Head coach Jeff Swick and the Kenai Central girls basketball team celebrate earning a berth in the Class 3A state tounament after defeating Homer in the semifinals of the Southcentral Conference girls tournament Friday, March 12, 2021, at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Head coach Jeff Swick and the Kenai Central girls basketball team celebrate earning a berth in the Class 3A state tounament after defeating Homer in the semifinals of the Southcentral Conference girls tournament Friday, March 12, 2021, at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai girls top Homer for state berth

Mariners boys lose to ACS in semis

The Kenai Central girls basketball team earned a second state berth in three years by defeating Homer 45-30 in the semifinals of the Southcentral Conference girls tournament Friday at Nikiski High School.

Kenai head coach Jeff Swick said he told his team everybody had to be confident of the ability to contribute for the Kardinals to have success at the tournament.

The coach got exactly what he wanted in a Thursday victory over Grace Christian, the No. 2 seed from the Northern Division, and a victory over Homer, the No. 1 seed from the Southern Division. The Kardinals, at 7-11 overall, are the No. 3 seed from the south.

Swick said those two games were the best Kenai has played all season.

“From a coaching standpoint, it was great having a plan and seeing it work out exactly how I wanted it to work out for them,” said Swick, who earns his first berth to state in his second season at the helm. “All of the girls were working together.

“Nine of them got in the game and helped us win each of the last two games. It was an all-around team effort.”

Homer head coach Chad Felice had dominated Swick before Friday, winning the first seven matchups between the two. The Mariners were 4-0 against the Kards in the regular season.

“I told the girls, ‘The fifth time is the charm. It’s got to be,’” Swick said. “They are tough. Their defense is a pretty frustrating to play against.

“We just can’t establish an offensive flow against them.”

Freshman Emma Beck proved to be a tough stop for the Mariners on Friday. She had 16 points, but was just as happy to dish to open shooters when the defense collapsed on her.

Michael Keyes (10 points), Amber Nash (nine points) and Logan Satathite (eight points) knocked down those shots.

“She’s a bit of a matchup nightmare,” Swick said of Beck. “She can score in the post, she can step out and shoot 3s and if you collapse on her she can find someone open.

“My big message to her this season has been to look to the weak side when the defense collapses, and she’s taking it to heart.”

Kenai led 13-8 after the first quarter and 23-17 at halftime. Even as the Kardinals pulled away to lead 36-22 after three quarters, Swick said he didn’t relax until the final buzzer because he respects Homer so much.

Swick was just as happy with his team’s defense. He said Kenai has had trouble keeping the defensive intensity up for whole games, but that wasn’t the case this tournament.

In the 51-47 victory over Grace on Thursday, Swick said Grizzlies star Tessa Binder had the ball with her team down two with 18 seconds left and Kenai sophomore Malerie Nunn, making her second start, was able to steal it away and save the game.

Swick said that steal shows just how far the young players have come this season. The team has just two seniors, Taylor Pierce and Keyes, and Swick said even those two don’t have a ton of varsity experience.

Beck and Erin Koziczkowski, a junior, get a chance to go to state after their dominant Kenai volleyball team didn’t get a chance at conference or state tournaments due to the coronavirus.

“That’s definitely something that’s motivated them,” Swick said.

Kenai now has gone to state in two of three years since being reclassified to Class 3A. Before that, Kenai’s last trip to state was 2002 at the Class 4A level.

As for Swick, his last trip to state was in the Class 2A classification as a player for Seldovia in 1999 and 2000.

Kenai and Anchorage Christian Schools, 73-17 winners over Redington, play for the championship at 5 p.m. at Nikiski, which is hosting all the girls games. Homer and Redington play for third at 3 p.m., with the winner being eligible for an at-large berth.

Grace, a 57-35 winner over Houston, and Seward, a 37-35 winner over Nikiski, play for fourth at noon, while Houston and Nikiski play for seventh at 10 a.m.

In the boys tournament at Kenai, Grace, a 55-42 winner over Houston, and ACS, a 63-47 winner over Homer, play for the title at 5 p.m., while the Hawks and Mariners meet for third and eligibility for an at-large berth at 3 p.m.

Seward, a 57-40 winner over Nikiski, and Kenai, a 74-45 winner over Redington, play for fourth at noon, while the Bulldogs and Huskies play for seventh at 10 a.m.

Spectators are limited to preapproved guest lists. The games will be streamed on the Kenai Central athletics and Nikiski Middle-High School Facebook pages.

ACS girls 73, Redington 17

The Lions, the defending conference champion and top seed out of the north, blew past the Huskies, the No. 3 seed from the north, to return to the championship game.

ACS led 11-8 after the first quarter, but 39-15 at halftime.

Sayvia Sellers poured in 24 points for the Lions, while Sunny Pedebone had 14 and Mikayla Johnson had 12. For Redington, Lexi Seymore led the way with five points.

Grace girls 57, Houston 35

The Grizzlies, the No. 2 seed from the north, cruised past the Hawks, the No. 4 seed from the north, to move to the fourth-place game.

Grace led 17-5 after the first quarter and 34-14 at halftime.

Tessa Binder led the Grizzlies with 29 points, while Kennedy Wood had 13. For Houston, Anna Whitted had 12 points, while Grace Gillespie had eight.

Seward girls 37, Nikiski 35

The Seahawks, No. 2 from the south, pulled off a big comeback against the Bulldogs, No. 4 from the south, to move to the fourth-place game.

Seward moves to 7-11 overall and finishes 4-1 against Nikiski this season. The Bulldogs fall to 5-12.

Nikiski led 11-8 after the first quarter and 23-12 at halftime. In the third quarter, Seward cranked up its full-court pressure and cut Nikiski’s lead to 26-25. The Seahawks were then able to prevail in a tight fourth quarter.

Shelby Sieminski had 11 points to pace the Seahawks, while Lena Jagielski had eight points. For Nikiski, Kinlee Jeffreys and Savanna Stock each had nine points.

ACS boys 63, Homer 47

The Lions, No. 2 from the north, returned to the title game by topping Homer, No. 1 from the south.

After leading 14-10 after a quarter, the Lions had a 37-18 lead by halftime. The Mariners drop to 14-4 overall.

Josh Davis had 18 points for ACS, while Matt Sanders pitched in 12 and Sean Malinis added eight.

For Homer, Clayton Beachy had 15, while River Mann struck for eight.

Grace boys 55, Houston 42

The Grizzlies, No. 1 from the north, returned to the title game by defeating Houston, No. 3 from the north.

The game was tied at 11 after the first quarter, but Grace led 32-20 at halftime.

Tyler Binder had 16 for Grace, while Luke Lentfer had 13, Jaren Miller had 10 and Sloan Lentfer had eight.

For Houston, Braden Cook and Hayden Howard each had 10, while Hunter Jefferson had eight.

Kenai boys 74, Redington 45

The Kardinals, No. 3 from the south, pulled away from the Huskies, No. 4 from the north, to reach the fourth-place game.

Redington led 14-13 after the first quarter, but Kenai (12-6 overall) led 29-19 at halftime and 44-31 after three quarters.

Jakob Kvasnikoff had 19 points to lead five Kenai players in double figures. Maison Dunham and Bridger Beck each had 14, while Jordan Kvasnikoff had 11 and Keagen Medina had 10.

Cort Sandefur had 17 for Redington, while Bryce Murdock pitched in 16.

Seward boys 57, Nikiski 40

The Seahawks, the No. 2 seed from the south, topped the Bulldogs, No. 4 from the south, to move into the fourth-place game.

Seward moves to 11-7 overall, while Nikiski falls to 1-18.

The Seahawks led 18-10 after the first quarter and 34-23 at halftime.

Max Pfeiffenberger came through with 20 points for Seward, while Tommy Cronin had three 3-pointers for 15 points and Trey Ingalls had four 3-pointers for 14 points.

For Nikiski, Caileb Payne had 12 points, while Drew Handley chipped in eight.

Friday girls

Seahawks 37, Bulldogs 35

Seward 8 4 13 12 — 37

Nikiski 11 12 3 9 —35

SEWARD (37) — Ingalls 0, Schilling 7, Jagielski 8, Sieminski 11, Lemme 6, Dougherty 0, Nilsson 1, Cronin 0, Ambrosiani 4.

NIKISKI (35) — Jeffreys 9, Stock 9, Ellis 0, White 4, Epperheimer 5, Sutton 6, Grenier 2, Burman 0, Weeks 0.

Kardinals 45, Mariners 30

Homer 8 9 5 8 —30

Kenai 13 10 13 9 —45

HOMER (30) — Rhodes 2, Harris 4, Shelby 1, Inama 13, Morris 4, Ellison 2, Smude 4.

KENAI CENTRAL (45) — Nunn 0, Keyes 10, Koziczkowski 2, Wilson 0, Satathite 8, Nash 9, McCanna 0, Bernard 0, Beck 16.

Friday boys

Seahawks 57, Bulldogs 40

Seward 18 16 14 11 —57

Nikiski 10 13 8 9 —40

SEWARD (57) — Mullaly 2, Koster 3, N. Ambrosiani 0, B. Ambrosiani 0, Cronin 15, Ingalls 14, Pfeiffenberger 20, Deboard 3, Davis 0, Spanos 0, Deel 0.

NIKISKI (40) — Bostic 7, Porter 2, S. Payne 0, Grenier 0, Malston 5, Stafford 4, C. Payne 12, Sutton 2, Handley 8.

Kardinals 74, Huskies 45

Redington 14 5 12 14 —45

Kenai 13 16 15 30 —74

REDINGTON (45) — Bowman 6, Ja. Williams 3, Jh. Williams 0, Bond 0, Wold 0, Sandefur 17, Seymore 1, Murdock 16, Pocznek 2, Gosh 0.

KENAI CENTRAL (74) — Dunham 14, Medina 10, Hamilton 0, Baisden 4, Jo. Kvasnikoff 11, Beck 14, Ja. Kvasnikoff 19, Tunseth 2, White 0, Hanson 0.

Lions 63, Mariners 47

ACS 14 23 12 14 —63

Homer 11 8 13 16 —47

ANCHORAGE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS (63) — Cook 5, Malinis 8, Davis 18, Warren 3, Sanders 12, Szcpanski 0, Huitt 0, McGee 7, English 7, Inolreland 3, McFarlande 0.

HOMER (47) — Smith 3, Beachy 15, Etzwiler 4, Edens 2, Carroll 3, Knapp 5, Irons 0, Mann 8, Tennison 5, Raymond 2.

Homer’s Tonda Smude scores against Kenai Central on Friday, March 12, 2021, at the Southcentral Conference tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Tonda Smude scores against Kenai Central on Friday, March 12, 2021, at the Southcentral Conference tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Emilee Wilson and Homer’s Hannah Hatfield battle for the ball Friday, March 12, 2021, at the Southcentral Conference tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Emilee Wilson and Homer’s Hannah Hatfield battle for the ball Friday, March 12, 2021, at the Southcentral Conference tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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