To be or not to be, indeed.
With apologies to the thespians at Kenai Central High School and their production of Hamlet, all the drama was down the hallway in the gym Friday night, where the Kardinals were hosting Soldotna in Region III/4A basketball play.
The Kenai girls rode their pressure defense to a 45-25 victory over the Stars to go a game up on Soldotna in the Southern Division standings.
The Kenai boys followed that act with a dramatic work of their own -- a 34-30 win over the Stars.
Kenai went up 32-30 with a minute to play courtesy of a 3-pointer by Marcus Webster that tied the game, then a baseline jumper by Jason Magsayo that got the shooter's bounce off the rim before dropping through.
Soldotna missed a chance to tie on its next possession, but came up with a steal on a Kenai inbounds play. Sean Kelley was fouled and went to the line for the Stars with another chance to tie the game, but came up short on both of his free throws.
The Kardinals came up with the rebound after Kelley's second shot, and the Stars resorted to fouling to stop the clock with 18 seconds left in the game.
It took six such fouls to put Kenai in the bonus, and once the Kards got there, Brad Burck put the game away, sinking both ends of his one-and-one for a four-point lead with 1.4 seconds on the clock.
"Those were clutch free throws," Kenai boys coach Rich Bartolowits said. "Brad begged me to let him go in at the end -- he said he wanted to be on the court when we beat SoHi."
Bartolowits made sure that Burck and the rest of his seniors -- Magsayo and Brady Church -- were on the floor when the celebration commenced.
"It didn't hurt that this is a rivalry they've had for years and years, and these guys hadn't won it in a couple of years," Bartolowits said of the Kardinals' motivation. "They just worked real hard on defense. We knew who we had to watch out for. Nick Christensen can win a game by himself."
"Last time we played Soldotna, we lost by three points," Kenai's Marcus Webster said after the boys game. "Last time, it was pretty much even and they came back and beat us in the fourth quarter. We just came out here fired up."
In fact, the Kardinals scored the first six points of the game on a pair of baskets by Webster and another by Jason Magsayo.
Christensen scored all seven of the Stars' first-quarter points, opening with a 3-pointer, and Soldotna had a 7-7 tie after the first period and was up 13-10 at the half.
Kenai and Soldotna traded leads through the third quarter, and Soldotna led by as many as five points -- an overwhelming lead at the rate each team was scoring -- late in the fourth quarter.
Photo by Jay Barrett
"We didn't go out the way we wanted," said Soldotna's Shaun Williams. "They played good and hit the big shots when it mattered."
While Kenai was able to keep Soldotna from hitting the offensive boards and getting second chances at the basket, the Stars were missing Aaron Hughes, a player that generally fills that role.
"He's our leading rebounder," Williams said. "He's hurt and we've got to find someone that can fill his spot."
Webster finished the game with 11 points for the Kardinals while Christensen led all scorers with 12 points for the Stars.
The Kenai girls opened up their game Friday with a press that had the Stars gasping for air from the opening tipoff. The Kardinals turned steals into baskets for their first six points of the game and while the Stars were able to make some of that ground up, they never truly recovered.
"Our press is what keeps us running the whole game," Kenai's Jessi Reilly said. "If we didn't press, we would be lethargic and not run our offense like we're capable."
The Kardinals were able to balance their outside game -- Karli Knudsen finished with 14 points including a pair of 3-pointers -- with their inside game, feeding post player Erica Shinn for 12 points.
"After they beat us the last time, we knew we had to come out here and take it to them -- and we did," Knudsen said. "Jamie (Montgomery) and Jessi are so fast. They cause havoc and good things happen."
The Stars were able to whittle Kenai's nine-point (15-6) first-quarter lead down to five (22-17) at the half, but the Kardinals outscored the Stars 17-6 in the third quarter.
"We weren't ready," Soldotna's Gretta Besse said after the game. "We let them rip the ball away from us and we didn't make them match our intensity."
"We didn't execute," said Soldotna coach Mark Tuter. "Kenai didn't allow us to do what we wanted to do, and they did what they wanted to do."
Besse led the Stars with six points while Rachel Besse and Hillary Zobeck each scored four points.
KARDINALS 45, STARS 25
Soldotna 6 11 6 2 -- 25
Kenai 15 7 17 6 -- 45
SOLDOTNA (25) --Senette 1 0-0 2, Wolfe 0 0-0 0, Christensen 0 0-0 0, Kerrone 1 0-0 2, G. Besse 2 2-5 6, S. Penner 1 0-0 2, Syverson 0 0-0 0, Evans 0 0-0 0, Severson 1 0-0 2, Gilbert 0 1-2 1, Zobeck 1 2-3 4, Breakfield 0 2-2 2, R. Besse 0 4-6 4. Totals 7 11-18 25.
KENAI (45) -- Bauder 0 0-0 0, Knudsen 5 2-2 14, Reilly 0 0-0 0, Montgomery 1 0-0 3, Goggia 0 0-0 0, Popp 0 0-0 0, Edwards 2 0-0 4, McCune 0 0-0 0, Hall 1 0-0 2, Shinn 6 0-0 12, Erin Smith 3 1-2 7, Erica Smith 0 1-2 1, Rhyner 1 0-0 2. Totals --19 4-6 45.
3-point goals -- Soldotna 0, Kenai 3 (Knudsen 2, Montgomery). Total fouls -- Soldotna 12, Kenai 18. Fouled out -- none.
KARDINALS 34, STARS 30
Soldotna 7 6 9 8 -- 30
Kenai 7 3 11 13 -- 34
SOLDOTNA (30) -- Kelley 0 0-2 0, Williams 3 2-2 8, Christensen 5 0-0 12, Hardina 2 0-0 4, Kiffmeyer 2 2-2 6, Zeyer 0 0-0 0, Morris 0 0-0 0, Rose 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 12 4-6 30.
KENAI (34) -- Pault 2 0-0 4, Church 0 0-0 0, Foley 2 0-0 6, Webster 5 0-0 11, Magsayo 3 0-1 6, Schooley 0 0-0 0, Burck 2 3-4 7, Dunn 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 14 3-5 34.
3-point goals -- Soldotna 2 (Christensen 2), Kenai 3 (Foley 2, Webster). Total fouls -- Soldotna 10, Kenai 4. Fouled out -- none.
HEAD:Kards split with Mariners
By SAM EGGLESTON
For seniors playing their last home games on the familiar hardwood court of their gym, the thoughts and feelings experienced can be a variety of things. For the Kenai girls and boys basketball seniors, the night was indeed different Saturday.
The Kenai girls gave lone senior Jessi Reilly a 41-29 win over Region III rival Homer while the Kenai boys could not dig their way out of an early hole and fell to the Mariners in a 62-57 decision.
"It was the best goodbye that anyone has ever received," Reilly said with tears beginning to well in her eyes. "It was a very tearful and very, very emotional goodbye. I will never forget this and I will never forget this team."
The Kards took to the floor to not only honor their lone senior with a win, but to award her hard work and dedication with a clinching of the Region III/4A Soutern Division No. 1 ranking for the region tournament, which starts Thursday in Kodiak.
"It wasn't a thing of beauty but a win is a win," Kenai girls coach Jim Beeson said. "It clinched us No. 1 and that is big. It is never easy playing Kodiak at Kodiak but it is better than starting the tournament off against a Palmer, Colony or Wasilla."
The Kardinals fell behind 8-4 at the end of the first quarter but fought back to take a slight 13-10 advantage as the buzzer sounded to end the first half.
"The same thing happened (against Soldotna)," Beeson said. "Once we got ahead a little we spread the floor and took care of business."
The Kardinals outscored the Mariners 28-17 in the second half, following the swift maneuvering of 5-foot-4 junior Jamie Montgomery, who found her way around defenders inside to score a team-high 13 points. Teammate Erica Shinn added 11 for the Kardinals while Karli Knudsen added seven, Erin Smith added four and Anna Hall, Michelle Edwards and Reilly added two in the win.
"That pretty much caps (Reilly's) career," Beeson said. "Two points in two games. No matter how few points she scored she is one of the most valuable players we have out there. Jessi sets the tempo for us and is a great leader on and off the court."
Kenai followed the lead of their starters and about two deep off the bench until late in the game when Beeson sent his bench into the contest. As Reilly walked off the court, the Kenai faithful stood to their feet and gave her a standing ovation.
"It showed how much I mean to them," she said. "I wish they knew how much they mean to me. I just want to thank everyone. Most of all I would like to thank my teammates for making this such a great year. Next year they are going to be awesome and I am going to be so excited to come down and see them play."
The Mariners, who felt the pinch of injured and fouled-out players, went through much of the fourth quarter without Danicia High, who fouled out of the game with over six minutes remaining, and a stretch without Sara Brooks, who left the game with an apparent ankle injury, but returned late in the fourth.
Brooks led the Mariners in scoring with 12 while Jessica Eller added eight, High, Joy Epley, Caitlin Crandall and Brittney Gaethle added two each and Cassiar Cousins rounded out the scoring with one.
"We are really going to miss Jessi," Shinn said. "She is a great leader for us and really does wonderful things when she has the ball. I don't know how she can ever be replaced."
Homer 62, Kenai 57
The Kenai Kardinals boys basketball team could not dig their way out of a 33-26 first-half deficit against the Homer Mariners as they fell to their Region III rivals in the last home game for three seniors.
The Kards would not go down without a fight, putting together an impressive 25-point fourth quarter only to find themselves five points short as the clock rolled to a stop.
"It is always hard to lose a game like this one," Kenai boys coach Rich Bartolowits said. "We just needed to have a little more confidence. If our entire game would have been as intense as our fourth quarter, then we would have owned this game."
The Kardinals trailed 46-32 at the end of the third quarter, but key 3-point goals by sharpshooter Ian Foley propelled the rest of the Kenai squad to kick its game into high gear.
"I guess I shouldn't have waited so long to put Foley in," Bartolowits said. "These kids came off a very intense game against Soldotna and when Ian hit that 3-pointer in the fourth it really sparked the rest of the team."
The loss came hard to the seniors on the squad, who shook the hands of their opponents after the game and hurried into the locker room.
"Losing our last home game was very emotional for all of the seniors," senior guard Jason Magsayo said. "We would have liked to have won this one -- we gave it our all and that is all we could have done."
Magsayo was second in scoring with 12 points. The senior was behind scoring leader Foley, who poured in 17 points in the losing effort. Seniors Brad Burck, who had five points, and Brady Church, who added three, were key in the intense play throughout the game.
"These guys are going to be really hard to replace," Bartolowits said. "I started to get teary when they were being awarded in between the games. At the same time I am glad that there are only three. There are five juniors who see playing time on a regular basis who will step up for next year."
The spoiler of the Kards' senior day was the pure scoring ability of the Homer Mariners. Four of the six Homer players that scored went in double digits with Skylar Burns leading the squad with 15 points. Colby Kincaid poured in 14 points while Corey Boone chipped in 13 and Neal Kuipers added 11.
"We are hoping to go into the regions and make some noise," Magsayo said. "We aren't ready to end our season yet and we think we can get a couple more wins starting next week."
According to Bartolowits, he and the Kardinal boys will be heading into the region tournament on the words of another peninsula coach.
"A couple of years ago when Ninilchik first made it to the state championship someone asked Dan Leman if he really thought they could win it because they were not expected to win," he said. "Leman answered 'We didn't come here to lose.' That is how we are going to head into the tournament, we are not going in there to lose."
KARDINALS GIRLS 41, MARINERS 29
Kenai 4 9 15 13 -- 41
Homer 8 2 12 7 -- 29
KENAI (41) -- Bauder 0 0-0 0, Knudsen 2 3-4 7, Reilly 0 2-2 2, Montgomery 5 3-6 13, Goggia 0 0-0 0, Popp 0 0-0 0, Edwards 1 0-0 2, McCune 0 0-0 0, Hall 1 0-0 2, Shinn 5 1-2 11, Erica Smith 1 2-2 4, Erin Smith 0 0-0 0, Rhyner 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 15 11-16 41.
HOMER (29) -- Eller 4 0-0 8, Creamer 0 0-0 0, High 1 0-1 2, Thompson 0 0-0 0, Epley 1 0-0 2, Mack 0 0-0 0, Crandall 1 0-0 2, Brooks 4 3-6 12, Cousins 0 1-2 1, Gaethle 1 0-0 2, Lane 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 12 4-9 29.
3-point goals -- Kenai 0; Homer 1 (Brooks). Total fouls -- Kenai 9, Homer 15. Fouled out -- High.
MARINERS BOYS 62, KARDINALS 57
Homer 16 17 13 16 -- 62
Kenai 18 8 6 25 -- 57
HOMER (62) -- Kuipers 4 2-4 11, Mahan 0 0-0 0, Burns 4 5-6 15, Glanville 0 0-0 0, Boone 5 3-6 13, Stead 0 0-0 0, Holm 1 2-2 4, Kincaid 6 2-3 14, Szajkowski 2 1-2 5, Todd 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 22 15-23 62.
KENAI (57) -- Pault 1 0-0 2, Church 1 0-0 3, Alexander 0 0-0 0, Foley 6 2-3 17, Webster 3 2-2 8, Magsayo 6 0-2 12, Schooley 3 0-0 6, Burck 2 0-0 5, Dunn 2 0-0 4, Myers 0 0-0 0. Totals -- 24 4-7 57.
3-point goals -- Homer 3 (Kuipers 1, Burns 2); Kenai 5 (Burck 1, Church 1, Foley 3). Totals fouls -- Homer 8, Kenai 14. Fouled out -- none.
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