There are two undefeated girls hoops teams left in the Northern Lights Conference this year, and the Kenai Central Kardinals were faced with the task of playing both of them in a four-day span.
Ultimately, it was Kodiak keeping its unbeaten season alive with a 61-28 win over Kenai on Friday night, getting their first Northern Lights Conference win of the year at Kenai Central High School.
Saturday, Kodiak won 45-15 to move to 13-0. The Bears had a 25-5 lead at halftime.
The Soldotna Stars are the other girls squad with a clean sheet, having beaten Kenai on Tuesday and topping conference rival Colony 56-53 in double overtime on Friday to improve to 11-0. Kenai dropped to 4-5 (4-4 conference) with Friday's loss.
In Friday's game against Kodiak, the Kards had trouble keeping six-foot-one senior Hannah Wandersee from scoring under the basket. Wandersee led all players with 18 points.
"Hannah has really improved a lot since last year," said Kodiak coach Amy Fogle. "I was just glad to see that we were able to come out and run our stuff. We were able to get the ball inside, we had a little bit of a size difference, and we did a nice job of that and forcing our guards out."
Kodiak's Jerica Nelson contributed 14 points, and Megan Pyles added 11.
Kenai was led by freshman Abby Beck with eight points. Senior starter Justice English was held to only two points, both on free throws.
"I would be hard-pressed to have somebody to change my mind that they're not going to win state," said Kenai coach Stacia Rustad. "They are absolutely solid from every position.
"That said, we knew going into the game that we were going to have our hands full from every position on the floor."
Rustad agreed that turnovers is what kept her team from keeping up with the Bears.
"They made us pay the price," Rustad said. "Turning the ball over gave them easy transition baskets. We definitely need to focus on keeping a handle on the ball in the half court."
Kodiak scored the game's first seven points, then proceeded to up the margin to 14-2 after the first seven minutes were done, with Wandersee and Nelson doing much of the damage — Wandersee from the post and Nelson from the perimeter. The duo accounted for 15 of Kodiak's first 20 points.
Trailing 33-16 at halftime, the Kards needed a strong push early in the second half if they expected to sneak a win out of Kodiak. The Kards had pulled to within 10 points — 26-16 with 1:18 left in the first half — of Kodiak, but the Bears ended with seven quick points off turnovers, including a long jumper at the buzzer.
"I think Kenai did a great job," Fogle said. "They execute their stuff very well and play excellent defense. But we're hard to match up with."
Coming out of the locker room, Kenai managed to keep the margin steady at first, but the Bears eventually used their size and speed to their advantage, scoring eight points in less than a minute midway through the third quarter to push their lead to 43-18.
"We played seven freshman and sophomores, and they held their own," Rustad said. "I think that is a huge compliment to our team.
"Amy is a quality coach, she did a lot of subbing, and not every coach does that. They could have easily ran away from us and she chose to not to, which in turn helps not only her program but ours as well."
Kodiak and Kenai will face off again at Kenai Saturday at 3 p.m. The Kodiak and Kenai boys will then play at 6 p.m.
Bears 61, Kardinals 28
Kodiak 14 19 12 16 —61
Kenai 4 12 11 1 —28
KODIAK (61) — McKechnie 0 0-0 0, Horn 1 0-0 2, Nelson 6 2-2 14, Fabricante 0 0-0 0, Cannon 4 2-5 10, Catt 1 1-4 3, Hiner 1 1-2 3, Pyles 5 1-2 11, Wandersee 9 0-0 18, Hughes 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 7-15 61.
KENAI (28) — Ostrander 0 1-2 1, English 0 2-2 2, Drury 0 0-0 0, A. Steinbeck 0 1-2 1, Creighton 2 0-0 4, Baker 1 0-0 2, C. Steinbeck 1 0-1 2, Barcus 2 2-5 6, Beck 2 4-6 8, Every 1 0-0 2. Totals 9 10-18 28.
3-point field goals — none.
Team fouls — Kodiak 16; Kenai 11.