The Kenai Central boys survived a historic shooting effort from Nikiski’s Austin Stafford on Tuesday to secure a 71-67 overtime victory over the Bulldogs in Southcentral Conference play.
Stafford hit 11 3-pointers on the way to 36 points. Nikiski coach Reid Kornstad said the previous school record of 10 belonged to Matt Johnson in the mid-1990s.
The Bulldogs nailed 19 3-pointers in the game, while Kenai had just four.
In the girls game, Nikiski notched a 41-22 win.
“Give credit to Nikiski right from the start,” Kenai boys coach Ken Felchle said after moving to 7-11 overall and 3-4 in the league. “They came out ready to play and they always do. We’ve never played a game against them that wasn’t a close game.
“We were trading 2-pointers for 3-pointers, but I said to my boys, credit to them, they obviously ran into a hot team and somehow found a way.”
With seniors Michael Mysing, Noah Litke and Bryan McCollum getting honored before the game for senior night, Nikiski’s attitude also stood out to Kornstad.
“What characterized the game was the manner in which the guys approached the game,” Kornstad said. “They had a confident approach to the game. They expected to play at a high level, and they did.”
The Bulldogs tried to bury Kenai in 3-pointers in the first quarter, with Stafford, a 6-foot-4 junior who transferred from Kenai before this season, hitting five and Mysing and Brady Bostic adding treys. Kenai stayed in the game by plugging away with 2-pointers and trailed just 25-17 after eight minutes.
“We were getting quality possessions on the offensive end,” Felchle said. “We were patient with the basketball and making the most of our opportunities.
“A lot of times you talk about staying in the game with defense, but we were staying in the game with offense.”
With 3 minutes, 42 seconds, left in the second quarter, the Kardinals climbed into a 29-28 lead on a bucket by Bradeon Pitsch, who had 21 points.
The game was then close the rest of the way.
Felchle said he was not thrilled with the way his team was closing out on shooters, but he said the defense was great on Stafford as he buried 3-pointers with 1:51 and 1:00 left in the game for a 61-58 lead.
With the gym going bonkers, Pitsch, not known for his outside shooting, stepped up and drilled a 3 for a 61-all game with 45 seconds left.
“He had the courage to take that shot,” Felchle said. “That took guts.”
Added Kornstad: “A great kid made a big shot.”
Nikiski then ran the clock down and Litke missed a jumper with three seconds left to send the game to overtime.
In extra time, Nikiski went cold from 3-point land and Kenai won the four minutes 10-6.
“We had a hard time executing when we needed to because we were so hot,” Kornstad said. “It’s hard to stay disciplined when you’re that hot, and that’s something they’ve had no experience with before.”
Evan Stockton added 16 points for Kenai, while Jordan Kvasnikoff had 15. Litke added 17 for the Bulldogs.
Nikiski girls 41, Kenai 22
The Bulldogs outscored the Kardinals 17-0 in the third quarter for the Southcentral Conference victory.
Nikiski honored seniors America Jeffreys, Elora Reichert, Kaycee Bostic, Kaitlyn Johnson, Tika Zimmerman and manager Madelin Weeks after the game.
It was junior Lillian Carstens who had the biggest impact on the game. She hit for 27 points to outscore Kenai by herself. Nikiski, which led 8-3 after a quarter and 16-7 at the half, had five other scorers and none of them had over four points.
Jaiden Streiff paced the Kardinals with 10 points.
Soldotna sweeps Homer
The Soldotna girls and boys basketball teams rolled to victory over the host Homer Mariners during a nonconference matchup Tuesday in the Alice Witte Gymnasium at Homer High School.
The Start beat the Lady Mariners 59-15, while the boys team beat Homer 52-40.
Homer girls head coach Chad Felice sat out three of his starting players due to injuries. He’s resting them before their Friday game against Nikiski, he said.
“We’re trying to get them healed up as quick as we can before Friday,” he said.
Leading Soldotna in points was Ituau Tuisaula with 23, followed by Josie Sheridan with 12. Mikayla Leadens and Drysta Crosby-Schneider both had five points, Kianna Holland had four, Autumn Fischer had three, Ellie Burns, Rhys Cannava and Morgan Bouschor all had two points, and Rachel Spence had one.
For Homer, Sailey Rhodes led with four points. Hannah Hatfield and Delilah Harris each contributed three points, Rylee Doughty and Laura Inama both had two and Kappa Reutov had one.
Felice said a handful of junior varsity girls were able to dress for the varsity game and get valuable playing time.
“SoHi’s a really good team,” Felice said. “… But I thought, you know, our girls fought hard and we worked on some stuff. And you know, the biggest thing is we got better today.”
Soldotna coach Kyle McFall also said in a text message that his team got better.
“It was great to see us get back to playing our style … relentless defensive pressure and quick pace on offense,” he texted. “Our goal for the remainder of the regular season is to re-establish our identity. Girls did a great job of taking a step toward achieving that goal tonight.”
In the boys game, the Mariners originally pulled out ahead, leading the Stars by two at the end of the first quarter and working up to a 19-14 lead early in the second.
“Our intensity maybe, kind of like got us off to a good start (with) some confidence and knocking down some shots,” said head coach Weston Carroll.
Soldotna caught a lead in the second quarter, however, and held it for the rest of the game, widening from eight points at the close of the third quarter to a 12-point gap by the end of the game.
For the Stars, Jersey Truesdell led the way with 17 points, aided by Ray Chumley with 11 points, Tyler Morrison with eight, Mekhai Rich with seven, Levi Rosin with five and Zach Hanson with four.
Clayton Beachy led the Mariners with 17 points. Jonathan Raymond contributed seven points, Michael Munns had a pair of three-pointers, Eyoab Knapp had five points, Josiah Raymond had three and Ethan Anderson had two.
Carroll said the Homer boys lost some momentum in the second quarter when it came to sinking shots, at the same time that the Stars started making them.
“It just seemed like we had a long stretch where we kind of, not necessarily took bad shots, it just was, they just weren’t falling,” he said. “And they started making a few on the other end.”
Carroll said the team will hopefully use the game as a learning opportunity to improve in a few areas.
“I thought we did good at breaking their pressure for the most part, but then there was a few times where we kind of … got out of our system I guess you’d say, and didn’t break the press properly, and then that caused turnovers,” he said.
Both Homer teams will host Nikiski High School on Friday at the high school for senior night.
Megan Pacer of the Homer News contributed to this report. Reach Megan Pacer at email@example.com.
Kardinals 71, Bulldogs 67, OT
Kenai 17 14 19 11 10 —71
Nikiski 25 9 15 12 6 —67
KENAI CENTRAL (71) — Jor. Kvasnikoff 15, Bezdecny 5, Stockton 16, Tunseth 7, Pitsch 21, Daniels 7.
NIKISKI (67) — Mysing 3, Litke 17, Stafford 36, Bostic 3, Handley 8.
3-point goals — Kenai 4 (Jor. Kvasnikoff, Tunseth, Pitsch, Daniels); Nikiski 19 (Stafford 11, Litke 5, Mysing, Bostic, Handley).
Stars 52, Mariners 40
Soldotna 12 12 14 14 —52
Homer 14 6 10 10 —40
SOLDOTNA (52) — Rich 7, Morrison 8, Hanson 4, Chumley 11, Truesdell 17, Rosin 5.
HOMER (40) — Munns 6, Beachy 17, Jon. Raymond 7, Anderson 2, Knapp 5, Mann 3.
3-point goals — Soldotna 5 (Truesdell 3, Rich, Rosin); Homer 7 (Beachy 5, Munns 2).
Bulldogs 41, Kardinals 22
Kenai 3 4 0 15 —22
Nikiski 8 8 17 8 —41
KENAI CENTRAL (22) — Morris 3, Koziczkowski 1, Hamilton 1, Streiff 10, Severson 7.
NIKISKI (41) — Carstens 27, Bostic 3, Johnson 4, Zimmerman 2, B. Epperheimer 2, Freeman 3.
3-point goals — Nikiski 4 (Carstens 3, Freeman); Kenai 3 (Streiff 2, Severson).
Stars 59, Mariners 15
Soldotna 1427 14 4 —59
Homer 5 0 3 7 —15
SOLDOTNA (59) — Sheridan 12, Burns 2, Cannava 2, Bouschor 2, Tuisaula 23, Leadens 5, Fischer 3, Holland 4, Spence 1, Crosby-Schneider 5.
HOMER (15) — Rhodes 4, Harris 3, Doughty 2, Inama 2, Hatfield 3, Reutov 1.