The Kenai Central girls and Seward boys notched Southcentral Conference victories on an intense night of basketball fueled by a Cliff Massie Court packed due to Kenai’s senior night.
The Kardinals girls used intense defense to take a 15-2 lead at the half en route to a 36-21 victory. Intensity also ruled the boys game, with Seward notching a 67-46 victory in a game that had six technical fouls on players.
Some of the most intense adulation of the night was reserved for the ceremonies honoring seniors Damaris Severson, Jaiden Streiff, Elizabeth Hanson, Kailey Hamilton, Andrew Bezdecny, Evan Stockton, Braedon Pitsch, Kayden Daniels and managers Roman Custodio and Trevor Bagley.
The biggest applause of the ceremonies came for Deborah Sounart, who is retiring after this school year after teaching band for 26 years at Kenai Middle and Kenai Central.
Sounart has been behind sports traditions at Kenai like the drum line at football games or the pep band at basketball games.
“She’s amazing,” said Will Chervenak, assistant principal at Kenai. “She’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever seen.”
The Kenai girls have been up and down lately, and coach Jeff Swick said a big part of that is defensive intensity. In honor of senior night, Swick told his players to bring maximum intensity at all times on defense or they were coming out of the game.
“This game we brought the intensity in the first half,” Swick said after improving to 7-13 overall. “Anytime you can hold a team to two points in the first half, that’s something to be proud of.”
Another of Kenai’s problems has been scoring points, but with a stifling defense, 15 points in the first half was plenty.
“We’ve been getting shots, but not hitting shots,” Swick said. “We did a good job of going hard to the basket, getting fouls and getting to the line.”
The Kardinals finished 20 of 29 from the charity stripe.
Seward head coach Curtis Berry said his team played well, but Kenai’s 1-3-1 zone in the first half was too tough.
“Kudos to Kenai,” Berry said. “They play physical. They went for it. They didn’t hold back.”
After dominating the first half, Kenai won the second half 21-19.
“We’ve been trying to be the team we were in the second half,” Berry said after his team fell to 3-15 overall and remained winless in the conference. “Scoring is something we’ve been struggling with all year.”
Swick said Streiff did a great job serving as the floor general in the face of Seward’s defensive intensity. Severson also constantly got her hands on passes on defense.
Seward boys 67, Kenai 46
The die also was cast early in the boys game, with the Seward boys taking an 11-0 lead before Kenai called timeout with 5:28 left in the first quarter.
With the Seahawks improving to 15-4 with the victory, and Kenai falling to 7-12, the early deficit would be too much for the Kardinals to overcome.
“You can’t spot a team like that an 11-0 lead and expect to win the game,” Felchle said. “They’re too good.”
The Kenai coach said Seward’s guard play is good, post play is good, press is wearing and offensive patience is lethal, especially with a double-digit lead.
“When we get up early like that, it usually means we’ll be a tough team to beat,” Seward coach Al Plan said.
Plan said big men Connor Spanos and Bjorn Nilsson set the tone with solid play around the basket. That opened up shooter Trey Ingalls for a 12-point first quarter.
“Once we got that lead, it was back and forth from then on,” Plan said.
Whenever Kenai threatened a run, Seward’s press or a player had the answer. In the second half, that player often was Sam Koster, who had 13 points in what Plan said was Koster’s best game of the year.
“He got to the basket well,” Plan said. “Kenai was playing tough defense. He handled the ball and kept us in our offense.”
Kenai’s last big push came in the middle of the fourth quarter, when Stockton hit a 3 to cut it to 55-43 with 4:29 to play. Bezdecny then drove to the hoop in a bid to cut the lead to 10 and missed.
Bezdecny picked up two technicals protesting the lack of a foul call, and Seward used those free throws to begin putting the game away. Stockton and Lucas Tunseth would pick up technicals before the end of the fourth. Max Pfeiffenberger and John Moriarity had earlier technicals for Seward.
“I don’t agree with the no call, at the same time you’ve got to be able to play through it,” Felchle said of Bezdecny’s pivotal drive to the rim. “I told them, I’ll stand up for you. Don’t do it yourself.
“We lost our composure and it wasn’t respectful to the officials or anyone else in the gym.”
Both Felchle and Plan agreed the line can be hard to draw in a tense game in front of a big crowd. Plan said he sat both his players for a while after they got technicals, and added more punishment would come Monday in practice.
“You’ve got to be able to play tough and physical without going over that line,” Plan said. “It’s easier said than done. I know I’ve gotten a few technicals in my day.”
Spanos had 11 for Seward, while John Moriarity had 10. For Kenai, Jordan Kvasnikoff had 13, while Braedon Pitsch had 11.
Kardinals 36, Seahawks 21
Seward 2 0 8 11 —21
Kenai 3 12 9 12 —36
SEWARD (21) — Schilling 4, Sieminski 13, Lemme 2, Ambrosiani 2.
KENAI (36) — Morris 12, Pierce 2, Hamilton 10, Hanson 2, Streiff 4, Severson 6.
3-point goals — none.
Seahawks 67, Kardinals 46
Seward 24 12 17 16 —67
Kenai 10 13 11 12 —46
SEWARD (67) — Mullaly 2, Koster 13, Moriarity 10, McMurray 1, Ingalls 17, Pfeiffenberger 8, Spanos 11, Nilsson 5.
KENAI (46) — Baisden 5, Kvasnikoff 13, Bezdecny 8, Stockton 6, Pitsch 11, Daniels 3.