The Soldotna High School girls basketball team needed a quarter to figure out Kodiak's pressure defense Thursday in the opening round of the Region III/4A tournament at Skyview High School.
The Stars were able to make the adjustments they needed to and put some distance between themselves and the Bears, running away to 44-29 win.
The victory puts the Stars in today's 5:45 p.m. semifinal against Wasilla at Skyview. Kodiak will play Homer at 10:45 a.m. in the consolation bracket.
A little bit of distance turned out to be one of the key adjustments made by the Stars after Kodiak pressed its way to a 10-6 lead in the first quarter.
"Their point guard, at first we played her really close, and she'd beat us off the dribble," said Soldotna's Jennifer Senette. "We dropped off her a little bit, and we were able to control her a little bit. Then it was our defense down low -- if we could limit them to one shot, we didn't think they could beat us."
The Stars also broke out of their zone defense, switching to a man-to-man defense, which not only slowed down the Kodiak offense, it also sparked Soldotna's attack.
"That helps us pick up the pace on offense," said Soldotna's Hillary Zobeck. "It gets our feet moving, and gets us talking a lot."
Zobeck credited Soldotna assistant coach John Christensen with motivating the team to play good man-to-man defense.
"We went from zone to man-to-man. It changed the tempo for us," Soldotna coach Mark Tuter said. "We were able to put a lot more pressure on them out of our man than our zone."
With the defense taking care of Kodiak's offense, Soldotna was able to start solving the Bears' backcourt pressure.
Senette worked herself open and hit a 3-pointer with 5:15 left in the second quarter to give the Stars their first lead of the game, 14-13.
Kodiak came right back when Aisha Brown converted a 3-point play, knocking down a basket for two while being fouled and then sinking the foul shot.
Senette hit another trey on the Stars' next trip down the floor, though, giving Soldotna a lead it would not relinquish. The Stars were able to start feeding the ball inside to Zobeck and Rachel Besse, who combined for 31 points. Besse scored 11 of her 17 points in the second half, and Zobeck netted 10 of her 14 points after the break.
"They had a lot of pressure up top, and the plan was to push it inside," Zobeck said.
The Stars led 19-16 at the half, and scored eight unanswered points to open the third quarter. Kodiak wasn't able to put any points on the board until 4:27 had ticked off the clock, and a two-point jump shot by Annie Withrow did little to slow Soldotna's momentum.
While Besse and Zobeck did the bulk of the scoring for the Stars thanks to feeds from Senette, Amy Breakfield chipped in with three points from the foul line while Erin Wolfe and Sam Penner had two points each.
Jo Swartout led the Bears with nine points while Withrow finished with eight and Mary Swartout netted seven points.
Kodiak coach Jimmy Skeet said his team wasn't able to make the necessary adjustments to stay with the Stars.
"We were not as sharp as we have been the last few games. We didn't react as quickly as we should have," Skeet said. "It's not what they're doing, it's what we didn't do to adjust."
STARS 44, BEARS 29
Kodiak 10 6 5 8 -- 29
Soldotna 6 13 12 13 -- 44
KODIAK (29) -- Cassidy 0 0-0 0, Brown 1 1-1 3, M. Swartout 2 3-4 7, Murdock 0 0-0 0, J. Swartout 3 1-3 9, Cowley 1 0-0 2, Bundy 0 0-0 0, Arndt 0 0-0 0, Rietze 0 0-0 0, Donaldson 0 0-0 0, Withrow 4 0-0 8. Totals -- 11 5-8 29.
SOLDOTNA (44) -- A. Penner 0 0-0 0, Senette 2 0-0 6, Wolfe 1 0-0 2, Christensen 0 0-0 0, Besse 8 1-4 17, S. Penner 1 0-0 2, Syverson 0 0-0 0, Zobeck 7 0-0 14, Breakfield 0 3-7 3. Totals -- 19 4-11 44.
3-point goals -- Kodiak 2 (J. Swartout 2), Soldotna 2 (Senette 2). Total fouls -- Kodiak 13, Soldotna 11. Fouled out -- none.
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