Skyview's Matt Schadle and Kenai's Zach Beeson battle for a rebound under the Kenai basket in the first quarter Friday at Skyview.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Skyview had a banner hanging in its gym to signify senior night on Friday.
The Kenai Central girls and boys could have well unfurled a banner of their own, this one reading, "Mission Accomplished."
Both Kardinals squads accomplished goals with Northern Lights Conference victories over the Panthers.
The Kenai girls won 44-35 to improve to 3-6 in the NLC and 10-11 overall, while Skyview fell to 1-9 in the league and 7-14 overall. The Kardinals earned the No. 2 seed from the Southern Division in the conference tournament starting Thursday at Palmer, while the Panthers will be the No. 4 seed.
"At the beginning of the season, one of our goals was to be better than we were last year and we certainly accomplished that," Kenai girls coach Ken Felchle said. "We also wanted to get to double-digit wins. It's huge to have that happen.
"Now we want to go up to the region tournament and play on the third day of the tournament. We want to get a win at the region tournament."
Skyview's Chad Hatten shoots over Kenai's Nathan Byrd in the first quarter at Skyview on Friday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Kenai boys notched a 72-44 victory to improve to 7-2 in the league and 16-5 overall. Skyview dropped to 1-9 in the league and 5-17 overall. The victory locked up the No. 1 seed of the Southern Division for the Kardinals.
Even though Kenai already owned 79-26 and 69-37 victories over Skyview this season, and even though the Kardinals had a rivalry game with Soldotna on Saturday, Kardinals coach Jim Beeson said his team spent all week preparing for the Panthers.
"If we win, we're assured the No. 1 seed in our half," Beeson said. "Getting the No. 1 seed is one of the goals the kids set for themselves at the beginning of the season.
"That was our mission all week. Last year, we didn't get the No. 1 seed and it ended up hurting us."
When the Kenai girls defeated Skyview 37-35 in late January, a frantic comeback by the Panthers in the fourth quarter came up just short. Skyview came back in that game by aggressively attacking the basket after beating Kenai defenders on the perimeter. The Panthers started out Friday's game doing the same thing.
After falling behind 6-2 when Kenai's Casey Coupchiak nailed a jumper with 4:20 to play in the first quarter, Skyview closed the quarter on an 11-0 run. Skyview guard Casee Penrod got to the basket for two layups during the spurt, while Brittany Meyer made 1-of-2 foul shots and penetration left Candace Penrod open for a pair of 3-pointers.
"In the first quarter, we played good, aggressive basketball," Skyview coach Ronnie Kier said. "We executed our game plan."
The Kardinals were just 2-of-15 from the floor in the first quarter, but caught fire to begin the second. Kenai made five of its first seven shots to construct a 12-3 run. Megen Gabriel knocked down a jumper with 2:43 left until halftime to cap the run and give Kenai a 18-16 lead. Just like that, though, Kenai went cold and missed its final eight shots of the half to allow the Panthers to take a 19-18 lead into the locker room.
The lead could have been bigger for Skyview, but the Panthers made just 4-of-10 from the foul line in the second quarter. Skyview was 11-of-20 from the line in the game, while the Kardinals were 13-of-17.
"I told our coaches that was the difference they made their free throws," Kier said. "You've heard it before free throws win games. That was the case tonight."
In the third quarter, Skyview managed to hang around despite mounting foul trouble and another offensive spurt by the Kardinals. Candace Penrod picked up her fourth foul with 5:24 left in the third. At the time, the Kardinals were in the midst of scoring on six of their first nine second-half possessions to grab a 30-21 lead. Even with Meyer on the bench for the final two minutes of the quarter with three fouls and backup ballhandler Ivy O'Guinn out due to a knee injury in the junior varsity game, Kenai had just a 32-29 lead entering the final quarter.
"I was really proud of the effort of the girls who came off the bench," Kier said. "There was a period of two or three minutes at the end of the quarter where they kept us where we needed to be."
With the starting five back for the start of the fourth, though, Skyview had fits with a half-court trap used by the Kardinals. The Panthers turned the ball over on six of their first eight possessions in the quarter en route to 10 turnovers in the final eight minutes.
"It was something they hadn't seen us do a whole lot," Felchle said of the half-court trap. "We put it in and tried it in Kodiak and it was quite successful for us there."
As Kenai began to pull away, Skyview had to foul. The Kardinals made seven of their first eight foul shots in the quarter to ice the game. Felchle said Kenai makes about 70 percent of its foul shots and called that skill the team's biggest strength.
Kyla Steward had 14 points to pace the Kardinals, while Casee and Candace Penrod each had 10 points for Skyview. Candace Penrod and defensive ballhawk Joanna Graves were honored as part of senior night.
Kenai boys 72, Skyview 44
Daniel Gustkey had a game-high 23 points all of which came in the first three quarters as the Kardinals forced 15 turnovers in the first half and quickly locked up the No. 1 seed.
Beeson said his squad lacks a true inside presence while Skyview most definitely has one in Rich Shirnberg, who paced Skyview with 19 points.
"We knew we wanted to make it an up-tempo game," Beeson said. "We couldn't just let them walk it up and set up their half-court offense."
After a layup by Skyview's Chad Hatten cut Kenai's lead to 9-6 with 3:53 to play in the first quarter, the Kardinals used their full-court press to spark a 10-0 run. Nate Saltzgiver closed the spurt with an old-fashioned, three-point play with 2:27 left in the first for a 19-6 lead. Skyview would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the game.
"Kenai gets great pressure on the ball and they deny the passing lanes," Skyview boys coach Red Goodwin said. "They don't deny the player, they deny the passing lane and get turnovers."
Beeson said it was nice to see his team do the little things that take hard work after taking a pass on those little things in their last game a blowout loss to Colony. Nathan Byrd added 11 points for Kenai, while Josh Lazaro had 10. Beeson said Lazaro did a great job shooting the ball in the final quarter when Kenai played its substitutes.
Skyview honored Shirnberg, Rem West, Chad Hatten and Ben Woodland during senior night.
"I've got to give the big man credit," Goodwin said of Shirnberg. "We ask him to do an awful lot and he's done all he can to make this team successful."
Goodwin said West has been a warrior for the team, playing nearly the whole game for the last eight to 10 games. The coach said Hatten has just started to realize his potential at the end of this season, while Woodland missed Friday night because he is on the debate team.
"Coming from Blaine, Washington, I can say that I never had a basketball player on the debate team," Goodwin said. "It's great."
KARDINALS 44, PANTHERS 35
Kenai 6 12 14 12 44
Skyview 13 6 10 6 35
KENAI CENTRAL (44) Delaney 1 3-4 5, Coupchiak 2 3-6 7, Flanagan 0 0-0 0, Gabriel 1 0-0 2, Mills 1 0-0 2, Kennedy 2 1-1 5, Wortham 1 2-2 4, Steward 6 2-2 14, Garcia 1 2-2 5. Totals 15 13-17 44.
SKYVIEW (35) Graves 0 1-2 1, Massey 0 0-0 0, Can. Penrod 3 2-2 10, Cas. Penrod 5 0-1 10, Stewart 1 3-4 5, Meyer 2 5-11 9, Jones 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 11-20 35.
3-point goals Kenai 1 (Garcia 1); Skyview 2 (Can. Penrod 2). Team fouls Kenai Central 19, Skyview 16. Fouled out Can. Penrod.
KARDINALS 72, PANTHERS 44
Kenai 21 17 23 11 72
Skyview 10 9 10 15 44
KENAI CENTRAL (72) Ferguson 1 0-0 3, Rabung 0 0-0 0, Saltzgiver 4 1-1 9, Kiefer 1 0-0 2, Chimphalee 0 0-0 0, Byrd 5 0-0 11, Toombs 2 1-4 5, Libert 2 0-0 5, Beeson 2 0-0 4, Lazaro 5 0-0 10, Gustkey 11 0-0 23, Bissett 0 0-0 0, Duke 0 0-0 0. Totals 33 2-5 72.
SKYVIEW (44) Thornton 1 2-2 4, West 2 2-2 7, Hatten 4 0-2 9, Straume 0 0-0 0, Malatesta 0 0-0 0, Schadle 2 1-1 5, Cook 0 0-0 0, Shirnberg 8 2-2 19. Totals 17 7-9 44.
3-point goals Kenai 4 (Ferguson 1, Byrd 1, Libert 1, Gustkey 1); Skyview 3 (West 1, Hatten 1, Shirnberg 1). Team fouls Kenai 15, Skyview 9. Fouled out none.
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