PALMER — It took a solid performance from all five Palmer seniors to hold off Cory Carver and the Soldotna Stars. Palmer capped its regular season with a 54-41 win over Soldotna on Friday night at Palmer High School.
Carver started the night off hot, popping a 3-pointer from the wing to open the game. Two Hayden Niekamp baskets got the Palmer High School crowd on their feet. Carver absorbed a hard foul and missed an acrobatic layup. The Soldotna guard made the first and missed the second, but the Stars retained the ball with an offensive rebound. Already time for a heat check, Carver jacked another 3, and it came up nothing but net. In the first quarter, Carver was just getting started. Nineteen of Carver’s game-high 30 points came in the second half.
Soldotna’s tenacious team defense and steady diet of Carver on offense were good enough to keep up with Palmer to start the game. With about a minute left in the first, Carver picked James Nisbett’s pocket and took the ball the length of the court for the layup.
Connor Looney knew the Moose needed to counter. The Palmer veteran held the ball for the last shot of the opening period. Looney knifed through the defense to the top of the key, and after attracting three Soldotna defenders, passed the ball inside to a wide-open Brian Selmer for the easy bucket. Palmer led 12-10 after the first quarter.
Soldotna started the second quarter in attack mode. Colton Young grabbed a rebound and charged the length of the court for a fast-break layup. That was a theme for Soldotna’s offense. When the Stars were not out and running, the offense was channeled through Carver.
Looney led the Moose on a run in the second quarter. Rather than with flashy dribbling and deep 3-pointers, Looney drew the defense and passed to the open man, facilitating his teammates. Palmer extended its two-point lead to a 10-point advantage.
Looney extended his game to the defensive end. After a long Soldotna possession without any open looks, Looney defended Carver in the corner. The senior guard forced Carver back into a hoard of defenders, prompting raucous cheers from the crowd.
“I think we’re maturing as a team and playing team basketball,” said Palmer head coach Jason Marvel.
Soldotna came out hard in the third quarter. Playing textbook Soldotna basketball, the Stars hustled all over the court to scrap for eight straight points. With 4:00 left in the third, the Stars had cut the lead just three, trailing 30-27.
While Soldotna exploded in the third quarter to cut the Moose lead, the Palmer seniors consistently got good looks at the basket and held a decent lead through much of the game to hold off Soldotna in the last regular season game before the Northern Lights Conference Tournament in Soldotna this weekend.
Looney held for the last shot of the third quarter and passed to an open Adam Ramoth, who buried the 3 from the corner. Uncharacteristic of the Moose, that was their only 3-pointer of the game.
“We got good shots and good shot selection,” said Marvel.
Looney paced the offense for the Moose, scoring 17 points. The Moose started five seniors in their last opportunity to defend their home court.
“I’m so proud of my seniors. They’ve had a stellar career at Palmer and created a great atmosphere,” said Marvel.
The Moose are 14-10 and 7-3 in conference play, and have earned a bye through the first round of the conference tournament.
Moose 54, Stars 41
Soldotna 10 7 14 9 —41
Palmer 13 14 12 16 —54
SOLDOTNA (41) — Young 2 0-0 4, Conradi 1 0-0 2, Carver 8 12-15 30, Kruse 1 0-2 2, Martin 1 0-2 2; Totals: 13 12-19 41.
PALMER (54) — Ramoth 2 0-0 5, Looney 6 5-8 17, Mayer 2 2-2 6, Nisbett 1 3-4 5, Selmer 4 4-4 12, Niekamp 3 3-4 9; Totals: 18 17-22 54.