Powerful group of 4 advances to NLC girls semis

Posted: Friday, March 07, 2008

Four of the top nine girls teams in the state will play in the semifinals of the Northern Lights Conference basketball tournament today at Palmer High School.

Wasilla, Palmer, Soldotna and Colony all cruised in the first round to set up the loaded semifinals. Colony is No. 3 in the Winning Percentage Index, which is used by the Alaska School Activities Association to seed the state tournament. Wasilla is No. 6, Palmer is No. 7 and Soldotna is No. 9.

Wasilla and Palmer face off at 6:30 p.m., while Soldotna and Colony play at 3 p.m. The winners of the semifinal matchups earn a berth to state. The losers will have to try and win the third-place bracket to make state.

The Stars, the top seed from the Southern Division, landed in the semifinals by continuing to own Kodiak, the No. 4 seed from the south. Soldotna notched a 50-28 victory over the Bears. It was SoHi's fourth victory over Kodiak this season.

The game was close for a quarter, as Soldotna grabbed an 8-6 lead after the first eight minutes. Karen Senette got off to a hot start by nailing a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter. She then scored eight points in the second quarter as the Stars took a commanding 27-10 lead at halftime.

Senette finished with a game-high 19 points, while Paige Blackburn added 12 for the Stars. For Kodiak, Alysa Horn had 10 points.

Soldotna nailed five 3-pointers in the game and also was 7-of-9 from the charity stripe.

The Warriors, the No. 1 seed from the north, overcame a slow start against the Panthers, the No. 4 team from the south.

In its last game before the tournament, Wasilla lost to Colony to end the Warriors' conference winning streak at 100 games. On Thursday, the defending state champion Warriors went about keeping their string of seven conference tournament titles intact.

Skyview actually started the game with an 8-3 run, but then went without a point for the final 17 minutes of the first half and trailed 24-8 at halftime.

Wasilla committed 24 turnovers in the game and shot less than 40 percent from the field, but the Warriors also forced 40 Panthers turnovers and had 22 steals. Wasilla made nearly as many field goals (25) and the Panthers attempted (28).

All-state forward Jenna Johnson paced all scorers with 17 points for the Warriors, while Shelby Fulton pitched in with 10 points. For Skyview, Melissa Massey had 10 points.

The Knights, the No. 2 seed from the north, made quick work of the Mariners, the No. 3 seed from the south.

Colony grabbed a 16-6 lead after the first quarter en route to doubling up the Mariners. The Knights made five 3-pointers in the game, including three from Hayley Hotchkiss, who had 11 points. Kara Larson and Maria Bowker led Colony with 12 points, while Allie Grazulis had 10 points.

Piper Daugharty paced Homer with nine points.

The Moose, the No. 3 seed from the north, topped the Kardinals, the No. 2 seed from the south.

The Kardinals were able to stay with the Moose for a quarter. Palmer had a 13-12 lead after the first eight minutes, but then outscored the Kardinals 15-2 in the second quarter to take command of the game.

Ashley Swetzof had 11 points to lead Palmer, while Kenai's Kyla Steward had 15 points to lead all scorers. Kenai's Megan Gabriel hit two 3-pointers to finish with 10 points.

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