East sweeps Kenai to begin season

The Kenai Central basketball teams opened the season by getting swept by the East Thunderbirds on Friday night at Kenai.


The Kenai girls were edged 41-36 earlier in the evening in an endowment game, and were followed by a 72-34 loss by the Kardinal boys team. In the boys game, senior forward Wyatt Fitt led the Kards with 17 points, and senior teammate Shane Spalding had 10.

“We came out and played two decent quarters, and probably were about equal in rebounding and didn’t give up too many open shots,” Kenai head coach Ken Felchle said. “In the second half, our defense just broke down. We didn’t get many defensive rebounds at all, and I’m not saying our kids didn’t play hard, but we didn’t play as smart as we could have.”

Fitt and senior Josh McKee got Kenai out to an early lead, but East found its rhythm with a flurry of jumpers and driving layups from Matt Hardwick and Xavier Johnson, which left Kenai in a 19-8 hole before the end of the first quarter.

The halftime break didn’t help Kenai much, as East continued to outscore the Kards, going 24-11 in the third quarter and holding a 58-30 lead after three frames.

“We weren’t as successful as we could have been last year, but we have every kid back from last year, and we’re playing hard,” East coach Josh Muehlenkamp said. “I felt that, defensively, we broke down sometimes and get on straight-line drives, and kids weren’t recovering.”

Desmond Johnson led the T-Birds with 18 points, and Hardwick had 12. East also had a much easier time finding the rim, making 32 shots from the floor, including seven from 3-point land, in contrast to 14 shots from Kenai, of which only two were 3-pointers.

Felchle attributed that to poor rebounding.

“When shots went up, we didn’t make rebounding a priority,” Felchle said. “We can’t just turn and run to the rim. We need to turn and hit somebody before you think about grabbing the basketball. We didn’t close out very well, and we left open shots, and that’s too good of a team to do that.”

East girls 41, Kenai 36

In the girls game, Kenai attempted to rally after a 27-19 halftime score, outscoring East 17-14 in the second half but coming up short.

Senior guard Sydney Taylor’s 15 points led Kenai’s effort, aided by forward Justice English’s seven points.

“We’re very proud of them. Tonight we had seven kids, and two freshmen coming off the bench,” Kenai coach Stacia Rustad said. “We basically have three kids coming back with varsity minutes, so we’re very proud of them. To put 36 points on the board our first time out is good.” 

In similar fashion to the boys game later in the night, the Kenai girls jumped to an early lead buoyed by buckets from Taylor, English and center Caitlyn Steinbeck. However, being out-rebounded will take its toll, and that’s what East was able to do.

In the fourth quarter, the Kards managed to close the gap with six straight points, getting as close as 38-34 with 3:23 left in the game on a jumper from Taylor, but stingy defense left both teams scrambling in the final minutes, and the shots did not fall Kenai’s way.

“Defensively, in the first half, we did all right, and we made some adjustments in the second half, and East scored 27 points on us in the first half and only had 41 at the end,” Rustad added. “So our adjustments worked, and the kids made the adjustments.

“People are going to see this as a loss, but in our mind, it was a win.” 


Friday girls

Thunderbirds 41, Kardinals 36

East121568— 41


EAST (41) — Page 6 0-3 12, Miles 5 0-2 12, Manu 4 1-1 9, Richard 1 1-1 4, Motuga 1 1-2 3, Pedro 0 1-4 1, Gillion 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 4-13 41.

KENAI (36) — Taylor 7 0-1 15, English 3 1-2 7, Steinbeck 2 0-0 4, Norvelle 2 0-0 4, Ross 2 0-1 4, Drury 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 1-4 36.

3-point goals — East 3 (Miles 2, Richard 1); Kenai 1 (Taylor). Team fouls — East 14, Kenai 11. Fouled out — Motuga.


Friday boys

Thunderbirds 72, Kardinals 34



EAST (72) — D. Johnson 9 0-0 18, Hardwick 6 0-0 12, X. Johnson 4 0-0 11, Bond 3 1-4 7, Laws 4 0-0 8, Jacobo 0 0-0 0, Brackett 3 0-0 8, Gomez 3 0-0 8, George 0 0-0 0. Totals 32 1-4 72.

KENAI (34) — Fitt 7 1-1 17, Spalding 4 2-3 10, J. McKee 2 1-2 5, Theisen 1 0-0 2, Battistelli 0 0-0 0, A. McKee 0 0-0 0, Shirnberg 0 0-0 0, O’Neal 0 0-0 0, Kibling 0 0-0 0, Liedes 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 4-5 34.

3-point goals — East 7 (X. Johnson 3, Brackett 2, Gomez 2); Kenai 2 (Fitt 2). Team fouls — East 10, Kenai 3. Fouled out — None.



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