For this night at least, it was the Soldotna boys, not the Soldotna girls, flaunting explosion on offense.
The Soldotna boys scored 29 points in the second period Friday at Soldotna High School in upsetting Kenai Central 60-57 in Region III/4A basketball.
Meanwhile, the Soldotna girls scored just 26 points in the entire game in avoiding an upset and beating patient Kenai by four points. The Stars, ranked second in Class 4A, are now 16-0.
Heading into Friday's game against Kenai, the Soldotna boys had been in a shooting slump of late. The Stars didn't shoot well in region losses to Homer and Skyview and in a nonconference loss to Nikiski Tuesday.
The trend continued in the first quarter Friday, as the Stars went 2 of 11 from the field and found themselves down 15-6.
In the second quarter, Soldotna rebounded to shoot 9 of 14 from the floor and take a 35-30 lead.
"When Kenai got 15 points in the first quarter, I was a little worried," Soldotna coach Bill Withrow said after his team improved to 1-3 in Region III/4A. "I didn't think we could keep up with that 60-point pace.
"Then, we went and got 29 points in the second quarter. That always helps."
Withrow said Soldotna's success in the second quarter stemmed from passing up decent shots in order to get excellent shots.
On the flip side, Kenai was playing without one of its top defensive players in Nick Barnes, who went out with a knee injury midway through the first quarter. As of late Friday, the severity of the injury was not known.
Kenai coach Rich Bartolowits, whose team is now 2-2 in the region, said his squad let the Stars back in the game with a number of defensive breakdowns, such as not fighting through screens.
"This was the best I've seen Soldotna play," Bartolowits said. "We started up on them, but then we gave them a taste of it.
"Once they got a taste of it, they didn't want to let it go."
Soldotna held a small lead through the third and fourth quarters thanks to a crisply run offense and a gritty, in-your-face defense that slowed Kenai's potent attack.
The Kardinals still had a chance to win it at the end of the game. Down 58-55 with 27 seconds left, Kenai's Steve Steiner, who led all scorers with 26 points, went to the line for three free throws and made two.
Cody Michal, who paced Soldotna with 14 points, answered with two free throws a second later.
CJ Horwath flies up the court on a fast break Friday at Soldotna.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
After Caleb Schooley missed a game-tying 3-pointer, Soldotna's Caleb Sizemore went to the line with a chance to clinch the game with five seconds left but missed two free throws. Michal rebounded the second miss, but was whistled for an over-and-back violation with two seconds left.
Schooley got the inbounds pass and was squaring up for a 3-pointer when Sizemore knocked the ball out of Schooley's hands to ice the win.
CJ Horwath added 13 points for Soldotna, while Tommy Turnbull pitched in with 10. For Kenai, Ian Foley had 11 points and Schooley had 10 points.
Soldotna girls 26, Kenai 22
The Kardinals took the air out of the ball, but they couldn't quite take the air out of the Stars.
Knowing Soldotna had the edge in talent, Kenai coach Jim Beeson installed a conservative plan on offense. The Kardinals, now 2-2 in the region, spread the floor and waited for the matchup they wanted, which was typically Erin Smith on whoever was guarding her.
The plan worked well as Kenai hit all six of its first-quarter shots en route to a 12-7 lead after eight minutes.
"I wasn't surprised they used that offense," Soldotna's Hillary Zobeck said after her team moved to 4-0 in the region. "It's worked on us in the past."
Meanwhile, the Stars were having a hard time getting going on offense. After spending so much time on defense, team members said they were pressing too much on offense.
"Each team knows the other so well," Soldotna point guard Jennifer Senette said. "They knew what we were doing on offense.
"They were fighting through screens before we set them."
In the end, though, Soldotna just had too many big guns for Kenai.
Rachel Besse, who paced Soldotna with nine points, scored the second quarter's first seven points as SoHi stormed back to take a 14-12 lead. The points included a nice left-handed layup and a 3-pointer.
"I didn't even know where I was on the floor," Besse said. "She was playing off of me, so I shot it. I didn't know it was a 3-pointer."
Kenai came back to take a 15-14 lead, but, in one of the game's most crucial stretches, the Kardinals committed three straight turnovers to allow the Stars to take a 20-15 lead into the half.
Kenai held the ball the entire third quarter and eight minutes of basketball failed to produce one shot at the rim. But, due to the last two minutes of the first half, SoHi still had a five-point lead heading into the final period.
That lead was just enough to hold up in the fourth quarter, despite Soldotna's continued struggles on offense.
"In the last four minutes, we were extremely impatient on offense," Soldotna coach Mark Tuter said. "I told them we took a couple of shots that Michael Jordan would have been benched for."
The Stars were clinging to a 23-20 lead when Amy Breakfield went to the line for a bonus with 30 seconds left. She missed the front end, but Besse got the rebound and fed a slashing Breakfield for a 25-20 lead. Erin Smith, who led Kenai with nine points, made it 25-22 with 11 seconds left on a rebound layup.
Senette missed the front end of a bonus with eight seconds left, but Zobeck got another crucial rebound and hit a foul shot with six seconds left to end Kenai's upset bid.
STARS 60, KARDINALS 57
Kenai 15 15 15 12 --57
Soldotna 6 29 14 11 --60
KENAI (57) -- Steiner 8 6-9 26, Chappell 0 0-0 0, Foley 3 3-3 11, Craig 0 0-0 0, Villegas 1 0-0 2, Schooley 4 2-3 10, Barnes 0 0-0 0, Gemmell 2 0-0 4, Schinn 2 0-2 4. Totals -- 20 11-17 57.
SOLDOTNA (60) -- Turnbull 3 3-5 10, Stone 0 0-0 0, Baker 3 0-0 9, Michal 4 5-6 14, Horn 0 0-0 0, Chase 0 0-0 0, Sizemore 2 1-4 6, Hall 0 0-0 0, Gomulak 0 1-2 1, Horwath 4 5-7 13, Simpson 2 2-2 7. Totals 18 17-26 60.
3-point goals -- Kenai 6 (Steiner 4, Foley 2). Total fouls -- Kenai 21, Soldotna 13. Fouled out -- none.
STARS 26, KARDINALS 22
Kenai 12 3 0 7 --22
Soldotna 7 13 0 6 --26
KENAI (22) -- Saltzgiver 1 0-0 2, Keener 0 0-0 0, Baldwin 3 0-0 6, Moore 1 0-0 2, Erin Smith 4 1-1 9, Erica Smith 1 1-2 3. Totals -- 10 2-3 22.
SOLDOTNA (26) -- Senette 1 0-1 3, Wolfe 1 2-2 4, Christensen 0 0-0 0, Besse 4 0-2 9, Syverson 1 0-0 2, Zobeck 2 2-4 6, Breakfield 1 0-1 2. Totals -- 10 6-10 26.
3-point goals -- Kenai 0; Soldotna 1 (Senette 1). Total fouls -- Kenai 13, Soldotna 4. Fouled out -- Saltzgiver.
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