Soldotna's Brittany Howard looks to pass as Palmer's Brittany Heck applies pressure Thursday at Soldotna High School at the Northern Lights Conference tournament.
Photo by Will Morrow
The Soldotna High School girls basketball team put together about as good a first quarter as it could have hoped for, building a nine-point lead against the Palmer Moose in the opening round of the Northern Lights Conference tournament.
Unfortunately, the Stars couldn't keep it going through the rest of the game, and the Moose came back to win 45-36 Thursday at Soldotna.
"We started off good, we just kind of died down with our intensity," said Soldotna's Brittany Howard. "Our shots weren't going, and we just really needed to pick up the intensity."
The Stars started the game with a six-point run and dominated the boards through the first quarter six of Soldotna's first eight points came from offensive rebounds and stymied the Moose defensively as Palmer didn't score its first points until half of the first quarter had expired.
Palmer turned the tables in the second quarter, though, holding the Stars to just two points and pulling to within two points, 19-17, at the half.
Palmer coach Paul Reid said he had his squad abandon the full-court defense it was playing in the first quarter as the Stars were getting too many transition baskets.
"We made some adjustments in our half-court defense as well. It paid off in the second quarter, and we stayed with it the rest of the game," Reid said.
The Moose tied the game at 23 with 2:54 left in the third quarter when Dani Cox sunk a foul shot to complete a three-point play, then took the lead when Tasha Lee-Gilmore drained a 3-pointer less than a minute later.
"We started strong, we finished fairly well, just in between we didn't do very well," said Soldotna coach Mark Tuter.
Leslie Berberich led the Moose with 13 points while Kaylee Wilbanks paced the Stars with 10 points.
"We have a really young team, so we'll take every win we get," said Reid. "We told the girls that the first one was the most important one. If we're going to give ourselves a chance to get to state, we have to win the first one to get there."
The Moose will face Wasilla, a team Reid said his squad has been getting closer and closer to during the course of the season, in today's semifinals.
The Stars still have a chance to advance to the state tournament via the third-place bracket, where they'll play Kenai Central today.
"They're our rivals. We're always pumped up to play them, so hopefully we'll be ready to go," Howard said. "I think we still can go to state it's just a different way than we planned to go about it. We'll try not to let that get us down, and move on."
MOOSE 45, STARS 36
Palmer 8 9 18 10 45
Soldotna 17 2 8 9 36
PALMER (45) Lee-Gilmore 2 0-0 5, Berberich 5 1-6 13, D. Cox 2 1-1 5, M. Cox 1 2-6 4, Heck 1 0-0 3, Hall 0 1-2 1, Swetzof 2 3-7 7, Hutte 2 0-0 4, Houser 0 0-0 0, Rattclif 1 1-2 3. Totals 16 9-24 45.
SOLDOTNA (36) Smith 3 2-2 9, McCown 2 0-2 4, Cleveland 1 0-0 2, Gardner 0 0-0 0, Stenga 1 1-2 3, Wilbanks 5 0-2 10, Howard 2 1-2 5, Bell 0 0-0 0, Barker 0 0-0 0, Marey 0 0-0 0, Denna 1 1-2 3, Blackburn 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 5-12 36.
3-point goals Palmer 4 (Berberich 2, Lee-Gilmore, Heck), Soldotna 1 (Smith). Total fouls Palmer 14, Soldotna 22. Fouled out Stenga, Howard. Technical fouls Bell.
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