The good players -- the really good players -- realize it's the last word that counts.
Kelly Quinn, a first-team all-state player and four-year starter for the Colony girls basketball team, had the last word Friday in the Knights' 43-42 Region III/4A victory at Soldotna.
The Colony boys, meanwhile, cruised to an 81-36 victory over the Stars.
Up until three seconds remained in the girls game, it hadn't been a banner day for Quinn. She'd only scored nine points, and one-third of those came on a 3-pointer on which she didn't call the bank in the second quarter.
Then, with 19 seconds left and her team clinging to a 41-39 lead, Quinn left Erin Wolfe alone at the top of the key. Wolfe calmly drilled a 3-pointer to give Soldotna a 42-41 lead.
When Colony's Carly Thaggard missed a sideline jumper with five seconds to play, it appeared Wolfe's jumper would prove to be the game-winner.
That was before Quinn stepped up to have the final say in the matter. She snatched up Thaggard's miss and, with three seconds left, was fouled as she tried to toss the ball back at the basket.
Then, just as she did as a freshman against Palmer and a junior against Wasilla, Quinn calmly bottomed out the game-winning foul shots.
"I was feeling kind of down because it was my man that hit the shot that put us behind in the first place," Quinn said. "Soldotna had been scoring a lot down low, so I was helping down there and I left her open.
"On the rebound, I was surprised the refs called that and sent me to the line with three seconds left. But, we got the call."
Quinn's heroics put a damper on a helter-skelter comeback attempt by Soldotna in the final minutes of the game.
The Stars were down 41-36 after Thaggard nailed a jumper with 3:00 left, but Rachel Besse hit a foul shot to make it 41-37 with 2:43 left.
With 2:05 left, and Colony holding the ball, Soldotna switched out of its zone into a man-to-man defense to try and create some turnovers.
The switch worked as the Stars created two turnovers in the final two minutes. One led to a rebound layup by Jenna Syverson that made it 41-39 with 50 seconds left, and the second led to Wolfe's go-ahead 3-pointer.
"I was surprised that we didn't handle that situation well," Colony coach Don Witzel said of the final two minutes. "We weren't actually trying to just hold the ball. We were looking for easy baskets off backdoor cuts.
"Give them credit, though. They didn't give up any easy baskets, and they put enough pressure on us to cause turnovers."
After a slow first quarter for both teams, the game turned into a battle of Soldotna's height vs. the outside shooting and press of Colony's guard-orientated attack.
When Soldotna was playing well, it was because the Stars were beating Colony's press, then getting the ball in position for twin towers Besse and Hillary Zobeck to score.
Besse finished with 13 points, while Zobeck added 10.
"We did a lot of things well tonight," Soldotna coach Mark Tuter said. "In the end, though, we had too many turnovers and too many missed layups."
Colony, meanwhile, tended to get its points in spurts when its press was creating turnovers and its guards were hitting from the outside.
A prime example came in the second quarter when the Knights were trailing 15-9, then scored nine points in just 13 seconds to take an 18-15 lead.
The three-headed guard attack for the Knights consisted of Thaggard (13 points), Quinn (11 points) and Siena Locke (11 points).
Colony boys 81, Soldotna 36
The Knights ended this one early, taking a 44-8 lead at halftime of the Region III/4A contest.
With the game out-of-hand, though, Soldotna coach Bill Withrow still saw an opportunity for his team to grow.
"At halftime, obviously the game was out of reach," Withrow said. "We decided to play it as a 0-0 game and see where things came out after halftime."
In the second half, the Knights outscored the Stars 37-28, but it was a marked improvement over the whitewashing in the first half.
"It showed us we can at least play with some of these better teams," Withrow said.
In the first half, the Stars had loads of problems with Colony's size and strength under the basket.
Brandon Hyslip, a 6-foot-5 junior, had his way in the paint for most of the evening, finishing with 26 points. Jason Christensen, a 6-3 junior, also used his strength to get free for 18 points.
"They've obviously been in the weight room," Withrow said of the Knights. "That's one of the things we're trying to get through to our team -- you need to be in the gym and in the weight room in the offseason if you want to be successful.
"That's one thing I hope they learned tonight."
Withrow said the team also was dealing with the loss of a pair of seniors to injury last week in practice.
Iver Kohler, a key sub for Soldotna, was lost for the year, while Adam Kiffmeyer, a starter, was lost for a couple of weeks.
Withrow said he was pleased with the guard play he received in the second half from Tommy Turnbull, who finished with 11 points, and Kyle Nettles.
KNIGHTS 43, STARS 42
Colony 7 15 8 13 --43
Soldotna 7 12 13 10 --42
COLONY (43) -- Colberg 1 0-0 2, Quinn 4 2-4 11, Menard 1 0-0 2, Thaggard 5 2-2 13, Beckman 0 0-0 0, Locke 4 1-1 11, Klapperich 1 2-2 4. Totals -- 16 7-9 43.
SOLDOTNA (42) -- A. Penner 0 0-0 0, Senette 2 0-0 6, Wolfe 2 0-0 5, Christensen 0 0-0 0, Besse 6 1-2 13, S. Penner 1 0-0 2, Syverson 1 0-0 2, Tabor 0 0-0 0, Zobeck 5 0-2 10, Breakfield 1 2-2 4. Totals --18 3-6 42.
3-point goals -- Colony 4 (Locke 2, Thaggard 1, Quinn 1); Soldotna 3 (Senette 2, Wolfe 1). Total fouls -- Colony 5, Soldotna 8. Fouled out -- none.
KNIGHTS 81, STARS 36
Colony 21 23 21 16 --81
Soldotna 6 2 15 13 --36
COLONY (81) -- Swank 5 0-0 12, Reza 5 2-5 12, Hotchkiss 0 0-0 0, Erikson 0 0-0 0, Coffman 0 0-0 0, Spencer 3 1-4 7, Christensen 7 1-2 18, Rose 0 1-2 1, Hyslip 12 2-3 26, McBride 2 0-0 5. Totals --34 7-16 81.
SOLDOTNA (36) -- Turnbull 3 2-2 11, Nettles 1 0-0 3, Histand 2 0-0 4, Kennedy 3 0-0 6, Richman 0 1-4 1, Sizemore 1 0-0 2, Baker 0 0-0 0, Michal 2 2-2 6, Simpson 1 1-1 3. Totals -- 13 6-9 36.
3-point goals -- Colony 6 (Christensen 3, Swank 2, McBride 1); Soldotna 4 (Turnbull 3, Nettles 1). Total fouls -- Colony 12, Soldotna 15. Fouled out -- Richman.
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