PALMER — The Soldotna Stars fell short of a pair of conference wins during their two-day stay in the Valley, after falling flat each night in the fourth quarter.
An evening after settling for a pair of free throws during the fourth quarter of a Northern Lights Conference loss to Colony, the Stars managed only two 3-pointers during the final 90 seconds of the fourth quarter in a 49-37 loss to Palmer at Palmer High School.
After entering the final period with the score tied at 31, the Moose used an 18-6 run to cap the win, and improve to 1-2 in NLC play.
“We’ve found stretches where we’ve been able to put the ball in the basket,” Palmer head coach Chuck Martin said after the win.
The Moose had a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter, and didn’t allow a Soldotna point until Timmy Smithwick drained a 3-pointer with 1:30 left in regulation.
“We defended. I think we’re a very good defensive team when we’re ahead,” Martin said.
Martin said the way Palmer found its offense in the fourth quarter was also key.
“We continued to go inside,” Martin said.
Palmer senior forward Michael Kluting scored eight of his game-high 27 points in the fourth. Kluting had only one field goal during the final period, but consistently pressured the basket and drew fouls. He was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the fourth. Kluting’s work inside also helped open opportunities for the Palmer shooters. Brady Southwick and Clayton Southwick each had key 3-pointers during the fourth quarter.
“We’ve shot the ball really well this year when we go inside-out,” Martin said. “The 3s we got in the fourth quarter were all post feeds out. We’ve got to learn to play that way all of the time.”
In the win, Kluting hit the 27-point total for the third straight game. The senior hit nine shots from the floor and was 7 for 7 from the line.
“I thought he was good in the post tonight. He was low and slow. He scored. I thought the guys did a good job of getting it to him,” Martin said.
Clayton Southwick added nine points for the Moose.
Smithwick scored a team-high 14 for Soldotna. Derek Evans added 10, and Griffen Casey chipped in eight.
Before the lopsided fourth, the game was back and fourth for three quarters. Palmer held only a one-point advantage at the intermission. Smithwick hit a leaning 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer to cut Palmer’s lead to 18-17. Soldotna opened the second half on a five-point run.
But after Eli Sheridan hit a 3-pointer for Soldotna early in the third, neither team led by more than a possession for the remainder of the quarter.
Post leads Palmer girls to win
PALMER — The Palmer basketball program is raining guards.
On any given night, the Moose can boast more than a half-dozen players at the position, of similar size and speed, who can fly up and down the floor. But Friday, it was a Palmer post who reigned.
Sophomore Savanna Dixon scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Moose to a 61-40 Northern Lights Conference win over the Soldotna Stars at Palmer High School.
“She was due,” Palmer head coach Elgin Hollins said of Dixon. “We inserted her into the starting lineup for the last couple of games. We needed her to get going.”
Dixon owned the paint at both sides of the floor, and finished with 10 field goals in the game.
“She was just in the right place at the right time, every single possession,” Hollins said. “It’s a confidence-booster for her. For an underclassman to get that type of game is huge for us.”
At 5-foot-10, Palmer’s second tallest player on the roster, Dixon complemented Palmer’s up-tempo pace, Hollins said.
“We can run a couple different sets with her out there. She’s proven she can run the court, and handle the passes on the run, which is huge for us since it’s the style of basketball we want to play,” Hollins said. “She’s tall and she’s also athletic. She’s able to rebound and finish around the basket for us.”
Dixon helped spark the Moose early, scoring eight of Palmer’s 18 first-quarter points. The Moose started the game on a 7-0 run, and didn’t allow a Soldotna basket until Kendra Bush hit a 3-pointer. Palmer held SoHi to a pair of Bush 3s in the first eight minutes.
Bush led Soldotna with 13 points in the loss.
The Stars also had a long scoring drought in the third quarter. The Stars didn’t get their first basket of the second half, another Bush bucket, until the 2:38 mark of the period.
Lindsey Wong added a dozen for Soldotna, scoring nine of those points in the second half.
Soldotna fell to 0-3 against the NLC’s Valley programs.
Palmer improved to 1-2 in NLC play, getting the win after falling to rival Colony and Wasilla during the last two weeks.
“Being down 0-2 in conference, it’s a big win for us just to get that conference momentum for us,” Hollins said.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moose 49, Stars 37
Soldotna 8 9 14 6 —37
Palmer 9 9 13 18 —49
Soldotna (37) — Sheridan 1 0-0 3, Casey 3 2-4 8, Spence 1 0-0 2, Smithwick 5 0-2 14, Evans 5 0-0 10; Totals: 15 2-6 37.
Palmer (49) — Martin 1 2-2 5, Ferris 1 0-0 2, B. Southwick 2 0-0 6, C. Southwick 4 0-1 9, Kluting 9 7-7 27; Totals: 17 9-10 49.
3-point field goals: Soldotna 5 (Smithwick 4); Palmer 6 (Kluting, B. Southwick 2).
Moose 61, Stars 40
Soldotna 6 12 8 14 —40
Palmer 18 11 14 8 —61
Soldotna (40) — Miller 1 0-0 2, A. Schmidt 2 1-4 5, Wong 5 0-0 12, Bush 5 0-0 13, McElroy 1 0-0 2; Tuisaula 3 0-0 6; Totals: 17 1-4 40.
Palmer (61) — Busbey 4 6-7 14, Lee 0 2-2 2, King 5 1-1 11, Uschmann 1 1-2 3, Till 4 0-1 11, Dixon 10 0-1 20; Totals: 24 10-14 61.
3-point field goals: Soldotna 5 (Bush 3); Palmer 1 (Till 1).