Kodiak senior Chad Mortenson is a poster boy for the kind of effort it was going to take to get the Bears past Homer and into the state tournament Thursday at Homer High School.
In a game where bodies thumped the floor regularly and every rebound was a rugby scrum, the Kodiak boys took third place at the Region III/4A tournament with a 64-57 victory over Homer.
In the opening round of the tournament, Kodiak, the No. 3 seed from the Northern Division, blew away Homer, the No. 2 seed from the Southern Division, by a score of 64-53.
Saturday, playing on its home floor with 10 seniors on its roster, Homer refused to be such easy pickings.
But Kodiak, led by Mortenson, showed equal grit of its own. Three weeks ago, Mortenson sprained his ankle.
He worked his way back into form for the tournament, but with 3:12 left in the first quarter he took a shot to the thigh and had to take a momentary seat on the bench.
Mortenson came back, only to vault his body on the floor attempting a steal with 4:48 left in the second quarter and cut his elbow.
The senior came back from that and ended up leading Kodiak to victory with 17 points. The victory gave Kodiak its third trip to state in the past four years and denied Homer its first state berth since 2000.
"That was brutal," Homer coach Billy Day said of the intense contest. "Both teams came out and played really hard. They both had their backs against the wall."
In the end, Kodiak's shooting made the difference. The Bears finished 41 percent from the floor, while Homer was 31 percent from the field.
Day gave Kodiak coach Amy Fogle credit for putting an exceptionally well-drilled club on the floor that had even stayed with top-ranked Wasilla in Friday's semifinals.
"We didn't shoot well at all," Day said. "They shot the lights out early."
Kodiak made its first big break at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter. Alfie Agmata hit a layup to complete an 8-0 run and give the Bears a 24-13 advantage with 5:46 left in the first half.
However, Homer came back with an 8-0 spurt of its own and Adam Crum nailed a short jumper to make it 24-21 with 3:39 left in the first half.
Kodiak started the second half with a 12-4 spurt, hitting four of its first seven in the second half while Homer hit just two of its first nine.
Harry Reitzke completed that 12-4 spurt with a free throw that made it 46-31 with 4:22 left in the third.
"We didn't give up when we got down in the third quarter," Day said. "That's the character of this team.
"These guys are great friends. They know how to stick together."
Homer was down by 12 in the fourth quarter when Ben Kuhns keyed a 7-0 run with a jumper and 3-pointer. Kuhns had a steal and fed David Drake for a layup that made it 57-52 with 4:31 left in the game.
Homer was within 59-55 with 1:35 left, but didn't score until a layup by Steven Stead made it 61-57 with 23 seconds left. The Mariners never got closer than those four points.
Elliot Johnson added 13 points for Kodiak.
Crum, a physical load underneath, paced Homer with 15 points. Drake added 13 and Stead pitched in 10.
"We feel good," Crum said. "This is the way we wanted to go down. We went down fighting.
"We didn't sell ourselves short. It was a great way to end the year."
Kodiak boys 63, Skyview 28
The Bears quickly took care of any momentum Skyview, the No. 3 seed from the Southern Division, had gained from a Friday upset of Kenai.
Kodiak advanced to the third-place game against Homer while ending Skyview's season.
The Bears had a 12-8 lead after the first quarter and a 30-16 lead at halftime.
"We knew we had to play well and we didn't," Skyview coach Dave Blossom said. "We didn't play like we could win it.
"Every game, even if it's Wasilla or Bartlett, you have to go out there thinking you can win the game. We didn't do that."
Blossom said that was a bit surprising because the Panthers defeated Kenai for the first time in three tries Friday.
"That was a big win for us," Blossom said. "The guys were really upbeat after that."
Kodiak was led by Chad Mortenson's 12 points. The Bears, resting up for a third-place game that would be played a few hours later, had every player on their roster score. Adam Cooper led Skyview with eight points.
Homer boys 68, Palmer 53
Ben Kuhns poured in 21 points to knock Palmer, the No. 4 seed from the Southern Division, out of the tournament in a game at Homer Middle School. Homer moved into the third-place game against Kodiak. The Mariners also avenged a loss in the region regular season to the Moose.
Kuhns saved his best for last, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Mariners expanded on a 49-43 lead after three quarters.
Homer also received 13 points from Steven Stead and 12 points from David Drake. Palmer's leading scorer was Stanley Ratcliff, who had 19 points.
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