Wasilla senior Justin Lee works to get past Kenai's Garrett Fitt during a 57-50 overtime win over Kenai in the Northern Lights Conference Championships semifinals March 11, 2016, at Palmer High School.

Wasilla senior Justin Lee works to get past Kenai's Garrett Fitt during a 57-50 overtime win over Kenai in the Northern Lights Conference Championships semifinals March 11, 2016, at Palmer High School.

Kenai boys, SoHi girls fall in NLC semis, 3rd-place games

  • By Jeremiah Bartz
  • Saturday, March 12, 2016 3:45am
  • Sports

PALMER — Valley hoops fans have been anticipating an all-Valley matchup in the championship game of the boys bracket. The Kenai Central Kardinals nearly crashed the party.

Top-seeded Wasilla needed extra time to get past an upset-minded Kenai squad, scoring a 57-50 overtime victory over the senior-laden Kardinals during the Northern Lights Conference semifinals Friday at Palmer High School.

The loss means the Kardinals will not be going to state.

In that all-Valley final Saturday, Palmer, which went 0-4 against Valley foes this year, topped the Warriors 55-47. Chuck Martin, in his first year coaching the Moose, has now won conference championships at all four Valley schools.

“We found a way to grind it out, get it done at the end,” Wasilla head coach Ryan Engebretsen said after Friday’s victory.

Engebretsen said there is a big difference in level of experience between the two squads. Kenai sports a half-dozen seniors, four that start. Wasilla doesn’t have a senior in the starting lineup, and only two on the roster.

“I spent plenty of time telling (my players) this week, Kenai starts four seniors, and seniors play for something,” Engebretsen said.

With those seniors, Kenai had the upper hand early, leading 13-10 after the first quarter and 23-19 at halftime.

“Our young mentality, not being there, not knowing what it took,” Engebretsen said of the slow start.

Wasilla junior Isaac Houck, arguably Wasilla’s most experienced varsity player, said facing an older team like Kenai is difficult.

“They’re tough. They know what they’re doing,” Houck said.

But in the second half, a pair of underclassmen came through for the Warriors. Sophomores Aeron Milliron and Reilly Devine combined for 27 points in the second half and overtime to help the Warriors post the win, and move into the NLC title game for the second straight year.

Devine scored 11 of his 13 points during the final 20 minutes of play, Milliron scored all 14 of his points during that stretch.

Milliron scored nine points in the third quarter, a key span for the Warriors. The sophomore went to the basket with 3:33 left in the third to put Wasilla ahead 26-25, the Warriors’ first lead of the second half. Milliron scored all seven of Wasilla’s points during a 90-second stretch, a span capped by a 3-pointer from the corner that gave Wasilla the 31-28 advantage.

“He helped us out a lot,” Houck said of Milliron. “Scoring, rebounding.”

Wasilla held a lead until Kenai’s Josh Jackman buried a 3-pointer with 5 minutes left in regulation, a shot that gave Kenai the 40-37 advantage. Jackman hit a pair of jumpers near the three-minute mark of regulation and Conner Johnson sank a pair of free throws to push Kenai’s lead to 48-44.

But that would mark Kenai’s final scoring in regulation. Wasilla used buckets by Devine and Kobe Brown to force overtime. Wasilla outscored Kenai 9-2 during the 4-minute tiebreaker.

Kenai suffered a significant loss late, while still holding a lead. Mere moments after sparking the Kards with a pair of quick midrange jumpers, Jackman went down to the floor with an injury, and had to be helped off the court. Jackman’s injury came with 2:35 left in the fourth, with the Kards up 46-44.

Without Jackman on the floor, the Warriors were able to hold Kenai without a field goal until Marshall Vest hit a jumper with 1:09 left in overtime.

“Unfortunately it had to go with Jackman getting hurt. I feel for that kid,” Engebretsen said.

In addition to the 14 and 13 for Milliron and Devine, Brown added 11 for the Warriors. Wasilla senior Justin Lee scored six first-half points for Wasilla, and was key to the victory, Engebretsen said.

“In the first half, he was our lead guy. If he doesn’t show up and play like he did, I’m not sure if we get over the hump,” Engebretsen said.

Vest led Kenai with a game-high 18. Keith Ivy chipped in 11.

Wasilla girls 61, Soldotna 30

The good news for Soldotna: The Stars finished with their highest scoring total in three meetings with the Warriors this season.

The bad news: Wasilla beat Soldotna by 30 or more points for the third time this year.

Wasilla used a 61-30 victory to cruise into the NLC final for the 16th time in the last 17 years and deny SoHi a state bid.

Saturday, Wasilla defeated Colony 49-35 in the title game to win its second title in a row and 11th since 2001.

Eleven different players recorded a least a bucket for Wasilla in Friday’s win. Freshman Olivia Davies led Wasilla with 11 points. Catherine Baham added nine. Leya DePreist and McKenna Dinkel chipped in eight each.

Lindsey Wong led Soldotna with a game-high 14 points.

Colony boys 63, Kenai 56

The second-seeded Knights toppled the No. 5 Kardinals for third place Saturday.

Colony led 31-21 at halftime, but Kenai cut it to 47-42 after three before the Knights put together a solid fourth quarter.

Joshua James pumped in 15 points to lead the Knights, while Anton Chamblee and Tyler Boyer each added 12.

Seniors Keith Ivy and Marshall Vest both had big games in their finale for the Kards. Ivy had 25 points, while Vest had 13.

Palmer girls 50, Soldotna 37

The host Moose, the No. 3 seed, overcame a slow start to win the third-place game over the No. 5 Stars on Saturday.

The Stars bolted to a 17-4 lead after one quarter as Lindsey Wong scored nine of her 13 points.

But Palmer stormed back in the second period, and trailed just 22-19 at the break. The Moose then led 31-28 after three and outscored the Stars 19-9 in the final frame.

Julia Benshetler led a balanced Palmer scoring attack with 11 points.

Kenai girls 48, Kodiak 23

The Kardinals, the No. 4 seed, ended the season on a high note by blowing past the sixth-seeded Bears in the consolation final.

Kenai rebounded from a Thursday loss to No. 5-seed Soldotna by taking a 12-5 lead after the first quarter and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Lara Creighton paced the Kardinals with 15 points, while Kristhel Fangonilo had seven for the Bears.

Soldotna boys 65, Kodiak 45

The No. 4 seed Stars dominated the No. 6 Bears early en route to a positive conclusion to their season.

Soldotna shook off a loss to No. 5 seed Kenai on Thursday by taking a 21-6 lead after the first quarter and a 39-18 lead at halftime.

Derek Evans had his way on the inside for the Stars, finishing with 17 points, including 10 in the first quarter. Timmy Smithwick added 10 for Soldotna, which put all 12 of its players in the scoring column.

For Kodiak, Louis Rochelean and Ryan Bezona had 11 points apiece, while Billy Alcaide chipped in with 10.

All-Northern Lights Conference
 
Girls Player of the Year: Olivia Davies, Wasilla
Girls Coach of the Year: Jeannie Hebert-Truax, Wasilla
Boys Player of the Year: Michael Kluting, Palmer
Boys Coach of the Year: Ryan Engebretsen, Wasilla
 
Girls first team:
Olivia Davies, Wasilla; Leya DePriest, Wasilla; Chase Stephens, Colony; Alex Carlton, Colony; Lindsey Wong, Soldotna; Azlynn Brandenburg, Wasilla; McKenna Dinkel, Wasilla; Kaylyn Kelly, Wasilla; Kaylee King Palmer; Ali Steinbeck, Kenai; Amanda Smith, Colony.
 
Girls second team:
Abrianna Busbey, Palmer; Lara Creighton, Kenai; Kristhel Fangonilo, Kodiak; Emma Uschmann, Palmer; Hannah Drury, Kenai; Daisy Nelson, Soldotna.
 
Boys first team:
Michael Kluting, Palmer; Kobe Brown, Wasilla; Tyler Boyer, Colony; Anton Chamblee, Colony; Clayton Southwick, Palmer; Josh Jackman, Kenai; Daniel Headdings, Wasilla; Timmy Smithwick, Soldotna; Isaac Houck, Wasilla; Marshall Vest, Kenai.
 
Boys second team:
Billy Alcaide, Kodiak; Alex Nygard, Colony; Reilly Devine, Wasilla; Derek Evans, Soldotna; Garrett Fitt, Kenai.
 

Friday girls

Kardinals 48, Bears 23

Kodiak 5 5 0 13 —23

Kenai 12 12 13 11 —48

KODIAK (23) — Barcelon 0 0-0 0, Fangonilo 3 0-0 7, Chia 1 2-2 4, Macatuno 0 0-0 0, Gongora 2 1-2 5, Bushell 0 0-0 0, Mutch 1 0-0 2, Matautia 2 0-0 5. Totals — 9 3-4 23.

KENAI CENTRAL (48) — Calvert 0 0-0 0, Holmes 4 0-0 8, Drury 2 2-4 6, Steinbeck 2 0-0 5, Creighton 5 5-8 15, Baker 3 0-0 6, Booth 3 0-0 6, Miller 0 0-0 0, Ross 1 0-0 2, Machen-Gray 0 0-0 0, Coghill 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 7-12 48.

3-point goals — Kodiak 2 (Fangonilo, Matautia); Kenai 11. Team fouls — Kodiak 9, Fouled out — none.

 

Warriors 61, Stars 30

Soldotna 4 9 6 11 —30

Wasilla 17 15 18 11 —61

Soldotna (30) — Nelson 2 2-4 6, Miller 1 0-0 2, Schmidt 0 1-2 1, Wong 6 0-0 14, Brush 1 2-2 4, Kindred 1 0-0 2; Totals: 11 5-8 30.

Wasilla (61) — Kelly 3 0-0 7, Davies 4 1-3 11, Drorbaugh 1 0-0 3, Heath 2 0-0 4, Baham 3 0-0 9, Lindeman 1 0-0 2, Brandenburg 2 1-2 5, Wheeler 1 0-0 2, Anderson 0 2-2 2, Dinkel 3 2-2 8, DePriest 4 0-0 8; Totals: 24 6-10 61.

 

Friday boys

Stars 65, Bears 45

Kodiak 6 12 11 16 —45

Soldotna 21 18 13 13 —65

KODIAK (45) — Cauging 2 0-0 4, Monge 1 0-0 2, Alcaide 4 0-2 10, Bezona 4 3-4 11, Morzo 1 0-2 2, Sabado 0 0-0 0, Rochelean 4 0-0 11, Mangrobang 0 3-4 3, Keller 1 0-0 2, Walker 0 0-0 0. Totals — 17 6-12 45.

SOLDOTNA (65) — Kuntz 1 0-0 2, Sheridan 2 2-2 8, McElroy 1 0-0 3, Crowder 1 0-0 2, Casey 4 0-0 8, Spence 0 3-4 3, Dickson 0 2-2 2, Smithwick 3 4-6 10, Evans 5 7-13 17, Kant 1 0-0 2, Tuisaula 2 0-0 6, Marcuson 1 0-0 2. Totals — 21 18-27 65.

3-point goals — Kodiak 5 (Rochelean 3, Alcaide 2); Soldotna 5 (Sheridan 2, Tuisaula 2, McElroy). Team fouls — Kodiak 19, Soldotna 8. Fouled out — none.

 

Warriors 57, Kardinals 50, OT

Kenai 13 10 7 18 2 —50

Wasilla 10 9 14 15 9 —57

Kenai (50) — Ivy 5 0-0 11, Vest 6 3-4 18, Landry 1 2-2 4, Jackman 4 0-1 8, Fitt 1 0-0 2, Johnson 2 3-4 7; Totals: 19 8-11 50.

Wasilla (57) — Brown 5 1-4 11, Headdings 3 0-0 6, Devine 5 3-5 13, Houck 3 1-2 7, Milliron 5 2-2 14, Lee 2 2-2 6; Totals: 23 9-15 57.

Three-point field goals: Kenai 4 (Vest 3); Wasilla 2 (Milliron 2).

 

Saturday girls

Moose 50, Stars 37

Soldotna 17 5 6 9 —37

Palmer 4 15 12 19 —50

SOLDOTNA (37) — Nelson 3 1-3 9, Miller 0 0-0 0, A. Schmidt 1 2-2 4, Wong 6 0-0 13, Blossom 1 0-0 2, Brush 0 0-0 0, McElroy 0 0-0 0, D. Schmidt 1 0-0 2, Tuisaula 1 1-2 3, Kindred 2 0-1 4. Totals — 15 4-8 37.

PALMER (50) — Busby 1 7-8 9, Lee 1 0-0 2, Benshetler 4 3-5 11, Goers 2 3-4 9, Bull 1 0-0 2, Alley 0 0-2 0, King 3 3-4 9, Bradford 0 0-0 0, Uschmann 0 0-0 0, Dixon 3 2-5 8. Totals — 15 18-28 50.

3-point goals — Soldotna 3 (Nelson 2, Wong); Palmer 2 (Goers). Team fouls — Soldotna 19, Palmer 11. Fouled out — none.

 

Saturday boys

Knights 63, Kardinals 56

Kenai 9 12 21 14 —56

Colony 13 18 16 16 —63

KENAI CENTRAL (56) — Ta. Landry 1 0-0 2, Ivy 7 7-10 25, Vest 5 0-0 13, Brazell 2 1-2 6, Tr. Landry 0 0-0 0, Tuttle 0 0-0 0, Beiser 1 0-0 2, Fitt 4 0-0 8, Beeson 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals — 20 8-12 56.

COLONY (63) — James 6 3-3 15, Nygard 2 0-0 4, Neuner 2 1-5 5, Chamblee 5 1-2 12, Kizer 2 0-0 5, Martin 1 0-1 2, Villastrigo 0 0-0 0, Nicholson 1 0-0 2, Pead 0 0-0 0, Menard 2 2-2 6, Pomrenke 0 0-0 0, Boyer 5 2-2 12. Totals — 26 9-15 63.

3-point goals — Kenai 8 (Ivy 4, Vest 3, Brazell); Colony 2 (Chamblee, Kizer). Team fouls — Kenai 14, Colony 11. Fouled out — none.

Wasilla freshman Daniel Headdings tries to knock the ball away from Kenai's Marshall Vest during a 57-50 overtime win over Kenai in the Northern Lights Conference Championships semifinals March 11, 2016, at Palmer High School.

Wasilla freshman Daniel Headdings tries to knock the ball away from Kenai’s Marshall Vest during a 57-50 overtime win over Kenai in the Northern Lights Conference Championships semifinals March 11, 2016, at Palmer High School.

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