Friday: Kenai girls snap NLC win drought

When it’s been as long a drought between conference wins as the Kenai Central girls basketball team has faced, the players have every reason in the world to celebrate on court.

The Kenai girls did a lot of celebrating Friday night at Cliff Massie court at Kenai Central High School.

The Kardinals (1-4 conference, 3-8 overall) snapped a current seven-game losing skid with a 50-31 victory over Palmer (0-5, 4-7), the first Northern Lights Conference win for the Kards in nearly three years.

“This was huge in many different ways,” said Kenai coach Stacia Rustad. “It’s huge to finally get that monkey off our back.”

Until Friday, the last time the Kards walked off the court with an NLC win was Feb. 14, 2012, when they topped then-4A opponent Homer.

Rustad added that many of Kenai’s conference matchups this season have seen flashes of success, but a lack of finishing power has doomed the Kards time and again.

“Excluding (playing) Soldotna on Tuesday, we have performed in every region game, and have been in every game up until the last minutes of the fourth quarter,” Rustad said, referencing Tuesday’s 34-23 loss to the Stars. “We’ve been very proud of our kids for being in games, but we haven’t been able to finish.”

The solution to cracking the streak was defense, as well as improved shooting. Kenai clamped down on Palmer in the first half by holding the Moose to 10 points, all while getting solid looks at the rim on the other end of the court.

Abby Beck did much of the damage, scoring a game-high 18 points for Kenai, while Alexis Baker and Kelsey Booth pitched in eight points each.

“Abby Beck is the rock on our offense, and Allie Ostrander is a key to that,” Rustad said. “(Ostrander) is getting the ball up the court without coming off the floor, beating presses and then getting the ball to our post players. She deserves just as much credit to the kids who are scoring, because she delivers the ball.”

Kenai also managed to shut down some of Palmer’s most volatile players. Junior Carly Venzke scored only three points on one shot in the fourth quarter, while senior Alicia Smylie had two points with a sole shot.

“We focus a lot on the defensive end, because that’s gonna be our bread and butter,” Rustad said. “But we have not shot the ball well in the past, so we spend a lot of time breaking down drills. … We spend well over an hour of practice working on drills, and finally the light switch went off tonight.”

Kenai raced out to a 14-6 lead after the opening quarter, then extended it to 18-6 midway through the second. A buzzer-beater shot from beyond the arc by Booth sent Kenai into the locker room with a 23-10 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, Palmer attempted to rally back with improved offensive play from Kaylee King and Kiana Till, but the closest they could cut the gap to was 11 points with 2:44 left in the frame.

Palmer boys 68, Kenai 56

The winless streak was bent but did not snap for the Kenai boys, who lost a Northern Lights Conference tilt with Palmer on Friday night. The loss was the seventh straight for Kenai.

Palmer (1-2 NLC, 5-8 overall), which outscored Kenai 40-28 in the second half, was led by freshman big man Clayton Southwick with 19 points, while teammate James Blake chipped in 15.

“For us, versus the last time we played Kenai, it was about effort,” said Palmer coach Brandon Blake. “The kids responded really well tonight, it was a great team effort.”

Kenai (0-4, 4-8) soundly beat Palmer 66-47 at the Al Howard Tip-Off tournament at SoHi in December. Friday was a much different story.

“We have a very young team, and we’re going to have growing pains,” Blake said. “But I feel like we’re really improving game after game.”

Early on, it looked like Kenai’s game to win, as Josh Jackman could not be stopped.

The Kenai phenom poured in 18 points in the first 10 minutes, 39 seconds, of the game, leaving Kenai with a 22-16 lead with 5:21 to go in the second quarter.

However, it would be nearly 17 minutes before Jackman put up another point. Jackman sank a free throw with 4:29 to play in the fourth quarter to end his skid and added another layup to finish with a game-high 21 points.

“Defensive transitions stunk,” said Kenai coach Ken Felchle. “Not willing to work hard enough. Not couldn’t, not willing to work hard enough to get back on defense.”

Tied at 28 apiece at halftime, Palmer surged ahead in the third quarter with 11 unanswered points in the first 4:11 of the frame, a run that was capped by Southwick draining a shot from beyond the arc.

“Their guards pushed the basketball, and we were giving up layups,” Felchle said.

From there, Kenai never was able to recover, although the Kards did try. Jonah Theisen scored eight points during a 10-3 run that left Kenai trailing 49-42 with 6:43 left in the game.

However, the Moose responded with eight straight points, all from Southwick and Jesse Snickers.

Palmer girls 40, Soldotna 24

The visiting Moose clamped down on defense for a Northern Lights Conference victory Saturday.

Palmer held Soldotna to 15 points through the first three quarters.

Kiana Till led the way for the Moose with 16 points, while Lindsey Wong and Hayley Ramsell each had seven for the Stars.

Soldotna boys 45, Palmer 39

The host Stars held off the Moose for a Northern Lights Conference victory Saturday.

Soldotna took a 27-18 lead at halftime and a 35-24 lead after three quarters before the Moose made a run in the fourth. Joe Weltzin had 13 points for the Stars, while Drew Fowler pitched in 10.

For the Moose, Clayton Southwick and James Blake both had 13 points.

 

Friday girls

Kardinals 50, Moose 31

Kenai 14 9 12 15 —50

Palmer 6 4 8 13 —31

KENAI (50) — Ostrander 1 0-0 2, Holmes 2 0-0 4, Drury 1 1-2 3, Steinbeck 1 2-2 4, Baker 4 0-0 8, Booth 3 0-0 8, Barcus 0 0-0 0, Beck 7 4-4 18, Every 1 0-0 3. Totals 20 7-8 50.

PALMER (31) — Murphy 1 0-0 3, Venzke 1 0-2 3, Glenn 0 0-0 0, Bowman 0 3-6 3, King 1 1-1 3, McCall 0 0-1 0, Uschmann 0 2-2 2, Smylie 1 0-2 2, Till 4 0-4 8, Sherman 0 1-2 1, Millard 3 0-0 6. Totals 11 6-20 31.

3-point goals — Kenai 3 (Booth 2, Every 1); Palmer 2 (Murphy, Venzke). Fouled out — none.

 

Friday boys

Moose 68, Kardinals 56

Palmer 14 14 18 22 —68

Kenai 17 11 10 18 —56

PALMER (68) — Yanez 4 0 9, Ferris 3 0 7, Blake 4 6 15, Southwick 7 3 19, Ramoth 3 0 7, Snickers 2 1 5, Debach 1 4 6. Totals 24 14 68.

KENAI (56) — Jackman 8 3 21, McKee 5 2 13, Theisen 3 3 10, Foree 3 3 10, Ivy 0 0 0. Totals 19 11 56.

3-point goals — Palmer 6 (Southwick 2, Yanez 1, Ferris 1, Blake 1, Ramoth 1); Kenai 5 (Jackman 2, McKee 1, Theisen 1, Foree 1). Fouled out — Ivy.

 

Saturday girls

Moose 40, Stars 24

Palmer 9 14 3 14 —40

Soldotna 4 5 6 9 —24

PALMER (40) — Murphy 1 0-0 3, Venzke 2 0-0 4, Bowman 1 0-1 2, King 0 0-1 0, McCall 0 0-0 0, Ushmann 3 0-0 7, Smylie 0 0-0 0, Till 7 2-2 16, Sherman 1 1-2 3. Totals — 15 2-4 40.

SOLDOTNA (24) — Nelson 0 0-0 0, Shaw 1 1-6 3, Jackson 0 0-0 0, Wong 2 1-2 7, McDonald 0 0-0 0, Ramsell 3 1-1 7, Miller 1 1-2 3, Glaves 2 0-0 4. Totals — 9 4-11 24.

3-point goals — Palmer 2 (Murphy, Ushmann); Soldotna 2 (Wong 2). Team fouls — Palmer 16, Soldotna 17. Fouled out — Wong.

 

Sarturday boys

Stars 45, Moose 39

Palmer 13 5 6 15 —39

Soldotna 14 13 8 10 —45

PALMER (39) — Ramoth 0 1-2 1, Debach 0 0-0 0, Ferris 2 0-0 4, Southwick 4 3-3 13, Blake 4 4-6 13, Snickers 3 0-0 8, Yanez 0 0-0 0. Totals — 13 8-11 39.

SOLDOTNA (45) — Kuntz 1 1-2 3, Weltzin 6 0-0 13, Gibbs 1 0-3 2, Furlong 1 3-5 6, Phillips 1 0-0 2, Casey 0 0-0 0, Spence 2 2-2 6, Duke 0 3-4 3, Fowler 3 3-4 10, Trammell 0 0-2 0. Totals — 15 12-22 45.

3-point goals — Palmer 5 (Southwick 2, Snickers 2, Blake); Soldotna 3 (Weltzin, Furlong, Fowler). Team fouls — Palmer 16, Soldotna 9. Fouled out — none.

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