The Skyview High School girls basketball team opened up their own tournament in thrilling fashion Thursday.
Down by five points to the Houston Hawks to start the final quarter, the Panthers clawed their way back to send the game into overtime but fell short in the extra period 59-55 in the opening game of the Skyview Peninsula Challenge.
In other games Thursday, Soldotna defeated Valdez 42-38, Kenai downed Grace 60-26 and Nikiski beat Mt. Edgecumbe 63-20.
Skyview plays Valdez (2:45 p.m.) and Grace squares off with Mt. Edgecumbe (4:40 p.m.) today in the consolation bracket while Houston plays Soldotna (6:15 p.m.) and Nikiski plays Kenai (8 p.m.) in the championship semifinals.
"I couldn't ask for the girls to play any harder than they did," said Skyview coach Joe Trujillo. "I commend the way they were able to come back and make a game of it."
"I think we proved something," Skyview's Christina Colvin said. "It was just unfortunate that we lost. I think we could have pulled it out. We had a chance."
Skyview opened the fourth quarter with Jenny Carpenter at the free throw line, cutting Houston's lead to three points with a pair of free throws.
A Panther turnover led to two Houston points, but Skyview broke Houston's press with a series of nice passes and Carpenter finished off the break with a layup for two points, keeping the Panthers within three.
Skyview still trailed by three (47-44) with 2:45 left in the game, but good team defense forced a Houston turnover. Amanda Bauer turned the Skyview possession into two points with her baseline drive, and Colvin, fouled and sent to the line while chasing down an errant Houston pass, hit the second of two free throws to tie the game at 47.
Houston's Kerrie Aldeman took a pass off an inbound under the Skyview basket and scored, giving the Hawks a two-point lead, but Colvin came up with a clutch 3-pointer from the top of the circle to give Skyview a one-point lead -- its first since the first quarter -- with 35 seconds left in the game.
"I wasn't really thinking," Colvin said of the shot. "It was just something I felt and I did."
Aldeman went 1-for-2 from the foul line on Houston's next trip down the floor, though, and the Panthers couldn't get another shot off before the buzzer sounded the end of regulation.
Skyview cooled off from the foul line in the four-minute overtime, going 2-for-6 after hitting on nine of 13 foul shots in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks kept hitting their free throws in the overtime (5-for-8 in overtime), and added baskets by Joelle Nicole and Christine Loeffler to earn the win.
Colvin made it interesting with another clutch 3-point basket with just under a minute to play, pulling Skyview back to within three, but a Houston foul shot extended the lead back to four and Skyview didn't get another good look at the basket.
Houston coach Norm Bouchard was happy to see his team sinking their foul shots.
"That's been a struggle for us," Bouchard said of his team's foul shooting, adding that the Hawks had only been shooting about 35 percent form the line. "We were 24-for-36 -- that's around 60 percent, so that's a big improvement for us."
Bouchard was impressed -- and a little nervous -- with what he saw from the Panthers.
"We knew they were going to be as athletic as heck," Bouchard said. "I was a little surprised that they weren't bigger -- happily surprised -- but they can go 10 deep easily."
In fact, eight players on the Panthers roster broke into the scoring column and all 10 players suited up saw significant minutes.
"We have a very balanced team this year," Trujillo said. "We have 10 kids fighting for starting spots. We do have a few athletes that have an upper hand in terms of skills -- Amanda Bauer, Jenny Carpenter and Christina Colvin in particular -- but the other girls make up for it with hustle."
SOLDOTNA 42, VALDEZ 38
Soldotna's Rachel Besse hit a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left in the game to break a 38-38 ties, and the Stars added two more points for good measure and the win.
Danielle Kerrone got the Stars started off on the right foot, drilling a 3-pointer on Soldotna's opening possession.
Gretta Besse led the Stars with 12 points while Rachel Besse finished with 10 points.
Keyshea Gibbs netted 12 points to lead the Buccaneers.
KENAI 60, GRACE 26
The Kardinals applied their smothering defense to the Grizzlies in their opening-round win.
Erin Smith led the Kardinals balanced attack with 13 points while 10 of her teammates also found their way into the scoring column.
Kara VanKooten scored 16 points for Grace.
MT. EDGECUMBE 20
The Bulldogs ran away from the Braves, pulling out to a 31-8 lead at the half.
Laura Berdahl paced the Bulldogs with 23 points while Sally Glaze poured in 13 points and Karen Rabung netted 12 points.
Mt. Edgecumbe's top scorer Melanie Beans finished with nine points.
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