Kenai's Taylor Moore tries to keep the ball from Skyview's Chelsea Martin in the second quarter Friday night at Skyview High School.
M. Scott Moon
For Kenai coach Ken Felchle, Friday night was more than two years in the making.
And boy, was it worth the wait.
The Kardinals’ girls basketball coach roamed the sideline for the first time since being hired in 2004 and watched his girls play nearly impenetrable defense in overcoming a plethora of turnovers (21) during a 52-41 victory over Skyview at Skyview High School.
After originally being named head coach, Felchle was sent to Iraq where he was stationed for more than a year as part of an Alaskan National Guard unit.
Then his opening night was delayed even more when Kenai’s first game against Seward was canceled.
Finally, it’s in the books.
Damaris Craig scored 16 points, Kyla Steward notched 14 and Samantha Navarre added 10 in making his coaching debut a success.
“I told the girls at the beginning of the game, in pregame, this moment tonight, I’ve been waiting for for three years,” Felchle said. “They were as excited about tonight as I was and it showed on the court. We’re just real happy.”
Behind 21 points from Nathan Byrd and 19 from Daniel Gustkey, the Kenai boys also defeated Skyview, 79-38, on Friday evening.
Adding to the atmosphere of the opening game was the fact that Panthers’ coach Ronnie Kier played for Felchle when he was a Skyview student and Felchle was an assistant coach on the JV squad.
“I know what he brings to the table,” Kier said. “There’s no way you underestimate a coach like that and he got those girls to play.
“The teacher got the better end of the deal this time,” he added.
With the score knotted at 8 after both teams’ strung together 8-0 runs in the opening period, the second period went back-and-forth, with nine lead changes and four ties before Craig pulled down an offensive rebound and put it back for a 24-20 Kardinals’ advantage entering halftime.
Both teams continued trading baskets in the third before the Kardinals converted on one of Skyview’s 15 turnovers when Navarre sank a wide-open 3, with 2:34 to play in the third. That sparked a 6-0 run to close the quarter as Steward scored three more points for a 38-33 edge entering the final frame.
“Our posts, they’re going to be crucial to our success. There’s no doubt,” Felchle said of Craig and Steward. “We are going to look to them all season. They are the cornerstones.”
Craig opened the fourth with two more points and Navarre then canned a trey for a 43-33 lead with 6:25 to play. Meanwhile, the Panthers were mired in a scoring drought of about eight minutes before Melissa Massey found the bottom of net, cutting the deficit to 10 with 3:44 remaining.
“We knew Sam Navarre was their player and money scorer and Damaris Craig, she played tough and she hit some key buckets,” Kier said.
Skyview's Alex West passes the ball over Kenai in the First quarter Friday.
M. Scott Moon
Skyview (1-2) kept fighting, though, creeping within six after Ariel Mercier and Chelsea Martin hit back-to-back buckets with 1:29 to play. But the Kardinals hit 5-of-8 from the foul line down the stretch to seal the win. Conversely, the Panthers were 0-for-8 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter and shot nearly 26 percent from the field in the contest.
Melissa Fay scored a team-high 16 points and Nicole Van Ryzin added 11 for the Panthers.
“You hear coaches say it a thousand times, free throws win games. Especially in the fourth quarter when our legs are tired,” Kier explained. “That’s the mental aspect of that and that’s what we need to work on.
“This is a very good shooting ball club. We were off (Friday). And when we’re not shooting well, it’s going to be tough for us to win games when two or three of us aren’t shooting well,” he added. “But when we’re all not shooting well, then we really don’t have a shot.”
Kenai boys 79, Skyview 38
The Kardinals (2-0) had little trouble handling the Panthers, opening the first and second quarters on 11-0 and 13-0 runs, respectively. They also scored 36 points off 27 Skyview turnovers while shooting 43 percent from the field through the first three quarters.
“I watched tape of this team from last year, Skyview, they averaged 22 turnovers and that’s the key,” first-year Panthers’ coach Red Goodwin said. “If we can eliminate turnovers and take care of the ball, we can improve. That’s the key to the game.”
Gustkey scored six of Kenai’s first 11 points in leading the Kardinals to a 21-10 advantage after eight minutes.
The lead then reached 24 after Kenai notched eight points off three Skyview turnovers and the Kardinals outscored the Panthers 22-6 in the second quarter for a 43-16 lead at the break.
“I’ve been in Kenai for 19 years and this is probably the best collection of just pure shooters, kids being able to score and put the ball in the basket, that we’ve ever had here,” said Kenai coach Jim Beeson. “It would be nice if we had a little bit of size to go along with it, but we just have to take advantage of what we have and create tempo. And we did a good job of that again (Friday).”
Byrd hit a 3-pointer to begin the third, stretching the lead to 30 and the Kardinals’ up-and-down pace continued to the tune of a 69-32 edge after three periods.
Cory Toombs added 13 points for Kenai while Richie Shirnberg and Jeff Nelson scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, for Skyview.
“We like that helter-skelter pace and they don’t function very well in that helter-skelter pace,” Beeson said.
Goodwin said after scouting the Kardinals in their first game this season, the Panthers (1-1) knew what they were in for a lot of running and crashing the boards.
“We thought we could make them put it on the floor and lower that shooting percentage,” he said. “It didn’t happen.
“Our theme for this year is reduce turnovers and out-rebound our opponent,” Goodwin added. “I think we were 1-for-2 (Friday).”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at matthew.carroll @peninsulaclarion.com.
KARDINALS 79, PANTHERS 38
Kenai 8 16 14 14 52
Skyview 8 14 11 8 41
KENAI (52) Navarre 3 2-6 10, Hannah 3 0-0 6, Foley 3 0-0 6, Moore 0 0-0 0, Hull 0 0-0 0, Craig 8 0-1 16, Steward 3 8-10 14. Totals 20 10-17 52.
SKYVIEW (41) Martin 1 0-0 2, Massey 2 1-2 7, Fay 4 7-13 16, Van Ryzin 5 1-6 11, Mercier 1 0-0 2, West 1 1-1 3. Totals 14 10-22 41.
3-point goals Kenai 2 (Navarre 2), Skyview 1 (Fay 1) Total fouls Kenai 21, Skyview 18. Fouled out Foley, Fay.
KARDINALS 79, PANTHERS 38
Kenai 21 22 26 10 79
Skyview 10 6 16 6 38
Skyview's Richie Shirnberg eyes his shot over Kenai's Nathan Byrd in the first quarter Friday at Skyview High School.
M. Scott Moon
KENAI (79) Saltzgiver 3 0-0 8, Werba 0 0-0 0, Toombs 5 0-0 13, Beeson 1 2-4 4, Ellis 2 2-2 6, Maxon 0 0-0 0, Gustkey 7 4-4 19, Byrd 8 2-2 21, Lazaro 0 2-2 2, Chimphalee 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 9 12-14 79
SKYVIEW (38) West 2 0-1 5, Duke 0 5-6, 5, Bosick 3 6-12 12, Blossom 1 0-0 2, Singleton 0 0-0 0, Shirnberg 6 1-5 14. Totals 12 12-24 38.
3-point goals Kenai 9 (Saltzgiver 2, Toombs 3, Gustkey 1, Byrd 3), Skyview 2 (West 1, Shirnberg 1) Total fouls Kenai 22, Skyview 12. Fouled out none.
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