SoHi girls, boys notch victories on opening day of NLC tourney

Kenai girls, boys fall

Both Soldotna basketball teams snatched victories on the first day of the 2013 Northern Lights Conference tournament Thursday at Soldotna High School, while both Kenai Central teams saw their chances at a state berth come to an end.


The fourth-seeded Soldotna girls edged the No. 5 Palmer Moose 49-39 in a thrilling final few minutes to advance to Friday’s semifinal round against the mighty Wasilla Warriors. Friday’s game tips off at 7:45 p.m.

Kelci Benson had 21 points to lead the Stars, hitting eight of her 11 shots from the field, including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. Benson’s teammate Katelynn Kerkvliet followed her with 11 points.

“We bonded before the game with team activities and just came together, and we knew that we really needed to win this game,” Benson said. “It was just the team energy that helped us.

Benson said a halftime deficit of 20-17 did not faze SoHi at all.

“It’s just three points, it’s really not that much,” she said. “We just got to come out and do the little things right, play good defense and make the easy shots.

“This is our home court, we need to come out and play out our type of ball.”

SoHi coach Doug Blossom said with the win, he and the team can all breathe a sigh of relief.

“We’re in good shape, because now, win or lose, we won’t get bumped down even if we lose to teams higher than us,” Blossom said. “Our hope is, it’s our home floor, so hopefully Kaillee (Skjold) can have a good offensive game, and Kelci’s been shooting better than before. If we can get (Wasilla) on their heels early in the game, we could be in a good position.”

SoHi is ranked fifth in the Win Percentage Index (WPI) seedings, and beating Palmer only puts them in a better shot to make it to state, even if they should lose to Wasilla on Friday.

The first half featured a back-and-forth game which ended with Palmer taking a three point lead into the halftime break. Poor shooting hit both teams in the second quarter, but Soldotna especially found it difficult to find the net, as the Stars had one point, while the Moose got six.

In the third quarter, Palmer stretched its lead to 31-25 with three minutes, 10 seconds left in the period, but the momentum soon changed.

“One of my assistant coaches mentioned that probably the key turning point was right at the end of the third, when Natalie (Kress) dove out of bounds and saved that ball, and I think Heidi (Westerman) had done it right before her,” Blossom said. “Just the hustle, effort of everybody carried over. It was a good win. Not an easy win.”

Kress and Westerman had amazing saves to keep the ball inbounds on consecutive possessions late in the third quarter, and that, couple with baskets from Kaitlynn Kerkvliet and Kaillee Skjold gave the Stars a 33-31 lead with only the fourth quarter to play.

Palmer had no intent of going quietly, and retook the lead on a shot from Taylor Blake with 4:57 left in the game. Blake ended up with a game-high 23 points.

Soldotna, however, continued to press Palmer’s offense, which cost the Moose a few crucial turnovers, and it was Julie Litchfield who gave SoHi the lead for the final time on a jump shot with 3:43 left. SoHi got 22 points off of turnovers, while Palmer had only two.

While the Stars may be happy with Thursday’s win, it only puts them in line with the jaws of the Wasilla Warriors, a team that has gone undefeated this season (24-0).

Soldotna boys 67, Wasilla 36

Led by Cory Carver’s masterful performance, the fourth-seeded Stars took a convincing victory against No. 5 Wasilla in the Northern Lights Conference championships on Thursday, stamping their way to the semifinal round on Friday, and a possible state berth.

If the Stars beat the top-seeded Colony Knights on Friday (set for 6 p.m.), they automatically qualify for state, and will battle for the NLC championship on Saturday. If not, they will drop to the third-place game, also on Saturday.

“Early on, Josiah Martin hit a three, Austin Kruse hit a three, Noah Fowler hit a three. It was like everybody came out firing,” SoHi coach Matt Johnson said. “But, the game wasn’t won on shooting the ball, it was won on defense. I was really proud of the team effort.”

Wasilla at times struggled to match the speed of Carver, who racked up 21 points, and teammates Colton Young (14 points), and Noah Fowler (10 points). Preston Penrod also grabbed nine rebounds.

“We won a lot of those fifty-fifty balls, it had to be about 90 percent of them,” Johnson said. “You put yourself in that position by working, and these kids were working. Preston (Penrod) has got a motor, and that’s why he was finding himself in those situations.”

The Stars shot an impressive 57 percent from the field (24-for-42), and were 14-for-20 in the second half (70 percent), and 6-for-7 from beyond the arc. Overall,

Wasilla was led by Dane Kuiper with 12 points, and Warriors coach Ryan Engebretsen said his squad was simply giving Soldotna good looks at the basket.

“They shot it in and we were giving up wide open three-balls, and we were not playing well and were not executing offensively like we were supposed to,” Engebretsen said. “I have a really young team, so it was a matter of talking to them and telling them the things they need to work on. Hopefully they learn from it and we’re better next year.”

Both teams started even, with Wasilla holding a slim 11-10 lead after one quarter, but SoHi heated up in the second, hitting a 12-6 run and scoring 21 points to take a 31-23 lead into halftime. The final lead change occurred with 4:36 remaining in the half, when Carver hit a layup to edge SoHi over the Warriors 18-17.

In the second half, the Stars became dangerous, outscoring Wasilla 36-13, and at one point took off on an 18-3 run late in the third quarter. Soldotna continued to grab steals and transition layups, and totaled 25 points off turnovers compared to five for Wasilla.

But, Johnson said his team isn’t resting on its laurels just yet.

“It gives us a pretty cool opportunity, and we can have a great game with Colony,” he said. “Colony is a great team, great coaches, great kids, great program, but it’s one game. If we play like we did today, we’ll get them.”

Colony girls 45, Kenai 27

The sixth-seeded Kardinals got off to a fast start but were not able to hold that pace, dropping their first game of the NLC tournament to the No. 3 Knights.

Colony’s Jennifer Solano came up big for the Knights, going 5-for-6 en route to 17 points. Senior guard Sydney Taylor led Kenai with eight points.

“Tournament basketball is all about advancing, so you got to win one to get to the next round,” Colony coach Jeff Bowker said. “We didn’t play great, I thought Kenai worked us really hard in the first half, and it was a good battle. Jennifer Solano played strong in the second half, so I was happy about that.”

Kenai recieved points from multiple players early on that put them up. Carly Norvelle, Cassie Ross, Justice English and Taylor all had buckets early that put Kenai in a 12-9 lead with 1:40 left in the first quarter.

“You just got to stick to your game plan, there’s certain things that will happen, and eventually those shots will fall,” Bowker said about making a comeback.

Kenai led Colony 15-11 after the first quarter, and a possible upset looked to be in the works. Colony put those hopes on the back burner in the second quarter by outscoring Kenai 14-3, and taking the lead for the final time with 2:01 left in the first half on a Solano layup. The basket put the Knights up 20-18.

“The first quarter was just really great play from us,” Kenai coach Stacia Rustad said. “I don’t know that if they changed up anything, but we just stopped scoring. You know, we got in foul trouble, and some of the things I talked about before the game was being able to score consistently, and staying out of foul trouble.”

Kenai hit 7-of-23 in the first half but suffered in the second half with only 2 shots out of 29 attempts.

“That just goes back to the same issues we’ve had before,” Rustad said. “It’s simple, we just need to score.”

Colony managed a 20-4 run spanning the second, third and fourth quarters that put the game out of reach for Kenai. The Kards will now prepare for their final game of the year at 12:45 p.m. on Friday against Palmer.

“They went out there and played as hard as they could, and the senior leaders are going to play one more game,” Rustad said. “It’s been a long season. We hope to go out there and send them off.”

Kodiak boys 76, Kenai 57

Led by a sharpshooting display from Austin Frick, the Bears earned a berth into the semifinals of the NLC tournament on Thursday, cruising to a hard-earned win over the Kardinals.

Frick posted 24 points, and hit five of seven 3-point attempts. Wyatt Fitt led the Kards with 13 points.

“That’s the best he’s shot all year, and he’s stepped up his game here,” Kodiak coach David Anderson said. “Most times he’s been double-teamed out there, so he’s just a good shooter.”

With to loss, Kenai’s state tournament hopes were eliminated, but the Kards will play one last game on Friday at 11 a.m. against Wasilla, a consolation game.

“That’s a good game for us, it’s good to get through the first one and get that monkey off your back, and develop some momentum going into the next game,” Anderson said. “We know that (second seed) Palmer hasn’t played yet, so getting the nerves out in the first day is really beneficial for a team like us.”

On Thursday, the Kards suffered a poor start, only scoring four points in the first quarter, but came back in a big way in the second with 21 points. The only problem was that for every bucket Kenai had, Kodiak seemingly had an answer for them.

On 12 separate occasions, Kodiak was able to score a field goal within 15 seconds of Kenai scoring. Most of it was due to Kodiak’s speed, as the Bears were able to race down the court and transition effectively.

“It didn’t go our way. A lot of it has to do with the way Kodiak played, and we just could not keep their penetration out,” Kenai coach Ken Felchle said. “It forced us out of our zone, it wasn’t working, we couldn’t spot them up, and we had to play man defense and for a long period of time, we were exchanging baskets, which wasn’t helping us.”

Kenai held hopes of rallying from a 36-25 halftime deficit, as they cut the lead to eight with 6:32 left in the third quarter after Josh McKee hit a jumper, but an 18-8 run from Kodiak deflated Kenai’s intentions with the fourth quarter still to play.


Thursday boys

Stars 67, Warriors 36

Soldotna 10 21 19 17 -67

Wasilla 11 12 5 8 -36

SOLDOTNA (67) - Carver 8 3-4 21, Tovoli 0 0-0 0, Penrod 1 2-2 4, Young 6 0-0 14, Conradi 1 0-0 2, Furlong 0 0-0 0, Spence 2 0-0 6, Kruse 1 2-2 5, Martin 1 1-2 4, N. Fowler 4 0-0 10, McElroy 0 1-2 1, D. Fowler 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 9-12 67.

WASILLA (36) - Kuiper 4 3-6 12, Baham 1 0-0 3, Brown 1 0-1 2, Carney 0 0-0 0, Garnett 0 1-2 1, McGregor 4 0-1 8, Dawkins 1 1-2 3, Loyer 0 0-0 0, Fife 0 0-0 0, Cook 1 1-4 3, Hanson 2 0-0 4. Totals 14 6-16 36.

3-point goals - Soldotna 10 (Young 2, Carver 2, Spence 2, N. Fowler 2, Kruse 1, Martin 1); Wasilla 2 (Kuiper 1, Baham 1).

Team fouls - Soldotna 17; Wasilla 11. Fouled out - Conradi.


Bears 76, Kardinals 57

Kodiak 13 23 22 18 -57

Kenai 4 21 15 17 -76

KODIAK (76) - Frick 8 3-3 24, Mangalus 3 3-3 9, Medina 4 2-2 10, Jimenez 3 0-0 6, Obas 4 2-2 10, Lenon 0 0-1 0, Canete-Hall 2 4-4 8, Hiner 3 1-2 7, Hall 0 0-0 0, Mutch 0 0-0 0, Garcia 1 0-0 2. Totals 28 15-17 76.

KENAI (57) - Fitt 5 3-3 13, Battistelli 4 0-0 10, J. McKee 3 4-4 10, Spalding 4 2-2 10, Theisen 0 0-0 0, A. McKee 1 0-0 2, Spry 1 0-0 3, Shirnberg 0 0-2 0, Berg 1 0-0 3, O’Neal 0 0-0 0, Kibling 3 0-0 6, Liedes 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 9-11 57.

3-point goals - Kodiak 5 (Frick 5); Kenai 4 (Battistelli 2, Berg 1, Spry 1).

Team fouls - Kodiak 13; Kenai 15. Fouled out - Spalding, J. McKee.


Thursday girls

Stars 49, Moose 39

Soldotna 16 1 16 16 -49

Palmer 14 6 11 8 -39

SOLDOTNA (49) - Benson 8 2-2 21, Kress 0 0-0 0, Litchfield 3 1-2 7, Wong 0 1-2 1, Hendricks 0 0-0 0, Kerkvliet 4 3-4 11, Westerman 1 0-0 2, Skjold 2 3-6 7. Totals 18 10-16 49.

PALMER (39) - Blake 10 2-5 23, Southwick 0 0-0 0, DePriest 4 0-1 8, Scott 2 0-0 5, Osiensky 0 0-0 0, Straight 0 1-2 1, L. DePriest 0 2-2 2. Totals 16 5-10 39.

3-point goals - Soldotna 3 (Benson 3); Palmer 2 (Blake 1, Scott 1).

Team fouls - Soldotna 12; Palmer 15. Fouled out - none.


Knights 45, Kardinals 27

Colony 11 14 8 12 -45

Kenai 15 3 4 5 -27

COLONY (45) - Klapperich 2 3-6 8, Farris 3 0-0 8, Tweed 1 0-0 3, Scott 0 0-0 0, Stephens 1 0-1 2, Turcotte 1 0-0 2, Willardson 0 0-0 0, Brumbaugh 0 1-2 1, Michaelson 0 4-4 4, Solano 5 7-8 17, Bonn 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 15-21 45.

KENAI (27) - Ostrander 0 0-0 0, English 2 1-2 6, Drury 0 0-0 0, Taylor 3 2-4 8, Steinbeck 0 1-2 1, Norvelle 2 0-1 4, Ross 2 0-0 4, Barcus 0 4-6 4, Every 0 0-0 0. Totals 9 8-15 27.

3-point goals - Colony 4 (Farris 2, Klapperich 1, Tweed 1); Kenai 1 (English).

Team fouls - Colony 19; Kenai 20. Fouled out - Norvelle.


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