Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, this story was omitted from Sunday’s paper. The Clarion sports department regrets the omission.
By JEFF HELMINIAK
Kenai Central junior Damaris Craig gave the seniors a night to remember Friday during senior night at Kenai Central High School.
Craig beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Kardinals a 35-33 victory over Northern Lights Conference foe Homer.
In the boys game, Kenai could not overcome a 17-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter in a 60-54 loss.
In the girls game, Rachel Bornheimer gave the Mariners a 33-26 lead with a pair of foul shots with 2:34 remaining in the game. The Kardinals then held Homer scoreless the rest of the game and frantically poured in nine points for the victory.
Lindsey Keener, who paced Kenai with 10 points, cut the lead to 33-32 on a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left. Homer’s Kayla Creamer went to the free-throw line with 11 seconds left, but missed the front end of a bonus. Bornheimer jumped over Craig to get the rebound, but her putback rimmed out. Craig then helped earn a jump ball on the rebound, with possession going to Kenai with six seconds left.
The way Kenai coach Lee Moore drew it up during the timeout, that should have been the last of Craig’s efforts, besides maybe setting a screen for Keener.
As Keener was bringing the ball past halfcourt, Creamer poked it away, giving Kenai the ball with 0.3 seconds left. On the inbounds play, Keener was looking for Samantha Navarre, but she fell down. Keener then found Craig in the corner for the game winner. It was the first 3-pointer Craig had made since her freshman year, when she was playing junior varsity.
“She was supposed to get the ball, but then she fell right in front of me,” Craig said of Navarre. “I looked up and the ball was coming at me. I just tried shooting it as quickly as possible.”
Craig saw the ball go in, but she was not sure she had gotten the shot off in time. The referees ruled she did, and Pandemonium ensued with students spilling out of the stands.
“All of a sudden everybody was running at me,” Craig said. “I realized we had won when I was on the floor getting tackled.”
Craig said the shot was her way of showing appreciation to seniors Keener, Amber McGlasson, Kassi Kiel, Sammie Johnson and Kelsey Brewer.
“It really means a lot because the seniors do a lot for this team,” Craig said. “It was my way of sending them out.”
Homer coach Tim Daugharty, whose team had defeated the Kardinals twice in January, said Craig made a great shot but said the difference in the game was Homer’s eight turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“We had them,” Daugharty said of the Kardinals. “I have to hand it to Lee and his girls, though. They’ve improved a lot in the last month.”
The Kardinals controlled every quarter in the game except for the third quarter, and that quarter almost cost Kenai the game. Kenai led 22-14 at halftime but trailed 28-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We weren’t as aggressive on defense in the third quarter,” Moore said. “With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, we picked up the intensity on defense.”
Allison Horazdovsky paced the Mariners with 14 points.
Homer boys 60, Kardinals 54
Like the Kenai girls, the Kenai boys put themselves in a hole with a bad third quarter. Unlike the Kenai girls, the Kenai boys were not able to pull off a frantic comeback.
“We knew this was going to be a war,” Homer coach Mark Casseri said. “We beat them in overtime at our place, so coming up here was going to be tough.
“We told the young men all week in school to come up here and help us, and those bleacher creatures really helped.”
In the first half of the game, there were seven ties or lead changes and the biggest lead was six points. Homer then took advantage of cold shooting by the Kardinals to turn a 24-23 halftime lead into a 43-26 advantage at the end of three quarters.
Both teams turned the ball over eight times in the third quarter, but Homer was 9-of-11 from the floor while Kenai was 0-for-12.
Kenai coach Jim Beeson said poor third quarters have hurt his team all year.
“We’ve talked about it, but obviously that hasn’t helped,” Beeson said. “Maybe I just need to start different people. There’s no reason we should fall behind by 15 points in the third quarter and then get it to two points in the fourth quarter.”
One of the main reasons Kenai got back into the game in the fourth quarter was Kevin Epperheimer, who had 16 of his game-high 21 points in the final eight minutes. Epperheimer and fellow seniors Tyler Chappell, Kelvin Blanning, Isaia Faumui, Brandon Miles and Austin McLeod did not want to lose in their last time on their home floor.
Epperheimer capped a 16-2 run with what was, essentially, a four-point play to make the score 45-42 with 3:31 remaining. Epperheimer made a free throw, but missed his second. He stole the ball from the rebounder, made a layup while getting fouled, then made his foul shot.
Kenai, led by Epperheimer’s five points, would score eight points in the next 2:15 of the game. That wasn’t good enough to catch the Mariners, who scored seven points in that span and still led 52-50 with 1:16 left.
“Composure, great composure,” Casseri said. “The kids are learning how to win basketball games. To come from where they did last year, winning four total games, to where they are this year really says a lot.”
Casseri said his squad spends 40 percent of its practice time shooting. That paid off in the final 1:07, where Homer hit 8 of 10 from the foul line. Justin Smith, who finished with 13 points, led the way with 6-of-6 shooting in that span.
KARDINALS 35, MARINERS 33
Homer 7 7 14 5 33
Kenai 14 8 1 11 35
HOMER (33) Bornheimer 1 3-4 5, Creamer 0 0-1 0, Horazdovsky 6 1-1 14, Siekaniec 1 1-1 3, McKinstry 2 2-3 6, Temple 2 1-3 5. Totals 12 8-13 33.
KENAI CENTRAL (35) Navarre 4 0-0 9, Keener 1 8-16 10, Foley 1 0-0 2, McGlasson 2 0-0 4, Kiel 0 0-0 0, Craig 2 0-0 5, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Steward 2 0-0 4, Brewer 0 1-2 1. Totals 12 9-18 35.
3-point goals Homer 1 (Horazdovsky 1); Kenai 2 (Navarre 1, Craig 1). Team fouls Homer 14, Kenai Central 14. Fouled out none.
MARINERS 60, KARDINALS 54
Homer 15 9 19 17 60
Kenai 14 9 3 28 54
HOMER (60) Smith 2 9-9 13, Szymoniak 0 2-7 2, Gilbert 8 1-4 19, McKinstry 1 2-2 4, Isenhour 3 0-0 6, Logan 0 0-0 0, Layland 0 0-0 0, Thompson 5 0-2 10, McWilliams 2 0-0 4. Totals 21 14-24 60.
KENAI CENTRAL (54) Saltzgiver 1 3-5 5, Chappell 2 1-4 5, Gustkey 0 0-0 0, Ellis 2 3-3 7, Toombs 0 1-2 1, Beeson 0 0-0 0, Blanning 0 0-0 0, Epperheimer 8 4-7 21, Faumui 1 0-0 2, Miles 2 2-3 6, McLeod 3 1-2 7. Totals 19 15-26 54.
3-point goals Homer 2 (Gilbert 2); Kenai 1 (Epperheimer 1). Team fouls Homer 21, Kenai 25. Fouled out Isenhour, Ellis, McLeod.
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