If the Kenai Central boys basketball game team learned one lesson in its third straight Northern Lights Conference victory, it was the importance of taking care of the ball.
That was the focal point of coach Ken Felchle's postgame speech following his squad's 48-37 grind-it-out win over Homer at Kenai Middle School on Wednesday.
Felchle estimated the team committed 20 turnovers in the first half alone on a night when its plan to push the tempo backfired at times thanks to sloppy passes and hurried shots.
"That was a point of emphasis," Felchle said of pushing the pace on offense. "But we were just not disciplined with the basketball."
Kenai Central (7-6 overall, 4-2 league) led the entire game, taking a 13-5 lead into the second quarter, but it never got into a consistent offensive flow. Homer struggled from the field much of the game -- and from the free-throw line, going 9-of-22 -- which allowed the Kards to get away with unforced errors and poor decision-making.
Felchle credited the Mariners for playing hard and forcing the Kards into difficult choices. Kenai Central won by more than 40 points when the teams met earlier this season in Homer.
"Hats off to Homer," Felchle said. "They were fired up, and you've got to give them credit. They came out and played hard."
Homer played shorthanded because it had two players injured and a third sick, leaving the squad with seven athletes.
Given the lopsided score the first time Homer and Kenai Central played, and Homer's lack of depth this time around, Mariners coach Mark Casseri was pleased with his team's effort.
"I thought it was a great game," Casseri said. "They blew us out by 45 points at our place. Anytime you can keep Kenai under 50, I'm happy."
The game would have been even closer had the Mariners made a few more shots.
They were led by the 13 points of Devon Kennelty.
"That's high school basketball ball," Casseri said of the poor shooting performance. "These kids are not putting bread and butter on their table the way they play the game. They just work hard."
Kenai Central, meanwhile, received a game-high 14 points from Tyler Spalding. AJ Hull added 10, while Bo Reilly chipped in eight.
The Kards face Seward at 6:30 p.m. today at the middle school in an endowment game.
Felchle hopes his squad takes better care of the basketball than it did in boosting its win streak to three games.
"Every game offers a lesson," he said. "It's great when you can take a lesson away from a win."
Kenai Central girls 52, Homer 19
With each passing minute, the Homer girls basketball team found a new way to turn the ball over.
The Mariners, facing a full-court press in the first half and part of the second, threw the ball directly to opposing players. They threw the ball out of bounds. They committed 5-second penalties while trying to make inbounds passes. They dribbled the ball off their own feet.
What it all added up to was a lopsided first half and 52-19 defeat against Kenai Central in Northern Lights Conference action Tuesday at Kenai Middle School.
The Kardinals improve to 10-3 overall and 4-2 in the Northern Lights Conference with their second win in as many tries this season against the Mariners.
"We're happy with where we're at," Kenai Central coach Stacia Rustad said. "This team is a lot farther along than what (the assistant coaches) or I thought we would be at this point."
It wasn't a perfect game for the Kards, who at times were out of sync on offense during the first quarter, but it was a thorough victory.
They took a 15-0 lead after the first eight minutes and bumped it to 19-0 before the Mariners scored their first basket at the 6:50 mark of the second.
The score was 28-8 by halftime, and six of the points for Homer came on free-throw attempts. Many of Kenai Central's baskets came off turnovers generated by the press.
For the first part of the third, the Kards kept pressing, opening the period on a 10-0 run and extending the lead to as many as 36.
Homer scored nine of its 19 points in the fourth quarter.
"Overall, as a team effort, we are pleased. We got everyone in the game and playing significant minutes," Rustad said. "Whenever you can do that and beat a team by 30, there have got to be some good things happening."
Kenai Central used the same defensive approach and enjoyed a similar first half Saturday against Skyview, outscoring the Panthers 11-0 over the first eight minutes and building a 21-2 halftime advantage.
On Wednesday, the Mariners managed just one field goal over the first 21 minutes and six for the game -- four in the fourth quarter against the Kards' reserves.
Kenai Central, meanwhile, had three players score in double figures, led by Raquel Young's 12 points. Morgan Wensley added 10, as did Stevie Dunlap.
Homer played a zone defense most of the game, a contrast to Kenai Central's ball-pressure defense.
"I thought we handled it just fine. We had quality looks at the basket. Not all of them went in, but that's never going to be the case," Rustad said. "We put 52 points on the board and we haven't done that in weeks. So just to give the kids some confidence that they are able to score, we are happy with that."
It was the second blowout win for Kenai Central over Homer this season.
Senior point guard Allie McGahan returned to action after missing the past two games with an injured ankle, though Hope Steffensen, who moved from varsity to junior varsity last week, saw playing time.
Rustad said McGahan has yet to reach 100 percent, but her health continues to improve.
The Kards face Seward in an endowment game at 5 p.m. today at the middle school.
Kardinals 48, Mariners 37
Homer 5 9 8 15 --37
Kenai 13 5 17 13 --48
HOMER (37) -Johnson 5, Reinert 2, Jester 10, Wood 1, Kennelty 13. Totals - 13 9-22 38.
KENAI CENTRAL (48) - Risung 3, Ziehmer 0, Landry 1, T. Spalding 14, Sandahl 2, Reilly 8, S. Spalding 0, Wensley 5, Hayes 5. Totals - 17 13-20 48.
3-point field goals - Homer 2 (Jester 2); Kenai Central 1 (Wensley). Team fouls - Homer 17, Kenai Central 17. Fouled out - none.
Kardinals 52, Mariners 19
Homer 0 8 2 9 --19
Kenai Central 15 13 16 18 --52
HOMER (19) - Oliver 1, Ketelle, Tutt 4, Seeger 0, Needham 0, Hutt 0, Koplin 0, Mastolier 0, Tennison 2, B. Edens 6, K. Edens 2. Totals - 6 7-8 19.
KENAI CENTRAL (52) - Beeson 0, Chay 4, Dunlap 10, Garcia 2, Glonek 0, Jackman 0, Kelley, Kiefer 2, McGahan 4, Sandahl 4, Wensley 10, Young 12, Steffensen 2. Totals - 16 8-11 52.
3-point field goals - Homer none; Kenai Central 2 (Dunlap 2).
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