Kards sweep Dawgs on senior night

With the regular season in their rearview mirror and the celebration centered around the team seniors, the Kenai Central basketball teams swept Nikiski on Thursday night at Kenai. The Kenai boys exploded out of the gate en route to a 67-45 win, after the Kenai girls had rallied back in their game to defeat the Bulldogs 47-43.


Senior Sydney Taylor had a big performance on Thursday, racking up 26 points to lead the Kards.

“There were a couple possessions there, that I wouldn’t call her shot selection great, and we had a little chat,” Kenai coach Stacia Rustad said. “When she went back into the game, she was taking quality shots and making them, and that’s just being a senior leader. (Kenai) showed a lot of fire and heart and not throwing in the towel on their special night.”

Taylor led the Kards back from a nine-point deficit late in the third quarter to steal the win.

“We knew we were down and had to make it up, so we just focused and got it done,” Taylor said. “I’m happy about it, but I’m also happy we won on senior night. Without these girls, we wouldn’t be a team. Without each one of us out there giving it everything we got, we won’t win.”

Rachel Thompson led Nikiski with 18 points (10 in the first quarter), and Sienna Wallis added 16. Alyssa Darch grabbed 10 rebounds.

In the first half, there were a colossal 10 lead changes, brought on by the turnovers and subsequent transition layups. Nikiski coach Scott Anderson pointed to the Bulldogs’ 25 turnovers on Thursday as a weakness.

“That really hurt us, but we learned some stuff and I think we improved today,” Anderson said “It’s been a super tough last few games, but they’ve been great games for us to get better.”

Leading 22-20 at halftime, Nikiski was able to extend their lead with buckets from Wallis, at one point holding a 33-24 advantage.

Starting with 2 minutes, 30 seconds, remaining in the third quarter, Kenai rallied back with a 15-0 run. The Kards took the lead for the final time when Taylor sank a free throw 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.

“I think we started making better decisions offensively and we increased our defense, which caused some turnovers that we were able to go down and transition to easy layups,” Rustad said. “That gave us a little momentum, but it started on defense. Ultimately, it came down to us realizing the harsh reality, that, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re down by nine points’, and for us, offense has been a struggle all season. It was a huge turnaround for this team.”

After Kenai took the lead, Nikiski stayed close but never regained the lead. Taylor iced the game with six seconds left by hitting another free throw.

The game didn’t mean a lot to both teams since it was not a conference matchup, but Nikiski is battling for the top spot in the Southern division of the Southcentral Conference, a spot that they are occupying with Seward. Thursday’s loss leaves Nikiski with an overall season record of 15-8.

Kenai boys 67, Nikiski 45

The Kards erupted with energy early in Thursday’s game with 22 first-quarter points and raced out to 36 points at halftime, led by senior Josh McKee with 17 points. Teammate Wyatt Fitt added 13.

With 3:42 left in the third quarter, Kenai had amassed 50 points and a 27-point lead.

“I just let go of the reins,” Kenai coach Ken Felchle said. “I’m kind of a control freak, and I like order and structure, and it’s hard for me to let them play so freely. I felt like it was OK because of the level of energy they were displaying. In my opinion, I felt that they just had the joy of playing together, and I let it go. For the most part they responded and did well.”

Nikiski’s top scorer was Seth Carstens with 15 points, eight coming in the fourth quarter.

In the third quarter, Nikiski was outscored 17-5, much of it coming on transition breakaways. Also, Nikiski only hit eight of 21 free throws.

“It was unlike us, and mainly because of how I let them play, and I was just happy for all the seniors on this team,” Felchle said. “It gives us a little more momentum heading into the region tournament.”

Thursday girls

Kardinals 47, Bulldogs 43

Kenai 7 13 13 14 —47

Nikiski 10 12 11 10 —43

KENAI (47) — Taylor 10 6-10 26, English 4 0-0 9, Norvelle 4 0-0 8, Ostrander 0 0-0 0, Steinbeck 0 0-0 0, Ross 2 0-0 4, Barcus 0 0-2 0. Totals 20 6-12 47.

NIKISKI (43) — Thompson 7 4-6 18, Wallis 7 2-2 16, Costello 0 0-0 0, Epperheimer 1 0-0 2, Lynch 0 0-0 0, Holloway 0 2-2 2, Cook 0 0-0 0, Darch 2 1-5 5. Totals 17 9-15 43.

3-point goals — Kenai 1 (English); Nikiski 0.

Team fouls — Kenai 14; Nikiski 14. Fouled out — Ross.

Thursday boys

Kardinals 67, Bulldogs 45

Kenai 22 14 17 14 —67

Nikiski 12 11 5 17 —45

KENAI (67) — J. McKee 7 1-4 17, Fitt 4 4-4 13, Kibling 4 0-0 8, Spalding 2 2-2 6, Theisen 1 0-0 3, Battistelli 0 0-0 0, A. McKee 1 0-0 2, Spry 0 1-2 1, Shirnberg 0 2-2 2, Berg 3 0-0 6, O’Neal 2 0-0 5, Jones 0 0-0 0, Liedes 2 0-0 4. Totals 26 10-14 67.

NIKISKI (45) — Carstens 5 4-8 15, Hartley 3 1-2 9, Stangel 2 2-3 6, Anderson 0 0-0 0, Li. Johnson 1 0-6 2, Lu. Johnson 1 0-0 3, Ross 2 1-2 5, Griffith 2 0-0 5, Wallis 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 8-21 45.

3-point goals — Kenai 5 (J. McKee 2, Fitt 1, O’Neal 1, Theisen 1); Nikiski 5 (Hartley 2, Carstens 1, Griffith 1, Lu. Johnson 1).

Team fouls — Kenai 13; Nikiski 10. Fouled out — Ross.


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