The Skyview High School boys and girls basketball teams netted a sweep of Soldotna Saturday in Region III/4A play, but both games did offer fans the opportunity to use all of their available seat in the Soldotna gym.
In the first game of the afternoon, the Soldotna boys went shot for shot with Skyview for much of the first half, keeping fans at the edge of their seats. But the Panthers came out of the locker room and soon had the game well in hand, leaving fans to lean back to take in Skyview's 59-32 win.
The girls game went just the opposite way Skyview jumped out to a big early lead, but the Stars were able to pull to within two points with 1:30 left in the game, leading most in the gym to skip the edge of the seat an go straight to their feet for the finish of the Panthers' 47-42 victory.
"It makes it tough to come back," Soldotna girls coach Mark Tuter said of the Stars' first-half deficit. "We couldn't buy a shot in the first quarter. We had them, but they wouldn't go in."
The Skyview girls were able to take advantage of the Stars' cold shooting, jumping out to a 7-0 lead before Soldotna's Marlana McCown scored a 3-pointer the Stars' only points in the quarter.
The Panthers were able to create some turnovers with their pressure defense and found themselves up 22-3 early in the second quarter before the Stars could start getting some shots to fall.
"We were pushing the ball down the floor, looking for each other and making our shots," Skyview's Amanda Fay said. "Everybody was participating."
Soldotna began the long climb back late in the second quarter. Brittany Howard hit a pair of technical foul free throws with just under a minute to play in the half, and Liz Denna added one more point from the foul line to cut Skyview's lead to 12, 28-16, at the half.
The Stars got as close as eight points in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Howard made the score 33-25, but a jumper for two by Anna Blake gave the Panthers a 10-point lead, 37-27, entering the fourth quarter.
After a 3-pointer by Soldotna's Christa Kennedy pulled the Stars to within four, 44-40, with just over two minutes to play, Mikala Smith hit for two points her only of the game to make it a two-point game, 44-42, with 1:30 to play.
Skyview was whistled for traveling on its next possession, giving the ball back to the Stars with 47 seconds to play, but the Panthers forced a turnover to get it back, forcing Soldotna to foul to stop the clock.
Blake hit one of her double-bonus free throws to make it a three-point game. Soldotna was able to make an attempt at a 3-pointer, but Skyview's Fay came up with the rebound on the missed shot and was fouled. Fay stepped to the line and nailed both of her free throws to make it a five-point game with just seconds to play.
Fay's free throws couldn't have come at a better time as both teams struggled from the charity stripe down the stretch.
"No," said Fay when asked if she was nervous about taking free throws with the game on the line. "I know how to make them."
Lindsay Gephardt led the Panthers with 10 points while Fay netted nine.
Howard scored 13 to pace the Stars while McCown finished with 11.
"I'm really proud of them. I'm really proud of the way they've progressed," Tuter said.
In the boys game, the Stars were able to find some shooting room in the Skyview defense and trailed by two points, 21-19, at the half.
Skyview, however, figured out how to tighten things up in the second half, outscoring the Stars 15-3 in the third quarter.
"We needed to stop (Ryan) Hall," said Skyview's Ryan Geller. "We stepped up our defense, and it carried over to the offensive end."
Indeed, after scoring eight points in the first half, Hall was limited to just three points in the second half, and while Soldotna's Matt Hicks scored eight points, the Panthers were able to limit his impact in the paint.
"At halftime, we just said we needed to pick up our defense, get rebounds and attack the basket," Geller said. "We did all that and we came up with a big second half."
Soldotna's Anthony Stone said it was tough being on the receiving end of that big half, especially after competing so well in the first half.
"Some of us were bummed out about the game because we were in it, and we threw ourselves out of it," Stone said. "Our shots were falling more and we were playing more as a team (in the first half). In the second half we started trying to take them one-on-five, and they're too big for us to do that. It just didn't work out."
The win secures the top seed from Region III/4A's Southern Division for the Panthers. Skyview coach Dave Blossom anticipates facing Kodiak in the first round of this week's region tournament.
Meanwhile the Stars, who are second in the division, will likely play Wasilla or Colony in the opening round.
"We're second in the region now, and that's a lot better than anybody expected us to do," Stone said.
PANTHERS 47, STARS 42
Skyview 17 11 9 10 47
Soldotna 3 13 11 15 42
SKYVIEW (47) Heffner 1 0-0 2, Gephardt 3 3-4 10, Dalebout 2 0-4 4, Bonebrake 2 4-11 8, Dreifuerst 2 0-0 4, Blake 1 1-2 5, L. Smith 0 1-2 1, Garrant 2 0-0 4, Am. Fay 3 2-3 9. Totals 17 11-26 47.
SOLDOTNA (42) M. Smith 1 0-0 2, McCown 4 1-4 11, Kennedy 2 0-0 5, Stenga 1 1-2 3, Howard 3 5-9 13, Marey 0 0-0 0, Denna 0 1-3 1, Wilbanks 3 1-5 7. Totals 14 9-23 42.
3-point goals Skyview 2 (Gephardt, Fay), Soldotna 5 (McCown 2, Howard 2, Kennedy). Total fouls Skyview 24, Soldotna 22. Fouled out Gephardt, M. Smith, McCown, Howard.
PANTHERS 59, STARS 32
Skyview 11 10 15 23 59
Soldotna 8 11 3 10 32
SKYVIEW (59) Smith 0 1-2 1, Shields 3 0-0 6, Dolifka 0 0-0 0, Rowell 1 1-1 3, Bossick 0 0-0 0, Foister 0 0-0 0, B. Blossom 7 0-2 15, Schmidt 2 0-0 4, Hatfield 5 0-0 10, Geller 7 0-0 16, D. Blossom 1 0-0 4, Singleton 1 0-0 4. Totals 27 2-5 59.
SOLDOTNA (32) Turnbull 0 0-0 0, Spindler 1 4-4 6, Besse 0 0-0 0, Stone 0 0-0 0, Hall 5 1-2 11, Seggerman 2 0-0 4, Roberts 1 1-2 3, Hicks 4 0-2 8, Carver 0 0-0 0, Hepner 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 6-10 32.
3-point goals Skyview 3 (Geller 2, B. Blossom). Total fouls Skyview 13, Soldotna 8. Fouled out none.
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