Kenai Central’s Sierra Hershberger keeps the ball from Bethel’s Kyana Harpak on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Sierra Hershberger keeps the ball from Bethel’s Kyana Harpak on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Bethel basketball sweeps Kenai

The Bethel basketball team swept host Kenai Central on Wednesday in nonconference action.

In the girls game, the Warriors ran away in the fourth quarter for a 59-45 victory that dropped the Kards to 1-7 overall. In the boys game, Bethel captured a 77-43 victory as Kenai fell to 1-7.

Both Kenai girls coach Joe Shirley and Kenai boys coach Nolan Rose said their teams have little to no experience back from last season.

Shirley said Sierra Hershberger and Emilee Wilson are the only players on the team who saw a lot of varsity minutes last season. Mycka Phillips also saw some time.

The team has three seniors — Alex Nelson, Wilson and Phillips.

“It’s a learning year, for sure,” Shirley said. “We looked a lot better today than we have in our last couple games.”

Kenai trailed just 40-37 heading into the final quarter. Ellsi Miller scored all 15 of her points in the first three quarters to help keep the Kards close.

Miller mainly got her points with some nice moves in the low post.

“That’s the best I’ve seen her play since our first game against Redington,” Shirley said. “That was awesome to see. We’ve been working on that in practice.”

Kenai also got some easy buckets after breaking the Bethel press, but Shirley said the Warriors’ press forced too many turnovers.

“I think we’re averaging 18 to 21, something like that,” Shirley said. “Tonight, we had 35 from what we counted.

“So that’s obviously too many. We’ve got to cut that down.”

The Kardinals stayed in a zone for the game. Bethel whipped the ball around the perimeter and got good shots, but only four 3-pointers fell in the first three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, the Warriors hit four 3-pointers to cushion the lead.

Isabel Lieb had three treys in the fourth quarter. Lieb hit five 3-pointers on the way to 18 points.

“With that zone defense, we’re asking a lot of our block defenders to close out to the corner,” Shirley said. “Our closeouts were at times a little slow.

“That allowed some open shots we should have been contesting. But they were lights out in that fourth quarter.”

Shirley said the team showed hustle throughout, and gave particular credit to Avia Miller, Wilson and Hershberger for scrappy play.

Wilson had nine points for the Kards, while Hershberger had five, Phillips had four, Avia Miller and Grace Kahn each had two, and Nelson had one.

For Bethel, Allie Alexie added 17 points, while Briella Herron had 10, Kyana Harpak had six, Malinda Simon had five and Payton Boney had two.

Bethel boys 77, Kenai 43

The Kenai boys have even less experience than the Kenai girls.

“We graduated nine seniors,” Rose said. “We don’t have any returning rotational players from that team.

“So we’re starting completely over. And that inexperience shows.”

Rose said he has three freshmen and two sophomores playing substantial minutes on varsity.

“Our freshmen class is very good,” Rose said. “Over a four-year period, they’re going to win a lot of basketball games.

“But they’re getting thrown into the frying pan right now. And it’s turned up to nine.”

Playing so much youth, Rose said Kenai will be on the short end of size and strength in a lot of games.

“We told the boys in the locker room, we can accept that we’re young and we’re inexperienced, and the other team might have a talent gap advantage over us,” Rose said. “But talent doesn’t prevent us from communicating on defense.

“The opposing team doesn’t prevent us from talking to each other. That has nothing to do with them and everything to do with us.”

Rose said his squad has been trending upward, but added Wednesday was a step back due to the poor defensive communication.

“We have to start communicating with our mouths,” Rose said, joking the players are used to communicating with smartphones, but smartphones aren’t allowed on the court. “Until we do that, we’re going to give up 70-something points, every game, every night.”

Bethel’s Greg Turner nailed five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 23 points, while Paul Dyment had 12 and Aaron Mute had 10 for the Warriors. Also, Brian Guest, Ellis Johnson and Jackson Iverson all had eight, Ethan Wheeler had seven, Warren Nicolai had two and Madden Cockroft had one.

Ben Harris paced the Kards with 12, while Miles Metteer had nine, Daniel Steffensen had five, Zane James and Reid Titus had four, Ryker Dykema and Trae Pitsch had three, and William Wilson had two.

Metteer left the game after a hard foul, but Rose said it was a cramp and Metteer should be OK.

Kenai Central’s Miles Metteer is fouled by Bethel’s Jackson Iverson on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Miles Metteer is fouled by Bethel’s Jackson Iverson on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Bethel’s Aaron Mute drives against Kenai Central’s William Wilson on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Bethel’s Aaron Mute drives against Kenai Central’s William Wilson on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Emilee Wilson puts up a shot against Bethel’s Isabel Lieb on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Emilee Wilson puts up a shot against Bethel’s Isabel Lieb on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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