The opponent's star sat on the bench to end the game. The Soldotna girls basketball team called on its own star to win the game.
Kenai Central senior Racquel Young fouled out with five minutes remaining, and Soldotna closed with a 10-1 run behind leading scorer Kaillee Skjold for a come-from-behind victory at home Tuesday evening, 41-38.
The Kards led most of the Northern Lights Conference game, but failed to score a field goal over the final five minutes after their leading scorer was sent to the bench with five fouls. They managed just five points in the fourth quarter.
"It was a good eye-opener for the rest of this team, that other individuals have to step up and score for us," Kenai Central coach Stacia Rustad said. "We cannot rely on one person to make baskets when we need them."
Young finished with a team-high 14 points and touched the ball nearly every possession, but was sent to the bench with five fouls after she was called for a charge with 5:01 to play and her team up 37-31.
That's when the Stars -- and Skjold -- came to life.
Skjold scored two of her 17 points on the ensuing possession after Young fouled out, cutting the lead to 37-33 with a layup. Becca Satathite then hit a 3-pointer from 2 feet behind the line at the 2:30 mark to make it 38-36 after Kenai Central had hit a free throw.
With 1:43 to play, SoHi senior guard Kaili Sholin rattled in a running right-handed layup to tie it 38-38.
Then, after Kenai Central's Morgan Wensley missed what would have been the go-ahead layup, Skjold drew a foul at the end of a furious scramble for the ball. The sophomore pulled in consecutive offensive rebounds in heavy traffic under the hoop, finally drawing a whistle as she went up for a third shot.
She made both free throws, putting the Stars up 40-38 for their first lead since the second quarter.
"She wasn't going to be denied there at the end," SoHi coach Mark Tuter said. "She was determined. For a sophomore that's really pretty nifty."
Down 41-38, the Kards had a chance to tie the game inside 10 seconds. Allie McGahan inbounded the ball to Stevie Dunlap in front of the Kenai Central bench.
Before Dunlap could make a pass, two SoHi defenders swarmed her. She lost control of the ball, nearly called a timeout the team didn't have and the ball rolled out of bounds with 2.1 seconds to play.
The Stars ran out the clock.
It was a much-needed victory for the Stars (7-6, 2-2), who lost consecutive games over the weekend on the road against Colony and Palmer.
With the win, Soldotna moves into a tie with Kenai Central in the Northern Lights Conference as both squads hold 2-2 league records.
"It's great for morale," Tuter said.
Bailey Beeson played for the first time this season for Kenai Central and figures to see more and more action.
The Kards (8-3, 2-2) will look to regroup as they prepare to face powerhouse Dimond on Friday.
"If we don't figure some things out, it could be a rough night for us," Rustad said.
Kenai Central boys 48, Soldotna 30
With a pair of defenders draped over him and the clock winding down, AJ Hull fell away from the basket and let the ball go.
After it fell through the net as the buzzer marked the end of the third quarter, the Kenai Central guard turned to the Kardinals student section and let out a celebratory bellow.
It was that kind of night for Kenai Central, which rebounded from consecutive losses over the weekend with a 48-30 win Tuesday over Soldotna on the road.
"The feeling was, 'Yes, it was a good shot. But we've still got to finish the game,'" Hull said of his buzzer beater at the end of the third, which gave the Kards a 35-19 lead. "It was more momentum to get us toward the victory."
Kenai Central built a commanding 39-19 lead early in the fourth thanks to a 14-0 run, spanning more than eight minutes between the third and fourth quarters.
Just days after the Stars used a barrage of 3-pointers to upset Colony on the road, the Kards shut Soldotna down.
SoHi didn't post a double-digit scoring in any quarter until the fourth, by which time Kenai Central had a comfortable edge.
Using long, methodical possessions, the Kards dominated time of possession by passing the ball around the perimeter and waiting for open shots.
They held SoHi to 13 points in the first half on just five field goals.
"We said tonight, we have to play defense, we have to box out and we need to make our easy shots," Kenai Central coach Ken Felchle said. "I couldn't tell you anybody who scored, I couldn't tell you how many points Tyler (Spaulding) had. There were two numbers I focused on -- we gave up 13 points in the first half, to that team, and gave up 17 points in the second. To me that says, 'Team.'"
Felchle believes the team has underachieved through the first 11 games and can't assume one win will translate to more.
He said the team huddled following back-to-back losses at Colony and Palmer this weekend and decided it was time to turn things around.
"The Valley trip was a disappointment, to say the least," Felchle said. "We know our potential, but we have to play more as a team."
Tyler Spaulding, who missed the first part of the season because of injury, scored a game-high 19 points.
Hull added 13.
Despite the win, Felchle wasn't ready to label Kenai Central favorites over SoHi in the Northern Lights Conference.
"This doesn't change my mind. They are still probably the team to beat in our half (of the conference)," Felchle said.
The Kards continue league play against Skyview on Saturday.
The mind-set going in?
"Just team -- teamwork," Hull said. "Just focusing on what makes us good as a team."
Skyview, Homer split
The Skyview girls and Homer boys picked up victories in NLC action on Tuesday in Homer.
The Panthers girls toppled the Mariners 28-21. In the boys game, Homer grabbed a 16-8 lead after one quarter and won 58-37. Devon Kennelty led the Mariners with nine points, while Jordan Jones had 13 for Skyview.
Stars 41, Kardinals 38
Kenai Central 14 7 12 5 --38
Soldotna 9 10 9 13 --41
KENAI CENTRAL (38) -- Beeson 0 0-1 0, Dunlap 3 0-0 8, Kiefer 2 1-2 5, McGahan 0 0-0 0, Sandahl 0 0-0 0, Wensley 5 1-2 11, Young 6 2-4 14. Totals -- 16 4-9 38.
SOLDOTNA (41) -- Benson 1 0-0 3, Sholin 2 0-1 4, Litchfield 1 4-8 6, Skjold 7 3-4 17, Westerman 1 0-0 2, Satathite 4 0-2 9. Totals -- 16 7-15 41.
3-point field goals -- Kenai Central 2(Dunlap 2); Soldota 2 (Satathite, Benson). Team fouls -- Kenai Central 13, Soldotna 12. Fouled out -- Young.
Kardinals 48, Stars 30
Kenai Central 13 9 13 13 --48
Soldotna 6 7 6 11 --30
KENAI CENTRAL (48) -- Risung 0 2-2 2, Hull 5 2-8 13, T. Spalding 8 3-5 19, Sandahl 1 0-0 3, Reilly 2 1-2 6, S. Spalding 0 1-2 1, Wensley 1 0-0 2, Hayes 1 0-0 2. Totals -- 18 9-19 48.
SOLDOTNA (30) -- Schneider 2 0-0 5, Jackson 1 1-2 3, Carver 2 0-0 5, Skjold 2 0-1 4, Smithwick 2 0-0 5, Withrow 2 2-3 6, Bosick 0 2-2 2. Totals -- 11 5-8 30.
3-point field goals -- Kenai Central 3 (Hull, Sandahl, Reilly); Soldotna 3 (Smithwick, Carver, Schneider). Team fouls -- Kenai Central 11, Soldotna 18. Fouled out -- Bosick.
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