It seemed like 23 was Eagle River’s lucky number Friday night as both the boys and girls took down host Kenai Central by wide margins in nonconference action.
The bearers of jersey No. 23 on both of Eagle River’s teams — freshman Mikalya Johnson for the girls and junior Sean Berry for the boys — each scored 26 points for their team. In both games, the first quarter started off low-scoring, but by halftime, Eagle River had pulled ahead with a lead Kenai just couldn’t make up.
The Wolves girls took the lead in the first quarter with 13 points, seven of those from Johnson. The Kardinals managed to get six points up on the board in the first quarter. Both teams saw a series of misfired passes and fumbled rebounds through the first quarter that kept possession swapping back and forth.
The second half of the game changed as both teams tightened up their play. By halftime, the Wolves led 19-16, and the third quarter cemented their lead.
Kenai’s Bethany Morris helped Kenai move up past the 20-point mark with four points in the quarter, but Eagle River doubled its points in the third quarter, with Johnson scoring eight, Lila Wegener five, AJ Pennington four and Kamryn Perry two. Kenai clawed up to 29 points by the end of the fourth quarter, but couldn’t keep the Eagle River offense in check resulting in the 48-29 loss.
For Kenai, Morris scored 11, while Hamilton scored 10.
Eagle River girls head coach Candice Love said the game started off with the girls a little clumsy — a case of “bus legs,” she said — but that they’d pulled it together by the third quarter.
“Our defense really drives our offense,” she said.
The varsity team is almost entirely new players this year, with Perry and Sam Gerk as the only seniors. Johnson is one of three freshmen on the varsity team this year, but they’re not the only new players, Love said. It’s taken until now for the team to really figure out communication and how to click on the court, she said. The game Friday was one of the first times it really worked.
“Learning to play together is a new thing,” she said. “When we screw up, it’s hard to recover sometimes.”
The same is true for the Eagle River boys’ varsity team — only two are seniors. Love said many of the boys varsity team members are new this year as well.
However, their game was paced very differently than the girls game, with aggressive plays on both sides from the start. Berry scored three 3-pointers in the first quarter, while Kenai countered with three 3-pointers of its own — one each from Maison Dunham, Lucas Tunseth and Kayden Daniels. By the end of the first quarter, Eagle River led 16-11.
By halftime, Eagle River had pulled ahead 36-22, with the majority of the points in the second quarter coming from Berry. Daniels canned two 3-pointers in the second quarter, but Kenai was unable to break through Eagle River’s defense. The Wolves were able to extend their lead with Berry sinking two 3-point shots and several 2-pointers throughout the quarter.
Andrews led the Wolves to solidify their lead in the third quarter, with repeated drives to the basket and rebounds on his own shots to score. He had 12 points in that quarter alone.
The Kardinals pushed back, with aggressive plays to get more shots in, particularly from Evan Stockton, who pulled in eight points in the third quarter en route to 27 for the game.
However, the Wolves’ lead was too wide a gap to recover in the fourth quarter. Though Stockton brought in 14 points in the fourth quarter alone — eight of them in free throws — Eagle River matched the Kards nearly point-for-point. Kenai scored 18 points in the final quarter, with Andrew Bezdecny and Dunham scoring two each, but Eagle River scored 17 and claimed the 72-52 win.
Daniels also hit double figures for the Kardinals with 11.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kardinals—6 10 4 9—29
Wolves—13 6 19 10—48
KENAI (29): Morris 11, Hamilton 10, Hanson 4, Villegas 4
EAGLE RIVER (48): Sherman 3, Pennington 4, Wegener 7, Johnson 26, Hudson 6, Perry 2
3-point goals: Eagle River 2 (Wegener 1, Johnson 1)
Kardinals—11 11 12 18—52
Wolves—16 20 19 17—72
KENAI (52): Dunham 5, Bezdecny 6, Stockton 27, Tunseth 3, Daniels 11.
EAGLE RIVER (72): Andrews 21, Burley 6, Michener 2, Cogswell 2, Lerch 2, Womack 3, Saxe 5, Padilla 3, Berry 26, Farthing 2
3-point goals: Kenai 5 (Dunham 1, Tunseth 1, Daniels 3), Eagle River 9 (Andrews 2, Saxe 1, Berry 6)
By ELIZABETH EARL
For the Clarion