ANCHORAGE -- Banged up and featuring a patchwork lineup, the Soldotna girls basketball team bowed out on the second day of the Class 4A state tournament.
The Stars were eliminated in a 66-58 loss to South Anchorage in a consolation game Friday at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Hard to blame SoHi, which played without four key athletes and had a fourth-string point guard on the floor for stretches.
"We just knew we had to make some adjustments," sophomore forward Kaillee Skjold said. "I thought we adjusted well and played hard."
Already without regulars Kaili Sholin and Julie Litchfield, who were on vacation, the Stars lost backup point guard Kelci Benson to a busted chin. She hurt it in SoHi's tournament-opening loss to Colony on Thursday.
Then, early in Friday's game, Kaycee Munn hobbled to bench clutching her head and never returned.
That left Makayla Wong, a junior varsity player, to run the point along with Alisah Kress, who hadn't seen any varsity action this season, either.
Yet the Stars kept it close against South in an ugly game that featured 60 turnovers. SoHi had 29, the Wolverines 31.
The teams combined for 46 fouls, leading to 54 free throws.
"It was pretty choppy, but it was just us having to adjust," Skjold said. "It was to be expected."
Skjold kept the Stars close, hitting 12 of 16 from the line and scoring a team-best 20 points. Senior Jessie Duke added 10, including a pair of 3-pointers.
The biggest lead for either team in the first half was eight points, and it wasn't until midway through the third the Wolverines gained some separation.
South took a 54-41 lead early in the fourth, but SoHi clawed back to within six in the final minute.
The Wolverines finished 16 of 25 from the free-throw line to hold off the Stars.
Rarely did either team find a rhythm as both sides used full-court pressure. Yet it was impressive SoHi stayed as close as it did considering the lack of depth.
Wong picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter, forcing Tuter to insert Kress.
Rarely do junior varsity players see action for the first time on varsity at the state tournament.
"We tried our best and the girls fought," Tuter said.
Skjold, the team's leading scorer and one of its more savvy athletes despite the fact she's a sophomore, was impressed with the way the reserves played.
"It's a team sport and I rely heavily on the other girls," Skjold said. "They played hard and showed a lot of heart."
For the Stars, who hadn't been to state since 2007, the experience was positive overall.
Duke, senior, said following Thursday's loss it was "incredible" to be on the court, though she admitted being nervous.
Skjold has two more seasons with SoHi and said she hopes to return to Sullivan sooner rather than later.
"It was crazy," she said. "I dreamed of playing at state. It was a great experience. I hope we get back."
Some of the Stars stayed for the duration of the tournament, watching championship-caliber teams.
Skjold took away many lessons.
"It's all about heart and composure," Skjold said. "The rim looks really small in such a big arena, but it's the same size and it's the same 10 girls. It's definitely a team sport once you get out in that arena."
Wolverines 66, Stars 58
South 13 15 22 16 --66
Soldotna 8 19 12 19 --58
SOUTH (66) - Pichler 6 6-6 21, Jones 0 0-0 0, Donaldson 4 1-4 12, Stark 1 3-5 5, Stophlet 2 0-0 4, Coberly-Vincek 0 0-0 0, Mason 3 6-10 12, Afualo 3 0-0 6, Ashby 4 0-0 8. Totals - 6 10-13 22.
SOLDOTNA (58) - Kress 0 0-0 0, Wong 2 0-0 4, Westermann 3 0-0 6, Satathite 2 3-5 7, Skjold 4 12-16 20, Duke 3 2-2 10, Kerkvliet 2 0-0 4, Smith 0 1-2 1, Munn 0 4-4 4. Totals - 23 16-25 66.
3-point field goals - South 6 (Pichler 3, Donaldson 3); Soldotna 2 (Duke 2). Team fouls - South 23, Soldotna 21. Fouled out - Wong, Stark, Mason.
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