Soldotna’s Morgan Bouschor looks for an outlet pass under pressure from Seward’s Shelby Sieminski as Soldotna’s Taylor Edwards looks on at Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Morgan Bouschor looks for an outlet pass under pressure from Seward’s Shelby Sieminski as Soldotna’s Taylor Edwards looks on at Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

SoHi girls, boys open with mysterious Kodiak

The Soldotna girls and boys basketball teams will open the postseason against a team that did not have a regular season.

The Stars, both seeded fourth, play Kodiak, the No. 5 seed, in the opening round of the Northern Lights Conference tournament at Colony High School on Thursday. The girls play at 6 p.m., while the boys play at 8 p.m.

There are two automatic state berths available in the girls and boys tournament. Both Soldotna teams would have to defeat Kodiak, then No. 1 seed Colony, to earn that automatic berth.

“We don’t know anything,” Soldotna boys head coach Nolan Rose said of the Bears. “They haven’t played any games.

“We know they’ve been participating in a city league down there on The Rock playing against adults.”

Soldotna girls head coach Kyle McFall said the girls are in the same boat. Kodiak’s girls also have been playing in a rec league.

“We have film on them from last year, but that’s last year’s team,” said McFall, who led his team to state in 2019. “They have a strong post player in Leslie Spear. Beyond that, we don’t know what to expect.”

The Soldotna girls go into the tournament with a 14-3 record. The Stars went 14-0 against peninsula competition, then 0-3 on a trip to visit Colony, Wasilla and Palmer in early March.

Soldotna’s games were streamed, meaning Kodiak could watch as much as it wanted, but McFall said the Stars have to worry about themselves.

“That’s kind of been the focus in the last week and a half of practice,” McFall said. “It’s been nice. It’s the first time we’ve had more than two practices in a row since the beginning of the season.

“We worked on our press and half-court offense.”

No matter who the Stars are playing, McFall said his squad will rely on various pressure looks to gather momentum. Even though SoHi went 0-3 on its Valley trip, McFall said the trip was good for his team.

“We learned a lot about ourselves on that trip, and what we need to work on,” the coach said. “We feel good with where we’re at.”

McFall said Josie Sheridan, Drysta Crosby-Schneider and Morgan Bouschor will be the primary scorers, while Autumn Fischer and Rhys Cannava will also serve important roles. The coach added Ellie Burns was great coming off the bench during the Valley trip.

Also serving as Soldotna’s athletic director, McFall knows how hard it has been to pull off events during the pandemic. He gave credit to Colony athletic director Kristy Johnson for putting together the tournament.

Last year, Colony also was supposed to host the tournament, but it was canceled due to the pandemic. Johnson got all the coaches gifts for the tournament last year, and she got them gifts again this year.

For the Soldotna boys, the opening game is just another odd part of an odd season.

The Stars took fifth in the state in 2019 and returned 10 seniors in 2019-2020 only to see the NLC tournament canceled.

Not only that, but Rose said he didn’t have contact with his team, except for a 10-day window, from March 21, 2020, to Jan. 11, 2021. Rose added other areas of the state were able to have open gyms in the offseason and even play in comp leagues, so he would like to see the state take a uniform approach to offseason activity if the pandemic continues to influence sports.

The Stars went 3-14 playing a compressed schedule against peninsula teams, including an 0-3 trip to the Valley. The schedule didn’t allow much practice time. What practices were held had to be light to preserve the players physically for games.

“We’re not where I’d like us to be,” Rose said.

Add in all the mitigation measures coaches had to do, and Rose said it’s been a frustrating year.

“I am happy the kids got the opportunity to play,” Rose said. “Down here, none of the teams, as far as I’m aware, had COVID cases. No teams here had to cancel games due to COVID-related issues.

“The fact that we’ve been able to pull off a season has been pretty cool.”

With losing so much experience, Rose said the Stars have battled maturity and consistency issues. He said the team can’t afford inconsistency if it wants a state berth.

The coach said juniors Nathan Johnson and Ethan Sewell are key for the team.

“They have the potential to help us be a competitive team,” Rose said. “Our success hinges on how they play, the attitude they have and the energy they bring.

“When they’re good, we’re competitive.”

Northern Lights Conference tournament

GIRLS

Thursday’s games

Game 1 — Soldotna vs. Kodiak, 6 p.m.

Friday’s games

Game 2 — Colony vs. Game 1 winner, 6 p.m.

Game 3 — Wasilla vs. Palmer, 2 p.m.

Saturday’s games

Game 4 — Game 1 loser vs. Friday’s lowest losing seed, 9 a.m.

Third place — Game 4 winner vs. Friday’s highest losing seed, 1 p.m.

Championship — Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner. 5 p.m.

BOYS

Thursday’s games

Game 1 — Soldotna vs. Kodiak, 8 p.m.

Friday’s games

Game 2 — Colony vs. Game 1 winner, 8 p.m.

Game 3 — Palmer vs. Wasilla, 4 p.m.

Saturday’s games

Game 4 — Game 2 loser vs. Friday’s lowest losing seed, 11 a.m.

Third place — Game 4 winner vs. Friday’s highest losing seed, 3 p.m.

Championship — Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 7 p.m.

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