Kenai senior Geoffrey Gemmel hit a 10-foot jumper at the buzzer Thursday to give Kenai a 61-59 victory over Colony in the first round of the Region III/4A basketball tournament at Wasilla High School.
The only other peninsula team to pick up a victory Thursday was the Homer girls, who topped Kodiak 43-32. The rest of the peninsula teams will all face elimination games today in the third-place bracket.
The Kenai boys will have a chance to earn a state berth, and a spot in Saturday's final, today in the semifinals against Kodiak. The game starts at 5:40 p.m.
The Kardinals earned that semifinal spot with some clutch play. With the clock winding down, Kenai's Nick Barnes drove to the basket, then kicked it off to Gemmell. Gemmell drained his jumper as he was falling back to the floor.
Gemmell finished with 17 points to lead Kenai. Jordan Jenckes added 16 points for the Kardinals, and Kenai coach Rich Bartolowits said his shot chart showed Jenckes did not miss a shot all night. Barnes added 12 points for the Kardinals.
Kenai trailed 30-22 at halftime.
"We kind of livened up a bit (in the second half)," Bartolowits said. "A couple of us were a little out of it in the first half. They weren't playing badly, they just weren't all the way into the game."
Bartolowits said the Kardinals picked it up on defense in the second half. Colony defeated Kenai earlier in the year by nailing perimeter shots. Bartolowits said his team did not give up those open perimeter shots Thursday.
Rhett Magner paced the Knights with 19 points.
"The easy way to state is through the front door, and we're halfway there," said Bartolowits, whose team has split with Kodiak this year. "The door's open."
Homer girls 43, Kodiak 32
The Mariners, the top seed from the Southern Division, beat the Bears, the No. 4 seed from the Northern Division, for the third time in a little over a week.
Kodiak had the lead after one quarter and trailed just 18-16 at the half. However, Homer outscored Kodiak 25-11 in the second half to advance to a semifinal matchup against Colony today at 4 p.m. Kodiak will play Skyview in the third-place bracket at 9 a.m.
Channing Setterquist and Kaylee Creamer each had eight points to lead Homer, while Kodiak's Molly Cassidy had 13 points to lead all scorers.
Palmer girls 42, Kenai 40
The Kardinals, the No. 2 seed in the Southern Division, failed to use several opportunities in the final minute to tie the Moose, who are the No. 3 seed from the Northern Division.
Palmer advances to a semifinal today against Wasilla at 7:35 p.m., while Kenai will play Soldotna in the third-place bracket at 12:30 p.m.
Palmer had a 42-40 lead when Laura Moore missed a pair of free throws with 49 seconds left. Kenai managed to get the rebound off of Moore's second miss, then ran some offense before a jump ball with 26 seconds left.
Kenai had the possession arrow, but Emily Bolling had a steal with 14 seconds left. However, Kenai got the ball back on a jump ball with 11 seconds left, but the Kardinals turned the ball over looking for a shot.
Bolling gave the Kardinals fits all night, finishing with 23 points. Moore was nearly as tough for Kenai, pouring in 18 points.
Colony girls 66, Skyview 32
The Knights took a 24-8 lead after one quarter and a 42-11 lead at the half in cruising to a first-round victory Thursday at Wasilla.
Colony advances to a semifinal matchup against Homer at 4 p.m. today, while Skyview will face Kodiak at 9 a.m. in the third-place bracket.
The Knights had a balanced attack, putting three players in double figures. Kristina Klapperich led all scorers with 14 points, while Jessica Dault had 11 points and Joanna Spoth had 10 points.
Anna Blake paced the Panthers with six points.
Kodiak boys 56, Skyview 52
The Bears, the No. 4 seed from the Northern Division, topped the Panthers, the No. 1 seed from the Southern Division, for the third time this season.
Kodiak advances to play Kenai in the semifinals today at 5:40 p.m. Skyview drops into the third-place bracket, where the Panthers will face an elimination game against Colony.
The Panthers went into the fourth quarter trailing 44-40. Kodiak went 10-of-16 from the foul line in the final quarter, which was just enough to hold onto the lead. Skyview had three 3-pointers in the final period, including two by Ryan Geller, but it was not enough.
Skyview coach Dave Blossom said his team came back to take the lead briefly in the fourth quarter, but quickly was hurt by turnovers. The Panthers had 23 turnovers for the game.
"It was a real close game and we committed 23 turnovers," Blossom said. "Need I say anything more?
"You can't come to the region tournament and turn the ball over 23 times and expect to win."
Kodiak's Harry Rietze had 18 points to lead all scorers, while Zach Keplinger added 11 points.
Cody Hatfield paced Skyview with 15 points, while Geller had 14 points and Brian Blossom added 13 points.
Palmer boys 65, Homer 49
The Mariners, the No. 4 seed from the Southern Division, hung tough but couldn't keep up with the Moose, the No. 1 seed from the Northern Division.
Palmer had a 27-24 lead at the half. After three quarters, the Moose were still in striking distance for the Mariners, taking just a 45-38 lead. However, the Moose were able to outscore the Mariners 20-11 in the final quarter.
Kurtis Devon had 19 points to lead the Moose, while Stanley Ratcliff had 15 points and Jesse Prins added 12 points. For the Mariners, Steven Golson had 13 points and Luke Gilbert had 10 points.
Wasilla girls 70, Soldotna 35
The Warriors, the No. 1 seed from the Northern Division, blew out the Stars, the No. 4 seed from the Southern Division, behind a phenomenal performance from Chandice Cronk.
The senior Wasilla guard, widely considered the best girls player in the state, hit all 10 of her shots, including six 3-pointers, en route to 26 points.
Brittany Howard paced the Stars with 10 points.
Wasilla boys 69, Soldotna 47
David Williams poured in 20 points Thursday as Wasilla, the No. 3 seed in the Northern Division, topped the Stars, the No. 2 seed from the Southern Division.
Wasilla will take on Palmer today in a 9:15 p.m. semifinal, while Soldotna will face Homer in a 2:15 p.m. game in the third-place bracket.
Ryan Hall paced the Stars with 12 points.
Soldotna got off to a slow start in the game and was never able to recover. The Stars trailed 18-6 after the first quarter.
Soldotna cut the lead to four points in the second quarter, but Wasilla widened the lead to 36-24 at the half. The Stars never threatened after that.
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