the game and seemed to be on the way to a blowout. But SoHi woke up to put 10 points on the scoreboard and trail by single digits 19-10 after the first. The second was a defensive battle that saw both offenses struggle to a combined 18 points, but Wasilla’s 12-6 advantage in the quarter gave them a comfortable 31-16 lead at the break.
That lead would extend to a game-high 19 points off a pair of Kyla Dinkel buckets to start the third quarter. Dinkel led all scorers with 18 points and was a solidifying force for a Wasilla squad that at times lost some focus Friday, Hebert-Traux said.
“She had a good game,” she said. “She ended up with (18) points, she going a bunch of rebounds. I think she was our most solid, our most down-to-earth calming factor. She took good shots.”
While Dinkel was the rock for Wasilla, Soldotna’s Kailee Skjold was a sparkplug for the Stars, scoring a team-high 14 — all in the second half.
“She plays with some of these (Wasilla) girls in summer league, and I thought she was trying to prove herself a little,” Blossom said about Skjold. “She relaxed that second half.”
That’s what the Stars needed to do from the start, he said.
“We need to relax and make our shots early in the game, not dig ourselves a hole. I thought their (full-court) pressure intimidated us a little for the first minute or two. We want to play Wasilla-style basketball.”
For Wasilla, Friday’s game may have been a win, but could also be a wake-up call, Hebert-Traux said.
“We pretty much have a target on our back, and that’s what we’re competing against,” she said. “It’s probably easier to get to No. 1 than to stay at No. 1.”
Soldotna girls 73, Houston 32
Kaillee Skjold had 21 points as the Stars routed the host Hawks in nonconference action on Saturday.
Also for SoHi, Julie Litchfield had 14 points, Kelci Benson had 11 points and Katelynn Kerkvliet had 10 points.
For Houston, Savanna James had 24 points.
Houston boys 61, Soldotna 60, OT
The host Hawks edged the Stars in overtime Saturday in nonconference action.
Evan Withrow led SoHi with 17 points, while Tanner Fowler had 14 and Cory Carver had 10. For Houston, Phillip Pease had 17 points, while Scott Kramer had 13 points and Matt Barron added 12.

Friday girls
Warriors 63, Stars 52
Wasilla    19    12    16    16    —63
Soldotna    10    6    19    17    —52
WASILLA (63) — Ford 0 0-0 0, Hutchins 7 2-4 17, Imoe 2 6-8 10, Koso 1 2-2 4, Brumbaugh 1 1-2 3, Devine 2 3-4 7, Dinkel 9 0-0 18, Garcia 0 0-0 0, Burke 2 0-1 4. Totals 24 14-21 63.
SOLDOTNA (52) — Benson 2 3-7 7, Kress 1 0-0 2, Litchfield 5 0-0 10, Wong 2 1-1 5, Kerkvliet 2 0-1 4, Westerman 3 4-4 10, Skjold 6 0-0 14. Totals 21 8-13 52.
3-point goals — Wasilla 1 (Hutchins 1); Soldotna 2 (Skjold 2). Team fouls — Wasilla 13, Soldotna 15.

Saturday girls
Stars 73, Hawks 32
Soldotna    13    18    20    22    —73
Houston    5    13    12    2    —32
SOLDOTNA (73) — Prior 1 2-2 4, Benson 3 3-3 11, Litchfield 6 2-4 14, Wong 3 1-2 7, Hendricks 0 0-0 0, Kerkvliet 4 2-2 10, Westerman 2 0-0 4, Skjold 8 1-3 21, Miller 0 1-2 1, Smith 0 1-2 1. Totals — 27 13-21 73.
HOUSTON (32) — Bolanger 0 0-0 0, Lee 1 0-0 2, James 9 4-5 24, K. Nida 0 0-0 0, Woods 0 0-0 0, S. Nida 0 0-2 0, Baybado 1 0-2 2, Shannon 0 0-0 0, Barber 0 0-0 0, Apangalook 0 0-0 0, Wells 0 0-0 0, Irvin 1 2-2 4, Knutson 0 0-0 0. Totals — 12 6-11 32.
3-point goals — Soldotna 6 (Skjold 4, Benson 2); Houston 2 (James 2). Team fouls — Soldotna 18, Houston 21. Fouled out — Baybado.

Friday boys
Warriors 64, Stars 55
Wasilla    19    16    10    19    —64
Soldotna    14    16    11    14    —55
WASILLA (64) — Capo 1 0-0 2, Ferro 0 1-2 1, B. Kuiper 10 11-11 31, D. Kuiper 2 4-6 8, McGregor 0 0-0 0, Devine 7 2-2 16, Roberts 2 2-3 6. Totals 22 20-24 64.
SOLDOTNA (55) — T. Fowler 3 2-3 9, Young 3 0-0 8, Darrow 1 0-0 2, Carver 4 1-1 10, Withrow 5 4-4 16, N. Fowler 0 0-0 0, Bosick 4 2-3 10, McElroy 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 9-11 55.
3-point goals — Wasilla 0; Soldotna 6 (Young 2, Withrow 2, T. Fowler 1, Carver 1). Team fouls — Wasilla 12, Soldotna 16. Fouled out — Bosick.

Saturday boys
Hawks 61, Stars 60, OT
Soldotna    16    6    12    19    7    —60
Houston    12    19    9    13    8    —61
SOLDOTNA (60) — Tovoli 0 0-0 0, T. Fowler 4 2-2 14, Young 3 1-1 7, Darrow 2 0-0 4, Carver 3 3-4 10, Calloway 0 0-0 0, Daugherty 0 0-0 0, Withrow 5 6-8 17, N. Fowler 0 0-0 0, Bosick 2 1-4 5, McElroy 0 3-6 3. Totals — 19 16-25 60.
HOUSTON (61) — Barron 4 1-4 12, Sachao 0 0-0 0, Frank 2 0-1 4, Kramer 4 4-8 13, R. Ruta 2 1-2 5, Richey 3 0-2 6, Kleewine 0 0-0 0, Stone-Jerik 1 2-2 4, Pease 7 6-9 17. Totals — 21 14-28 61.
3-point goals — Soldotna 6 (T. Fowler 4, Carver 1, Withrow 1); Houston 5 (Barron 3, Kramer 1, Pease 1). Team fouls — Soldotna 21, Houston 16. Fouled out — Bosick.

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