The bid of the Kenai Central girls basketball team to return to the state tournament came up short Saturday in the third-place game of the Region III/4A basketball tournament at Homer High School.
Colony, the No. 3 seed out of the Northern Division, defeated the Kardinals 45-32 to earn its 10th straight berth to the state tournament.
Kenai came into the tournament with the No. 4 seed out of the Southern Division. After an opening round loss to Wasilla, the Kardinals battled back with victories over Skyview Friday and Palmer Saturday. Kenai had not beaten either team during the regular season.
However, the Kardinals could not continue the string of upsets against the Knights.
Kenai's run had been keyed by defense. The Kardinals allowed just 40 points to Skyview and 33 points in regulation and an overtime to Palmer.
In the third-place game, the Kardinals ran into an equally tough defense.
Kenai held Colony to 28 percent shooting. But the Kardinals shot just 34 percent from the floor and committed 19 turnovers.
"I knew Kenai would be tough because they have good athletes," Colony coach Don Witzel said. "Both (Kenai coach) Jim (Beeson) and I are known to coach good defense, and that showed tonight."
It especially showed in the first half, when Colony took a 16-12 lead. Both teams had played a game earlier Saturday, and all the basketball may have caught up with them.
"A lot of the poor shooting could have been tired legs," Witzel said.
Colony came out a little fresher in the second half, going on a 10-2 run out of the locker room to take control of the game. Kristina Klapperich ended that run with a layup that made it 26-14 with 3:07 left in the third quarter.
Kenai would get no closer than eight points the rest of the game as Colony's fullcourt, pressing defense kept the Kardinals at bay.
"It was just a containment press," Witzel said. "We wanted to force them to make more decisions with the basketball."
Kenai senior Dallas Baldwin finished up her career with a nice offensive effort, striking for 17 points. Malorie Eggers had 11 points for Colony, while Klapperich and Jessica Dault added 10 points apiece.
Kenai girls 39, Palmer 33, OT
The Kardinals held the Moose, the No. 2 seed from the Northern Division, to eight points in the second half and three points in overtime to pick up the win.
Kenai advanced to the third-place game against Colony while ending Palmer's season.
Kenai, taking advantage of foul trouble to Palmer's Chrissy Lien, came back from a 22-15 deficit to take a 25-24 lead after three quarters.
The score was tied at 30 with 1 1/2 minutes to play. Palmer held the basketball for that 1 1/2 minutes but missed a shot at the victory with under 10 seconds to play. Kenai's Dallas Baldwin also had a shot for the win at the buzzer, but missed.
The Kardinals and their defense then took command of the overtime. Baldwin and Erica Smith paced Kenai with 10 points. Emily Bolling had 15 points for Palmer.
Colony girls 43, Homer 35
The Knights took a 28-14 lead after the first half at Homer Middle School and held on to end the season of the Mariners, the No. 3 seed from the Southern Division.
Colony advanced to the third-place game against Kenai.
Kristina Klapperich led all scorers with 16 points, including 12 in the all-important first half.
Bailey Lowney paced Homer with 10 points.
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