Last year, it was for a state championship. This year, it was for a measuring stick.
In a rematch of the Class 4A state boys title game from last year, the Dimond boys defeated Soldotna 59-50 on Friday in Soldotna.
Both teams return just one starter from last year's epic state final, which the Lynx pulled out, 55-52, in overtime. It was Dimond's fourth state title and SoHi's first trip to the state final.
Dimond coach Brad Galosich, whose team is now 11-3, said he scheduled this game this year as a test for his team.
"We were very up for this," Galosich said. "They're a good team with a good coach. They almost beat us last year.
"I didn't want to lose to them this year, but I knew this was a tough place to play."
The Lynx took control with an 8-0 run that ended when Ryden Hines dumped in a rebound layup with 3:05 left in the second quarter for an 18-8 lead.
When DJ Stilchin scored with 3:00 left in the second quarter, the bucket broke a scoreless string of 7 minutes, 15 seconds, for the Stars.
"In the second quarter, we got really stagnant offensively," said SoHi coach Matt Johnson after falling to 11-5.
The Stars started the game by scoring eight points in under six minutes, but when the Lynx switched to a 1-3-1 zone trap, Soldotna started to struggle.
"I think that did a great job of slowing them down," Galosich said. "With (Boomer) Blossom and (Blaine) Carver, they're able to score a lot of points.
"To hold them to 13 points in the first half is impressive."
Johnson said his team practiced attacking the 1-3-1 and actually expected the Lynx to start the game in that defense.
"I don't think we moved the ball well," Johnson said. "I don't think we made the extra pass. We weren't in an attacking mode on offense."
The Stars missed their first 10 3-point attempts before Josh Barnes buried a trifecta with 2:12 left until halftime. Soldotna was 2-of-10 from the field with seven turnovers in the second quarter.
The Lynx got most of the first-half offense they needed from sophomore big man Hines. He outscored Soldotna 14-13 in the first 16 minutes and finished with a game-high 22 points.
"He's a force and he's only a sophomore," Galosich said. "He's only going to get better."
Soldotna improved on offense in the third quarter, hitting 6-of-11 from the field with two turnovers, but Dimond more than matched that efficiency, going 7-of-10 from the floor with two turnovers.
Soldotna pulled within nine points in the third quarter -- the closest the Stars would get for the rest of the game.
"I told them to concentrate on executing and taking care of the ball," Galosich said.
In the fourth quarter, the all-around game of senior guard Travis Thompson came to the fore. Thompson, who will play for the University of Alaska Anchorage next season, scored 11 of his 19 points in the final frame as Dimond was 8-of-11 from the floor with three turnovers.
"I thought we got great senior leadership from Travis Thompson," Galosich said.
Johnson said Dylon Story and Carver did a good job in the fourth quarter pressuring the ball and creating some easy baskets, but he added that Soldotna's pressure defense also resulted in easy baskets for Dimond.
The Stars scored 22 points in the fourth quarter after scoring just 28 in the first three quarters. Blossom paced the Stars with 18 points, while Carver added 11. Luke Adams added 10 for Dimond.
"We've got to hit the court ready to take care of business," Johnson said. "It was the same thing against Homer and Kenai. It wasn't until we had our backs to the wall that we went on something like a 7-0 run.
"We can't wait. We have to be ready to play all 32 minutes."
The Stars came back from a 17-7 deficit after the first quarter to claim a nonconference victory Saturday at Soldotna.
Soldotna got back in the game by outscoring the Wolverines 27-13 in the second quarter. SoHi then took control of the game by winning the third quarter 23-13.
SoHi had a big advantage at the foul line in the game, going 24-of-26, while South was 16-of-30. Blossom had 31 points, while Carver added 14.
For the Wolverines, Ben Tornga had 21, T.J. McKinney had 17 and Logan McGinnis added 12.
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