WASILLA — Tom Berg likes to compare his team to a chocolate chip cookie.
Sure, everybody loves the chocolate chips. But there are other ingredients that also help make it a good cookie.
On Thursday, a few of the other ingredients in the Colony recipe helped ensure the Knights didn’t crumble.
Senior Jared Turner grabbed a pair of steals and a rebound, and senior Blake Hightower collected three points and two rebounds during extra time, to help Colony score a 62-53 overtime win over the Soldotna Stars in the first round of the Northern Lights Conference Championships at Wasilla High School.
“I talk about being a chocolate chip cookie. Everybody wants to be a chocolate chip, but you need all of those ingredients to make it go,” Berg said after the win.
Turner finished the game with a modest stat line — five points, four steals and a couple of assists. But the four-year varsity players stopped a number of Soldotna possessions during the tail end of the fourth quarter and overtime.
“Jared Turner is, has always been, that cog in the wheel that makes Colony High what Colony High is,” Berg said. “Jared Turner is Colony High basketball. You need those kids.”
Collectively, Berg’s small senior class was big in key moments. Senior Tim Smith gave Colony its first lead since the first quarter, going coast to coast with a rebound and layup at the other end, midway through the fourth.
Hightower played key minutes in the post, and sparked the Knights in overtime.
“They were huge,” Colony junior Hunter Eisenhower said of the senior group. “They might not be leading us in scoring every night. But the stuff they do, other than the scoring, if you don’t have that, you’re not going to win games.”
Colony outscored Soldotna 14-5 in overtime to move forward in the bracket and into a semifinal meeting with Kenai Central. But it was Soldotna senior Evan Withrow who forced overtime.
Colony led 48-45 into the final seconds of regulation. Soldotna called timeout with 10.5 seconds left, and with the Stars facing one last possession, Withrow drained a fadeaway three from the deep right wing to knot the score at 48.
Soldotna’s effort and Withrow’s final shot was indicative of what Berg expected.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Soldotna head coach Matt Johnson). He always does a tremendous job,” Berg said. “We’ve always had battles, wars, with these guys.”
Soldotna came out firing in the first quarter, hitting five of its first seven shots from the field. The Stars scored 19 in the first, but Colony was able to hold Soldotna to five in the second quarter.
“We talk about the grind,” Berg said. “Thirty-two minutes is a grind.”
Withrow led the Stars with 19 points in the game. Garrett Bosick added 14 points and 13 rebounds. Cory Carver chipped in 11.
Soldotna led 19-7 after the first quarter and Colony cut into that advantage with an 11-5 second-quarter run, but the Stars were able to hold their lead into the fourth.
The Stars opened the fourth with a slim three-point lead, but Bosick went hard to the basket to immediately stretch it to five points. Bosick went to the basket again, this time over a pair of Knights, to give Soldotna the 40-35 lead.
But Colony grabbed the momentum with a six-point run.
Nate Umbarger grabbed an offensive rebound and Turner nailed a baseline jumper to cut the lead back to three. On the next possession, Turner swiped a Soldotna pass and fed Damien Fulp, who went to the basket for the layup.
With this coast-to-coast basket, Smith gave Colony its first lead at the 3:50 mark.
Eisenhower led Colony with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Fulp added 14 for CHS.
While Colony meets Kenai tonight at 4:45 p.m. in the semifinals, Soldotna moves back to face Palmer today at 9 a.m.
Kenai edged Palmer in overtime earlier in the day.
The Stars face a tough Moose team, which dropped from second in the NLC North to fourth during the final week of the season. The Stars were also a projected No. 2 seed before falling to Homer in an upset last week.
“You come out of this side of it, you deserve it,” Eisenhower said of his team’s side of the bracket.
Colony girls 30, Kenai 27
Colony head coach Jeff Bowker had an anxious feeling as he headed into his first conference tournament with the Colony girls program.
Bowker has won a region tourney before, during his time as head coach of the Colony boys. The Colony girls are also the defending conference champions. But the bulk of that group is gone, replaced by a bevy of underclassmen.
But as it turned out, one of Colony’s youngest players helped the Knights open tourney play with a victory.
Freshman Faith Farris scored a game-high 14 points to lead the Knights to a 30-27 win over the Kenai Kardinals during the Northern Lights Conference Championships quarterfinals Thursday at Wasilla High.
“I was pretty antsy with all these young girls in a region game. Only a couple of them have ever played in a situation like this,” Bowker said.
The teams were locked in a 9-all tie at halftime, but Farris helped the Knights separate. The freshman guard scored six straight points for Colony as the Knights opened the second half with a 6-2 run.
“She was pretty good tonight,” Bowker said of Farris. “I thought she and Saige (Stefanski) were the keys for us in the third quarter. Saige played way harder and Faith made shots for us.”
Eight of Farris’ 14 points came during Colony’s 14-point third quarter.
Farris slashed to the basket and hit shots early, and buried a pair of free throws later in the quarter to extend a Colony lead.
“That’s part of her game,” Bowker said of Farris going to the basket.
Farris finished 5 of 6 from the floor.
Stefanski scored half of her eight points in the second half, but none were bigger for the Colony post than a jump shot late in the fourth quarter.
Kenai’s Sydney Tayler hit a 3-pointer with 1:51 left in regulation to tie the game at 27. But Stefanksi quickly gave the lead back to Colony.
Junior Mary Klapperich found Stefanski open on the right side, and the senior buried the shot.
Kenai trailed by seven early in the fourth, after a Farris baseline jumper, but the Kards went on a run to tie the game. Morgan Wensley hit a pair of shots for Kenai, who tied the game with a seven-point run.
Bailey Beeson led the Kards with nine points in the loss. Wensley added eight points and five rebounds.
The Colony win moves the Knights into an all-Valley semifinal against Wasilla tonight at 6:30 p.m. Kenai moves back to play Skyview today at 11:30 a.m.
Knights 62, Stars 53, OT
Soldotna 19 5 12 12 5 —53
Colony 7 11 15 15 14 —62
Soldotna (53) — T. Fowler 1 0-0 3, Young 2 0-2 6, Carver 4 1-3 11, Withrow 9 0-0 19, Bosick 6 2-2 14, Withrow 9 0-0 19, Bosick 6 2-2 14. Totals — 22 3-7 53.
Colony (62) — Smith 3 2-3 8, Fulp 6 1-1 14, Turner 2 1-2 5, Umbarger 2 2-2 6, Peltier 1 0-0 3, Hightower 2 12- 5, Eisenhower 7 6-8 21. Totals— 23 13-16 62.
Three-point field goals: Soldotna 6 (Young 2, Carver 2, T. Fowler 1, Withrow 1), Colony 3 (Fulp 1, Peltier 1, Eisenhower 1). Total fouls: Soldotna 16, Colony 8.
Knights 30, Kardinals 27
Kenai 6 3 9 9 —27
Colony 5 4 14 7 —30
Kenai (27) — Beeson 3 3-8 9, Kiefer 3 0-0 6, Taylor 1 0-0 3, Tieaskie 0 1-2 1, Wensley 4 0-0 8. Totals — 11 4-11 27.
Colony (30) — Klapperich 1 0-1 2, Farris 5 4-6 14, Tweed 2 0-0 4, Nelson 1 0-0 2, Stefanksi 3 2-2 8. Totals — 12 6-9 30.
Three-point field goals: Kenai 1 (Taylor 1), Colony 0; Total fouls: Kenai 13, Colony 13.