Soldotna girls, boys handle Nikiski

Posted: Sunday, February 25, 2007

 

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  Nikiski's Jesse Cook shoots over Soldotna's Austin Ronerts as Larsen Kohler looks on during Friday night's game at Nikiski. Photo by Joseph Robertia

Nikiski's Sherra Pritchard chases Soldotna's Jenni Stenga during Friday night's game at Nikiski.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

For the first time in four years, Soldotna High School owns a girls basketball victory over Nikiski.

The formidable Kenai Peninsula powers clashed Friday night up the North Road, with the visiting Stars prevailing 45-31 in a defensive struggle. In the boys nightcap, Soldotna defeated Nikiski, 75-38.

Soldotna entered the eagerly anticipated girls showdown with the state’s No. 3 ranking among 4-A teams. The Bulldogs, reigning state champions, carried the No. 1 ranking among 3-A teams

And combined, the teams had posted wins in 31 of 37 outings.

“The thing we were thinking about was pride,” said Soldotna sophomore Paige Blackburn, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. “Nobody on the varsity team had beaten them. It was about pride and we got it.”

Fans wanting offense had to wait long due to the stellar defense. It wasn’t until the latter stages of the third quarter, after only three lead changes and two ties, that the Stars (16-4) claimed command.

Soldotna put the game away in the first three minutes of the final period, extending a five-point lead to 40-25 by hitting five of six shots and scoring on all but one possession. Nikiski uncharacteristically had five turnovers in as many possessions to open the quarter, finishing the evening with 27.

Blackburn, fundamentally sound when receiving the ball in the low post with her back to the basket, dropped in three turn-around jumpers with a silky touch in the clinching spurt. Senior Christa Kennedy added one off the right side and senior perimeter catalyst Mikala Smith, who finished with 10 points, added a hoop in transition.

“They came out in the second half and shot the lights out,” said Nikiski senior Hannah Thompson. “Everything we shot didn’t fall. Everything they shot fell.”

Thompson ran the point position offensively and worked defensively in the low post, coming up with an impressive game-high 15 rebounds. Becca Carlson, a senior guard, scrapped her way to 16 points to lead the Bulldogs (16-3).

Nikiski led most of the first half, buoyed early by 3-for-6 shooting from behind the 3-point line. The largest lead, however, was only four and the Stars fought their way in front by intermission, 20-19, on baskets by Smith and Blackburn.

Senior Jenni Stenga ignited the Stars to open the second half with a drive through the lane. Smith scored a three-point play, then snagged a steal and went coast-to-coast snowbird to push the lead to six.

“In the second half, we adjusted and refocused to go back inside,” said Soldotna head coach Mark Tuter. “On defense, we had let them get on the blocks a bit. We wanted to contest the 3 more.”

Soldotna’s defense thrived from the 6:30 mark of the second period to the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter. In 37 possessions, the Stars only yielded nine points, forced 20 turnovers and held Nikiski to 4-for-18 shooting.

 

Nikiski's Jesse Cook shoots over Soldotna's Austin Ronerts as Larsen Kohler looks on during Friday night's game at Nikiski.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Nikiski struggled to have pace and rhythm with its offensive sets, didn’t see a fast break caused by its defense and spent the final 16 minutes as disjointed as it has been all season. The Bulldogs finished the game with a season-low in points and only forced Soldotna into 11 turnovers.

“We outrebounded them (27-21) and played great defense,” said Nikiski head coach Ward Romans. “The effort was great and the kids did awesome work. But there were too many turnovers, and a large measure is a credit to Soldotna. We had a spurt of turnovers when they got a double-digit lead, and we never got out of it.

“Our seniors played their hearts out and really led the team.”

Soldotna boys 75, Nikiski 38

Tony Besse, a 6-6 senior, scored 12 points and five others were less than a field goal away from double figures in scoring for the Soldotna boys (15-4).

The Stars claimed a 19-9 lead after a quarter and roared ahead 48-21 at intermission. Senior Austin Roberts and junior Larsen Kohler each scored nine points while senior Kelly Seggerman and juniors Ryan Shelton and Brad Blossom each tallied eight.

Senior Kenny Fagan tossed in 11 points for the Bulldogs (1-17).

“We didn’t play well in Seward,” said Soldotna head coach Chris Hanson of a victory earlier in the week. “We didn’t shoot well, which was not as much of a concern as not defending well. We worked on perimeter defense, pressuring the ball.”

Despite the long season for Bulldogs head coach Reid Kornstad and his team, they do hold a commonality with the Stars.

“They have to do what they’re told,” Kornstad said of the Bulldogs. “And it’s got to hurt in practice when they don’t. We’re not above or below the basic principles of success.”

And Kornstad commended his team against the taller, more athletic adversary.

“We played together tonight on the offensive end better than we have, maybe all season,” Kornstad said. “To do it against a team as athletic as Soldotna is very encouraging.”

Nikiski girls 52, Kenai 46

Carlson and Thompson each scored 17 points in leading the visiting Bulldogs past the Kardinals on Saturday.

Kyla Steward netted a team-high 14 points for Kenai, which was knotted with Nikiski at 33 after three periods. Hannah Delaney added 13 points for the Kardinals and Damaris Craig chipped in 12.

Kenai boys 61, Nikiski 23

Casey Ellis netted 15 points and Nate Saltzgiver scored 13 as the Kardinals handily defeated the visiting Bulldogs on Saturday.

Nathan Byrd added 10 points for Kenai.

Friday girls

STARS 45, BULLDOGS 31

Soldotna 10 10 10 15 — 45

Nikiski 14 5 6 6 — 31

SOLDOTNA (45) — Smith 4 2-3 10, Heffner 0 2-2 2, Kennedy 4 0-0 8, Donaldson 0 0-0 0, Jen. Stenga 3 1-1 7, Baker 0 0-0 0, Duffy 1 0-0 2, Blackburn 7 2-2 16. Totals: 19 7-8 45.

NIKISKI (31) — Romans 2 0-0 5, Carlson 7 1-2 16, Pritchard 0 0-1 0, Chadwick 1 0-0 2, H. Thompson 1 0-0 2, T. Thompson 1 0-0 3, Jorgensen 1 0-0 3, Peek 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 1-3 31.

3-point goals — Nikiski 4 (Romans, Carlson, T. Thompson, Jorgensen. Total fouls — Soldotna 11, Nikiski 10. Fouled out — none.

Friday boys

STARS 75, BULLDOGS 38

Soldotna 19 29 15 12 — 75

Nikiski 9 12 9 8 —38

SOLDOTNA (75) — Bauder 1 0-0 2, Blossom 4 0-1 8, Grubb 0 0-0 0, Carver 2 0-0 5, Geller 3 0-1 6, Besse 5 2-2 12, Syverson 1 0-1 2, Barkman 2 0-0 4, Kohler 3 1-1 9, Andres 1 0-2 2, Roberts 3 3-5 9, Seggerman 4 0-0 8, Shelton 4 0-0 8. Totals 33 6-13 75.

NIKISKI (38) — Olson 2 1-2 6, Smith 1 0-0 2, Wik 0 0-0 0, Fagan 5 1-2 11, Bennett 0 0-0 0, Cook 0 4-6 4, Holloway 2 3-4 7, Vance 2 1-3 5, Thompson 0 0-0 0, Lofquist 0 2-2 2, Burns 0 1-2 1. Totals 12 13-21 38.

3-point goals — Soldotna 3 (Carver, Kohler 2); Nikiski 1 (Olson). Total fouls — Soldotna 17, Nikiski 16. Fouled out — none.

Saturday girls

BULLDOGS 52, KARDINALS 46

Nikiski 9 13 11 9 —52

Kenai 10 11 12 13—46

NIKISKI (52) — Romans 2 0-0 4, Carlson 4 8-8 17, Pritchard 0 0-0 0, Chadwick 1 2-2 4, H. Thompson 3 9-10 17, T. Thompson 1 5-11 8, Jorgensen 1 0-2 2. Totals — 12 24-32 52.

KENAI (46) — Coupchiak 0 0-0 0, Delaney 5 1-2 13, Foley 0 0-0 0, Mills 0 2-2 2, Kennedy 0 0-0 0, Wortham 0 2-2 2, Craig 6 0-2 12, Gabriel 1 1-2 3, Steward 4 6-7 14. Totals — 16 12-17 46.

3-point goals — Nikiski 4 (H. Thompson 2, Carlson 1, T. Thompson 1), Kenai 2 (Delaney 2).Total fouls — Nikiski 17, Kenai 26. Fouled out — Foley, Steward.

Saturday boys

KARDINALS 61, BULLDOGS 23

Nikiski 6 5 4 8 —23

Kenai 27 15 16 3 —61

NIKISKI (23) — Smith 1 0-0 3, Wik 1 2-4 5, Fagan 0 0-0 0, Cook 1 1-2 3, Holloway 2 1-1 5, Vance 2 0-0 4, Lofquist 1 0-2 3. Totals — 8 4-11 23.

KENAI (61) — Saltzgiver 6 1-2 13, Werba 0 1-2 1, Toombs 4 0-0 9, Libert 1 0-0 3, Ellis 6 1-2 15, Maxon 0 0-0 0, Gustkey 3 0-0 6, Byrd 5 0-0 10, Lazaro 1 0-0 2, Chimphalee 1 0-0 2, Ferguson 0 0-0 0. Totals — 26 3-6 61.

3-point goals — Nikiski 3 (Smith 1, Wik 1, Lofquist 1), Kenai 4 (Ellis 2, Toombs 1, Libert 1).Total fouls — Nikiski 9, Kenai 11. Fouled out — none.



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