Kenai girls, boys move to 4th-place games

The Kenai girls and boys basketball teams both notched victories Friday at the Class 3A state championship at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage to move to the fourth-place game.

The Kardinals girls, the No. 7 seed, move to 17-13 overall with a 39-28 victory over No. 6 Valdez. Kenai will face No. 5 Sitka, 54-29 winners over No. 8 Bethel, for fourth place at 11 a.m. today.

The Kardinals boys, the No. 5 seed, move to 16-13 overall with a 60-31 victory over No. 8 Delta. Kenai will face No. 6 Valdez, 47-45 winners over No. 7 Barrow, for fourth place at 9:30 a.m. today.

The Kenai boys went ahead 15-7 after the first quarter and 30-12 at halftime on the Huskies.

“Real excited for the boys to get a win today,” Kenai boys head coach Nolan Rose wrote in a text message. “We earned the right to play one more game of basketball together.

“That’s a cool thing for a group with nine seniors.”

Kenai was dominant in every statistical category, shooting 43% from the floor to the 30% of the Huskies, winning the rebound battle 37-24 and committing 14 turnovers to the 26 of Delta.

Jakob Kvasnikoff paced the Kardinals with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Daniel McRorie and Bridger Beck each had 11. McRorie and Beck were both 5 of 7 from the floor.

Wade James had nine for the Kardinals, while Carnell Gump had seven, and Luke Armstrong, William Wilson, Owen Whicker and Roc Riggle each had two.

For Delta, Leunda Clark had 12, Artur Novotarskiy had six, Jacob Hilton had five, and Donovan Koba and Ethan Adams each had four.

“Valdez will be a huge challenge,” Rose wrote. “They dealt with a number of injuries during the season but they’re healthy now. Valdez is not a normal No. 6 seed.

“We’re all about defense. If we guard them, we’ll have a chance to win the game.”

The Kenai girls were able to hold off Valdez with some clutch foul shooting in the fourth quarter. The Kards made 11 of their final 12 foul shots, and 11 of 14 overall in the fourth quarter, to pull away from the Buccaneers. Valdez had eliminated Kenai at state last year in this same fourth-place semifinal.

“It was an awful, back-and-forth, heartbreaking loss,” Kenai girls coach Jeff Swick said. “It was not the way you want to end the season.

“I tried to use that as motivation for the girls before the game. I think it motivated me more than it motivated them.”

Swick said the Kardinals are always at their best when they get a balanced performance around leading scorer Emma Beck. The coach said two early 3-pointers from Chloe Goldsby and Malerie Nunn were huge.

“When we start like that, it gives the girls so much more confidence,” Swick said.

Kenai used that solid start to keep the lead nearly the whole game, only giving it up briefly in the fourth quarter.

Beck started the fourth quarter on the bench with four fouls. Goldsby fouled out with 5:30 left in the game, but Swick said Mycka Phillips was able to provide key minutes to let Beck sit until 4:30 remained, when the Buccaneers had just taken a 28-27 lead.

Kenai would outscore Valdez 12-0 the rest of the way, with 10 of those points coming on free throws.

“Maybe this team needs their back up against the wall,” Swick said. “We won three in a row at regions when our season was on the line, and this one it was the same thing.”

Beck had 16 for Kenai, while Nunn had 13 on three 3-pointers and 4 of 4 shooting from the foul line. Also for Kenai, Rylie Sparks had four, Goldsby had three, Ella Yragui had two and Phillips had one.

Swick gave Sparks credit for a great game of rebounding. Valdez outrebounded Kenai 30-24, and the Buccaneers had 19 offensive rebounds. Swick said it would have been a lot worse without the aggressive rebounding of Sparks.

Masen Holmes had 10 for Valdez, while Carlie Vanbuskirk added eight.

Now, Kenai will look for some revenge against Sitka. The Kards have lost to the Wolves the last two years at state. This year, Kenai lost 43-36 and 38-34 at Sitka in late February. Swick, in his fourth year as head coach, also was swept by the Wolves in a two-game trip in a previous year.

“It’s not a state tournament unless we’re playing Sitka,” Swick said.

In the Class 3A girls semifinals, No. 1 Grace Christian defeated No. 4 Barrow 61-50 and No. 3 Mt. Edgecumbe defeated No. 2 Monroe Catholic 40-35. Barrow and Monroe play Saturday at 10:30 a.m. for third place, while Grace and Mt. Edgecumbe play for the title at 1 p.m. Saturday.

In the Class 3A boys semifinals, No. 1 Grace defeated No. 4 Mt. Edgecumbe 50-33 and No. 3 Houston and No. 2 Nome had the late game. The third-place game is at 9 a.m. Saturday, while the championship is at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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