The visiting Kenai Central girls and boys basketball teams swept Nikiski on Tuesday in Class 3A Peninsula Conference play.
The Kenai boys notched a 62-38 victory over the Bulldogs as Nikiski celebrated senior night for the boys by honoring Charlie Chamberlain, Drew Handley and Braeden Porter. The Kards are 5-1 in the league and 12-9 overall after a second win this season over the Bulldogs, who fall to 1-6 and 4-17.
The Kenai girls topped the Bulldogs 36-18, avenging a 26-17 loss Jan. 31 when Emma Beck was absent. The Kards move to 3-3 in the league and 12-10 overall, while Nikiski drops to 1-6 in the league and 7-15 overall.
In the boys game, the score was tied at 8 after a quarter. Without three minutes left in the first quarter, Kenai had switched to its 1-3-1 halfcourt trap and the turnovers the trap generated decided the game.
“We’ve been doing that 1-3-1 for a long time now,” Kenai Central head coach Nolan Rose said. “It’s kind of our thing. And tonight obviously it was the difference in the game.”
By halftime, easy buckets generated off turnovers had Kenai up 28-17. By the end of the third, the gap was 51-25.
Nikiski head coach Reid Kornstad said that just like in the first game this year, Kenai’s trap was very effective.
“They have a crisis of belief right now,” Kornstad said of his squad. “Kenai knows that they own us, and so do we. Until that changes, that’s going to keep happening.”
Kornstad said it’s a good test for his team.
“These guys are faced with learning in their life that some day, they’re going to be leaders,” Kornstad said. “They’re going to lead their family some day. They’re going to be leaders in business some day.
“And they’re going to get what you allow. As long as we allow those kinds of things to keep happening to us on the floor, it’s not going to be a game with those guys.”
Kenai has been facing some adversity of its own. Rose said the squad has been struggling with health issues the past five weeks. The latest player out of the lineup is leading scorer and main ballhandler Jakob Kvasnikoff.
Daniel McRorie took on the ballhandling duties Tuesday and pumped in 17 points.
“Daniel is a good scorer of the ball, but I think at times he defers to other guys too much and maybe is not as aggressive as we’d like him to be,” Rose said. “So with Jake out, we’re challenging him to lead the way offensively and stay aggressive for four quarters.”
Wade James led the Kards with 22 points. James got the bulk of those points by collecting turnovers and scoring breakaway layups.
In addition to those two, Rose said Luke Armstrong, who had two points, did a great job at the point of the press. Owen Whicker went scoreless while fouling out, but Rose said he appreciates the intensity Whicker brings to the floor in the true style of a state championship wrestler.
“We want to be miserable to play against,” Rose said. “Like if somebody asked, ‘What’s Kenai Central about?’ We’d like for them to say they’re a pain in the butt to play against.”
Bridger Beck added 11 for Kenai, while Davion Swain had six, and Roc Riggle and Carnell Gump had two.
For Nikiski, Handley had 12, while David Weathers and Seth Payne each had eight, Porter had seven and Chamberlain had three.
“They’re good kids,” Kornstad said. “They’re listening and they’re giving us all that they got. I’m excited for the last couple of weeks to see what we can do.”
The one thing Kornstad is not looking forward to is saying goodbye to the three seniors.
“Those three seniors have really made coaching fun this year,” Kornstad said. “They’ve tried to do what we’re asking them to do.
“And they have such a good relationship with each other that they’re a joy to coach.”
In the girls game, Beck had 25 points to lead Kenai to the win. The Kards led 9-7 after the first quarter, 17-12 at halftime and 25-16 after three quarters. Also for Kenai, Ella Yragui and Emilee Wilson had four apiece, while Chloe Goldsby had three.
For the Bulldogs, Shelby Burman had five while Savanna Stock had four, Avery White had three, and Ember Nelson, Ashlynne Playle and Kailey Stynsberg had two.