By JEFF HELMINIAK
The Homer girls and Nikiski boys basketball teams picked up victories in Peninsula Conference play Tuesday in Nikiski.
In the girls game, the Mariners won the third quarter 21-6 to key a 45-33 victory. The Mariners move to 1-0 in the league and 4-3 overall, while the Bulldogs are 0-1 in the league and 0-10 overall.
Homer girls head coach Chad Felice said his team had not played since Dec. 30 due to COVID issues, but the coach knew getting back into action against Nikiski and head coach Rustin Hitchcock would not be easy, despite Nikiski’s record.
“You couldn’t tell by playing them,” Felice said. “You’d think they were right there at 6-4 or 7-3. Rustin’s a great coach and that hasn’t changed. All those games, they’ve played hard and defensively played hard.”
Nikiski trailed 9-7 after the first quarter, but had a 21-20 lead at halftime. The Bulldogs were able to succeed due to active defense.
“They get fired up at home,” Hitchcock said of his team. “We got into the double bonus pretty early, maybe earlier than I wanted, but at the same time they’re all trying and the fouls were distributed evenly enough. So we were able to keep playing that style.”
Hitchcock said his team is getting in better and better game shape, but a little lull in intensity was costly in the third quarter. Hitchcock said his team knew Homer would come out strong in the third quarter and still couldn’t stop the Mariners.
“I honestly think something just clicked,” Felice said of his team’s success in the third quarter. “Finally, they realized, we can’t come out like we did in the first half. We need to pick up our intensity a little bit. We need to be a little more patient.”
Despite the loss, Hitchcock said his team continues to take steps forward.
“We’re going to keep building,” he said. “All the girls got in and everybody played great. So we’re happy with it. We’re just not satisfied.”
For Homer, Delilah Harris had 12 points, Mel Morris had 10, Sydney Shelby had nine, Kaylin Anderson had eight, Bethany Engebretsen had four, and Olivia Glasman and Sophie Elison each had one.
Felice said Morris continues to contribute in ways that don’t show up on the score sheet, Anderson did a good job handling the ball in the second half, and Harris was a big reason for the third quarter success.
For Nikiski, Maggie Grenier had nine, Kailey Stynsberg had six, Kinlee Jeffreys had five, Emma Weeks had five, Savanna Stock had four, and Avery White and Rylee Ellis each had two.
Hitchcock said Jeffreys did a good job running the team and Stock took more control offensively, but he said the key was everybody playing hard on defense and contributing offensively, because that’s what it will take for Nikiski to win.
In the boys game, Nikiski’s Brady Bostic scored two of his game-high 27 points with 10 seconds remaining to provide the winning points in the 54-53 victory. The Bulldogs are 1-0 in the league and 6-8 overall, while Homer fell to 3-5 and 0-1.
Nikiski jumped to a 15-4 lead after the first quarter, but Homer cut the gap to 23-21 at halftime. The Bulldogs led 39-32 after three quarters, but Homer came all the way back to take the lead on a free throw by Carter Tennison with 32 seconds left to make it 53-52 and set up Bostic’s heroics.
Also for Nikiski, Dillon Hanson had 12 points, Drew Handley had eight points, Charlie Chamberlain had five and Isaiah Daniels had two.
Despite battling foul trouble, Tennison pumped in 24 for the Mariners. Peyton Edens had 10 while Ryan Carroll had seven, Tim Hatfield and Noah Irons each had five, and Braden Huffman had two.