The Kenai Central girls got a taste of their own medicine from a bitter pill called the Bartlett defense Saturday during the Class 4A girls state tournament. But persistence was the Kardinals' spoonful of sugar, as Kenai held on to beat the Golden Bears 41-39 in the physical fourth-place game at Sullivan Arena.
"We got it done somehow," said Kenai head coach Jim Beeson. "We hung around and got it done."
The Kardinals started off in normal fashion, putting eight quick points on the board, with contributions from Erin Smith, Michelle Edwards and Karli Knudsen. A pair of free throws from Edwards gave Kenai 10 points for the first period, as the Kardinals defense held Bartlett to only one bucket for most of the quarter.
But like bad karma, this returned to haunt Kenai as the Golden Bears turned up the pressure and began to give as good as they got on the defensive end. Maybe even better.
After closing the first period with three consecutive buckets -- one for 3 points from Candi Squartsoff -- Bartlett couldn't keep its hands off Kenai passes. Although the Bears only logged eight steals, they disturbed nearly twice as many passes, causing 15 Kenai turnovers.
The Bears bothered Kenai shots, slowed up Kardinals fast-break attempts and downright aggravated a Kenai offense that normally ran like a well-oiled machine. At the half, Bartlett was only a point behind the Kardinals, and after the third quarter, the Bears were still just a basket down at 30-28.
A second-quarter steal by Smith translated to one of the two successful fast breaks Kenai did get, ending in a layup from Anna Hall, who took off down the left wing. The second breakaway play came in the third quarter, after Edwards, who led Kenai scoring with 14 points, grappled the ball from an indignant Bear and ran the length of the floor to drop in her own two points. Edwards was also the game-leading rebounder with eight.
Jamie Montgomery, who had six steals, wasn't able to get on the scoreboard during the game and racked up four fouls defending Bartlett guard Letricia Castillo, who led all scorers with 15 points. Beeson switched Montgomery off Castillo at the top of the fourth period and paired Smith with the Bears point guard.
"But late in the quarter, I put Jamie back on her," Beeson said. "And I told her she had to hold her without fouling."
As the game wound down to the final seconds of the fourth quarter, the lead changed hands four times and came to a tie at 39-all. With only nine seconds left, Knudsen found herself with the ball in her hands at the bonus line, following a pushing foul. She sank both shots, putting the Kardinals ahead, and a last-second Bartlett shot missed its mark, giving Kenai the win.
"That was one of those situations you've been waiting for all your life," Knudsen said of her last free-throw shots.
Bartlett coach Karine Turner Wheeler said mental errors cost her team the game.
"I won't take anything away from Kenai," she said. "They're a good teem. We talked about their high pick and roll and missed our assignments. And we missed our free throws. If we had played a smarter game, we'd be right there."
But Beeson said one thing separated his Kardinals from Bartlett in the end.
"We just wanted it more."
KARDINALS 41, BARTLETT 39
Bartlett 7 12 9 11 --39
Kenai 10 10 10 11 --41
BARTLETT (39) -- Scroggins 0 0-0 0, Lassiter 0 0-0 0, Castillo 5 5-9 15, Hunsacker 1 0-0 2, Moss 2 1-5 5, Driver 3 0-0 6, Sumpter 1 0-0 2, Squartsoff 2 1-2 6, Watson 1 1-1 3. Totals -- 15 8-17 39.
KENAI (41) -- Knudsen 5 2-4 12, Baldwin 0 0-0 0, Montgomery 0 0-0 0, Goggia 0 0-0 0, Edwards 5 4-5 14, McLeod 0 0-0 0, Hall 0 4-6 4, Smith 5 1-4 11. Totals -- 15 11-19 41.
3-point goals -- Bartlett 1 (Squartsoff 1); Kenai 0. Total fouls -- Bartlett 17, Kenai 18. Fouled out -- Watson.
East 50, Wasilla 47
The Thunderbirds overcame 24 points for Wasilla's Brittney Kroon for their third straight Class 4A championship.
Tenecia Macon and Ashley Mickens each had 12 points for East, while Chandice Cronk added 10 points for Wasilla.
Chugiak 45, Colony 44
The Mustangs, despite scoring just four points in the fourth quarter, edged the Knights for third place.
Elyse Hartman dumped in 18 points to pace Chugiak.
Carly Thaggard had 12 points to lead Colony, while Kristina Klapperich had 11 points.
Dimond 52, Wasilla 37
The Lynx took a 13-4 lead after the first quarter en route to wrapping up third place.
Joe Chirhart led Dimond to victory with 31 points. Ray Schafer had 16 points for Wasilla.
Lathrop 55, Chugiak 53
The Malemutes put four players in double figures to take fourth place at the tournament.
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