Kenai senior Luke Beiser puts up a shot in front of Palmer’s Clayton Southwick (23) Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai senior Luke Beiser puts up a shot in front of Palmer’s Clayton Southwick (23) Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Friday: Kenai cagers fall short to Palmer

For as much bang as they were getting for their buck, the Palmer girls basketball team should’ve invested in some stock Friday night in Kenai.

The Moose hit 17 of 20 free throws in the fourth quarter to stage a rally following a third-quarter letdown and beat Kenai Central 58-50 for a clutch Northern Lights Conference win. Palmer lifted its NLC record to 4-2 while Kenai dropped to 2-7.

“When you get (free throws), you’ve got to hit them,” said Palmer coach Elgin Hollins. “They’re called free for a reason.”

Palmer led 25-21 after a tight first half, but the hometown Kardinals blazed out of the gates in the third quarter on a 17-0 run to take a 38-25 lead, leaving the Moose stunned.

“(Kenai) came out on fire,” Hollins said. “We went into a little lull there, and they jumped on us.”

However, Palmer finally found its footing. Kenai led 46-37 with 5:50 left in the fourth quarter, but, perhaps feeling the pressure to snap a losing skid and avoid a three-game home sweep to the Valley teams, the Kards began making mistakes and fouling the Moose. Overall, Kenai committed 14 fouls in the second half.

One by one, Palmer’s players stepped up to the line and ate into the deficit by hitting their freebies, and did it with the game on the line too. Julia Benshelter went 6 for 6 in the fourth and Abrianna Busbey went 5 for 6 to lead the Moose.

A layup by Avery Pettingill tied the game with 3:45 to go, but Kenai’s Kailey Hamilton responded with a bucket on the other end to put the Kards back in front. On the next possession, Busbey was fouled and tied the game with two made shots.

Palmer finally completed the turnaround with 2:50 remaining when Kelsey Giese knocked down a driving layup to put the Moose ahead 52-50, and a pair of free throws from Benshelter with 54 seconds left pushed the game out of reach for Kenai.

Kenai failed to score a point in the final 3:32 of the game, and was outscored 33-12 in the final 10:07 of the game.

“It’s a free-throw game,” said a frustrated Kenai head coach Cary Calvert. “It was a winnable game for us.”

Busbey ultimately finished with a team-high 18 points for Palmer while Benshelter and Kassidy Bowman each had 12.

Kenai was led by Brooke Satathite’s 14 points, including eight in the third-quarter surge, and Liz Hanson’s 13.

Another turning point that led to the fourth-quarter collapse Friday night came with 4:06 to play when starting guard Hayley Maw fouled out.

“I mean, Hayley was sitting there with me (on the bench),” Calvert said.

Hollins said with six NLC games left on Palmer’s schedule, the race is on for precious high seeds for the conference tournament in March.

“These are must-win games for us,” Hollins said. “We’re only a couple games ahead of SoHi for third (in the NLC standings).”

Palmer boys 47, Kenai 39

Kenai senior Luke Beiser owned the court with 32 points Friday night, but the Kardinals boys could not recover from a slow start in falling to the Moose.

Beiser scored 14 in the fourth quarter alone to stage a late rally, outscoring Palmer 7-0 by himself in a span of 1:09 to cut the gap to 40-29 with 4:17 left in the game, but it would be too late.

“Beiser has been fantastic,” said Kenai head coach Ken Felchle. “I’ve told him over and over, everyone else on the team is upping their level of play, but you’ve got to be great.”

Clayton Southwick, a 6-foot-7 senior, led Palmer with 17 points, while Isaac Atkins chipped in 13 and Jared Hawkins notched 10.

Palmer improved to 3-2 in conference, 13-5 overall, while Kenai dropped to 0-9 and 9-11 overall, clinching the sixth and last place seed in the NLC.

Palmer head coach Chuck Martin said with half of its conference schedule to play, the Moose need to get every victory they can, and Friday’s brush with Kenai was a fair test.

“This was a scary game for us,” Martin said. “I wasn’t concerned as much about turnovers as I was finishing possessions.”

It helped that Palmer got off to a quick start from beyond the arc, building a 13-2 lead in the first four minutes on three 3-pointers from Southwick and Atkins.

Eventually, Kenai’s execution swung around and kept the Moose in check. Palmer led 24-16 at halftime.

However, outside of Beiser, the Kardinals offensive game was not getting much help. Kenai only scored six points in the third quarter, and a corner 3 from Jacob Titus put Palmer up 40-22.

That’s when Beiser took command for a few minutes, knocking down a pair of buckets, including the “and-one” foul, and grabbing a steal for a transition layup with 4:17 left to make it an 11-point game.

Beiser later nicked another steal for a emphatic dunk, but it came too little, too late.

With two starters — Zack Tuttle and Braydon Goodman — out of the lineup to injury, Felchle said his squad played about as strong as he could have hoped for.

“It’s a testament to the kids,” he said. “They’re not going to stop.”

Friday girls

Moose 58, Kardinals 50

Palmer 12 13 10 23 —58

Kenai 7 14 19 10 —50

PALMER (58) — Busbey 5 6-8 18, Pettingill 2 1-2 5, Uschmann 0 0-0 0, S. Benshelter 2 0-0 4, Bowman 4 2-2 12, Giese 2 3-6 7, J. Benshelter 3 6-9 12, Sutton 0 0-0 0, Alley 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 18-27 58.

KENAI (50) — Calvert 2 0-0 6, Hamilton 2 1-1 5, Maw 2 0-0 4, Ezlich 1 0-0 2, Hanson 6 1-2 13, Paxton 0 0-0 0, Carrasco 3 0-0 6, Satathite 7 0-0 14, Streiff 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 2-3 50.

3-point goals — Palmer 4 (Busbey 2, Bowman 2); Kenai 2 (Calvert 2).

Team fouls — Palmer 12; Kenai 19. Fouled out — Maw.

Friday boys

Moose 47, Kardinals 39

Palmer 17 7 11 12 —47

Kenai 7 9 6 17 —39

PALMER (47) — Atkins 4 2-4 13, Titus 1 0-0 3, Hawkins 3 3-4 10, Rankin 0 0-0 0, Southwick 8 0-3 17, Oviak 1 0-0 2, Cutwright 0 0-0 0, Marshall 1 0-2 2. Totals 18 5-13 47.

KENAI (39) — Efta 1 0-0 2, Felchle 1 0-0 3, Baker 0 0-0 0, Riddall 0 0-0 0, Beiser 13 5-8 32, Trujillo 1 0-0 2, Strende 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 5-8 39.

3-point goals — Palmer 6 (Atkins 3, Titus 1, Hawkins 1, Southwick 1); Kenai 2 (Felchle 1, Beiser 1).

Team fouls — Palmer 13; Kenai 11. Fouled out — none.

Kenai senior Luke Beiser (23) drives the baseline Friday night against Palmer at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai senior Luke Beiser (23) drives the baseline Friday night against Palmer at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Palmer’s Jared Hawkins drives to the baseline against Kenai’s Connor Felchle (left) Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Palmer’s Jared Hawkins drives to the baseline against Kenai’s Connor Felchle (left) Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Palmer’s Abrianna Busbey (left) looks for space against Kenai’s Jaycie Calvert Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Palmer’s Abrianna Busbey (left) looks for space against Kenai’s Jaycie Calvert Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Palmer guard Sophia Benshelter eyes the rim with Kenai’s Brooke Satathite defending Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Palmer guard Sophia Benshelter eyes the rim with Kenai’s Brooke Satathite defending Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Liz Hanson shoots between Palmer defenders Kassidy Bowman (right) and Sophia Benshelter, Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Liz Hanson shoots between Palmer defenders Kassidy Bowman (right) and Sophia Benshelter, Friday night at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

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