For some coaches, the state tournament can be akin to medical boards in terms of preparation.
However, both Kenai boys coach Rich Bartolowits and Kenai girls coach Jim Beeson weren't spending a ton of time prepping for the start of the Class 4A state tournament today at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
The Kenai girls (21-5 overall) open up with a 1:15 p.m. game against Colony (14-9), a team the Kardinals have played twice this year, including as recently as last Friday.
In both his roles as football and girls basketball coach, Beeson is a notorious ardent viewer of film, but the game against the Knights has given his VCR a bit of a reprieve.
"It's good in a sense that we don't have a lot of preparation and we didn't have to scramble to find tape on them," Beeson said. "We know what they do, and they know what we do.
"It's a matter of who executes better."
In the semifinals of the Region III/4A basketball tournament Friday, it was the Knights that executed better.
Kenai did a wonderful job of breaking the Colony press all game, until the Knights went on a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter that was the difference.
Colony senior Kelly Quinn keyed the spurt, scoring seven of her game-high 20 points in 35 seconds.
Knights coach Don Witzel said the insertion of guards Siena Locke and Dominique Colberg made a difference during the run. The two had sat most of the first half, but picked up the pace of the game in the fourth quarter.
Beeson said it was Kenai's errors, and not Colony's substitutions, that decided the game.
"We felt like we let one get away Friday night," Beeson said. "We've got a chance to redeem ourselves a bit."
One thing Beeson loves about his team is its character. Kenai made it to state despite losing Erica Shinn, Kenai's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, to a knee injury with just one week left in the regular season.
Then, after losing to Colony Friday night and leaving the gym after 11 p.m., Kenai got up and won a 9 a.m. game Saturday before winning another game Saturday afternoon to qualify for state.
Beeson said, in Shinn's absence, junior Erin Smith will play a crucial role. Senior guards Jamie Montgomery and Karli Knudsen will have to handle the press, and senior Michelle Edwards and junior Anna Hall will have to be solid on defense and on the glass.
The Kards also will have to cut down on their fouls. Colony was 15-of-18 from the line in the second half Friday and scored a comeback victory despite hitting just four field goals in the second half.
Kenai got to state last year and in 1999 and lost two straight games at state both times. Beeson wants more from his team this year.
"Our goal is to play three games," he said. "I think the experience we had last year, and the adversity we've had to deal with this year, will help us out."
The Kenai boys haven't had as much recent state experience as the girls. The last time the boys went to state was in 1998.
But that doesn't mean Bartolowits, who will be making his first trip to state, is scrambling to prepare. The coach even gave the team Tuesday off.
The Kardinals (17-8 overall) will face Bartlett (22-2) in an 8 a.m. game today. The Golden Bears are ranked No. 2 in the state.
"We're just going to go with our normal game plan," Bartolowits said. "That's all we can do. We've just got to execute it really well."
In its third game of the season, Kenai lost to Bartlett by 30 points. The Bears have good height in 6-foot-7 seniors Marcus Watts and Andrew Smith.
Freshman guard Mario Chalmers and sophomore guard Doug Hardy also give the opposition trouble.
Bartlett hurt Kenai with its press the first time the two met.
"They put their 6-7 guys up pressuring the ball," Bartolowits said. "It took us awhile to learn we couldn't pass over them.
"Hopefully, this time we'll be quicker learners."
The coach knows Bartlett is bigger and faster than his team, so Kenai has to have a great shooting night to win.
"It would help if the 3-ball is dropping for us," Bartolowits said. "It's so early my guys will still be asleep, and I know they shoot well in their dreams."
Seniors Caleb Schooley and Joel Dunn will have to hold their own in the paint, and seniors Marcus Webster and J.D. Pault and junior Ian Foley will have to take care of the ball.
"A lot of the varsity guys lived at the rec center playing basketball this summer," Bartolowits said. "Joel Dunn lost 30 pounds working hard this summer.
"They're not going to roll over."
Bartolowits is in his third year of building Kenai's program. He's hoping this experience continues to help Kenai basketball.
"I think it's great for the young guys on varsity, jv and C-team basketball to see this," the coach said. "Hopefully, they're thinking, 'Wow, if a team from Kenai works hard it can get to state. Maybe if I lift weights and work on my shot, I can get there one day, too.'"
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