Kenais Kyla Steward battles Homers Reba Temple for the tipoff Thursday night at Kenai Central.
M. Scott Moon
After blowing a seven-point lead and falling behind by three early in the third quarter, Kenai coach Jim Beeson let his kids play.
“I didn’t call any timeouts. I was thinking about it,” he said. “Then I thought, ‘Let’s just try to play through it.’”
Turns out it was a wise move.
Fueled by 10 points from Nate Saltzgiver, the Kardinals strung together a 17-1 run, turning a 36-33 deficit into a 13-point advantage and held on to beat visiting Homer, 69-60, on Thursday night.
“If they had scored one more time and if we had gone down by five, I’d have called a timeout,” Beeson explained. “The kids just did a good job. They hung in there and they kept their composure.”
Following his first basket of the game only 1:54 into the contest, the junior captain went cold the rest of the opening frame before running off eight consecutive Kenai points in the second, breaking a tie and helping the Kardinals jump back on top by three with 2:07 remaining in the first half.
A 7-0 Mariners’ spurt brought the teams even at 22 before Saltzgiver who collected a game-high 28 points drained a deep 3-pointer and junior Cory Toombs sank a trey of his own with three seconds left to send the Kardinals into the locker room leading by two.
Homer’s surprising run didn’t end there, though, as Adam Treiweiler netted five points and Noah McWilliams capped a 7-2 run to open the third, giving the Mariners their biggest lead of the game, 36-33.
“They just wanted it worse than we did there in that little stretch,” Beeson said. “And we stood around and watched and thought ... just because we had beaten them twice before, we were going to beat them.”
Senior Nathan Byrd responded with five points and Saltzgiver then added two 3’s and a slicing, acrobatic lay-in for a 48-37 advantage. Then on the ensuing possession, Daniel Gustkey stole the ball and found Saltzgiver underneath for an easy two and the exclamation point on the 17-1 stretch with under a minute to play in the third.
“The kids kind of look to him to be the leader of the group,” Beeson said of Saltzgiver. “He is one of our captains. It’s just kind of expected of him because he’s been there and done it before.”
The Mariners crept back into the game in the closing minutes of the fourth when a 7-0 run trimmed the deficit to seven, but Toombs who scored 19 points sank 6-of-6 from the charity stripe to seal the victory.
“Homer’s got a lot better and they’ve got some kids that they didn’t have when we played them earlier,” Beeson said. “We didn’t play as well as we wanted to play, but we won the basketball game.
“When they went ahead, we had chances to just lay over and fold and we didn’t do that,” he added. “We hung in there. We made some plays when we had to and we won the basketball game. That’s the most important thing.”
Homer girls 55, Kenai 41
Having already undergone surgery to repair her injured knee, Kenai senior and leading scorer Samantha Navarre is out for the season.
And the Kardinals knew that.
Unfortunately, they discovered on Thursday that freshman point guard Samantha Hull is now lost for the year as well.
“Samantha Hull, she just got her reading (Thursday) and it’s a torn ACL,” Kenai coach Ken Felchle said.
Despite the absence of two crucial players, the Kardinals held their own against a bigger and more physical Mariners’ team on Thursday, but fell just short despite a valiant comeback.
“Our overall performance (Thursday), I cannot say enough good things about it. I am very pleased,” Felchle said. “Our kids, the rest of them, stepped up really well. We had a big performance (Thursday).”
Trailing 16-6 after the opening quarter and 22-13 with under two minutes to play in the first half, Kenai senior Damaris Craig scored five straight Kardinals points, trimming the deficit to eight at the break.
It could have been more, though, had Kenai not limited Homer’s biggest threat, junior Reba Temple, to only six points through the first 16 minutes.
“She’s really hard to stop. She is just a very good, quality basketball player,” Felchle said. “She’s got great size and you can’t coach size. It’s not only her size. She does things fundamentally right.”
Due in part to her strong rebounding skills, Temple eventually got rolling, scoring six of her 15 points on a 12-4 run that extended Homer’s lead to 40-24 near the end of the third.
“We are struggling on the rebounding all year long and that hasn’t changed ... Yes, we could have rebounded more and that could be our saying every game. But I told the kids, I refuse to be negative (Thursday),” Felchle said. “They played their hearts out and they were in the basketball game against a very quality team and (Homer has) beat some pretty big opponents, including Soldotna.”
The Kardinals cut the deficit to nine points on two occasions in the fourth quarter following baskets by junior Kyla Steward (12 points) and Craig (13 points), but Allison Horazdovsky scored four of her 15 points down the stretch in helping to stave off the comeback. Senior Rachel Bornheimer also collected 15 points for the Mariners.
“It’s a tribute to Kenai,” said Homer coach Tim Daugharty. “They fought back and they’ve gone through some adversity. We have, too.
“The girls are improving,” he added. “The region tournament’s going to be something up here. On both sides, it’s going to be pretty exciting basketball.”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at matthew.carroll @peninsulaclarion.com.
KARDINALS 69, MARINERS 60
Homer 12 17 10 21 60
Kenai 16 15 21 17 69
HOMER (60) Ketelle 5 1-2 13, Edens 1 0-0 2, Leman 3 0-0 8, Tutt 3 0-0 7, Gilbert 0 1-2 1, Parker 1 0-0 3, Treiweiler 2 0-0 5, Layland 3 1-6 7, Fielding 4 0-0 8, McWilliams 2 2-3 6. Totals 24 5-13 60.
KENAI (69) Saltzgiver 10 4-4 28, Beeson 1 1-4 3, Toombs 4 8-8 19, Gustkey 4 0-0 10, Byrd 4 1-1 9, Lazaro 0 0-0 0, Chimphalee 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 14-17 69.
3-point goals Homer 7 (Ketelle 2, Leman 2, Tutt 1, Parker 1, Treiweiler 1), Kenai 9 (Saltzgiver 4, Toombs 3, Gustkey 2). Total fouls Homer 15, Kenai 15. Fouled out none.
MARINERS 55, KARDINALS 41
Homer 16 10 16 13 55
Kenai 6 12 10 13 41
HOMER (55) Bornheimer 7 1-5 15, Horazdovsky 5 4-6 15, R. Temple 6 3-6 15, Gavenus 1 0-2 2, Siekaniec 1 6-6 8. Totals 20 14-25 55.
KENAI (41) Craig 6 1-1 13, Mills 2 0-0 4, Steward 5 2-2 12, Foley 4 0-0 8, Kennedy 0 1-2 1, Wortham 0 1-2 1, Gabriel 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 5-7 41.
3-point goals Homer 1 (Horazdovsky).
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.