Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna's Abby Kruse tries to keep the ball inbounds while Kenai Central's Alli Steinbeck defends Tuesday at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna's Abby Kruse tries to keep the ball inbounds while Kenai Central's Alli Steinbeck defends Tuesday at Kenai Central High School.

SoHi, Kenai hoops teams split conference games

It has been so long since the Kenai Central girls basketball team defeated their local rivals Soldotna that none of the current players were in high school the last time it happened.

Tuesday night on Cliff Massie Court in Kenai, the Kards broke that streak with a 38-25 Northern Lights Conference victory.

Kenai senior Hannah Drury toed the free-throw line 14 times in the fourth quarter and hit 10-of-20 overall from the line to rack up 18 points and propel the Kenai Kardinals to their first regular-season win over Soldotna in at least four years.

“Coming off a tough weekend, losing to the Valley, we wanted to win tonight,” Drury said. “All the seniors were kind of done losing. We wanted to get this done, have a better start to the season.”

With the win, Kenai improved to 1-2 in the NLC and 2-9 overall, while SoHi dropped to 0-3 and 2-7.

Last weekend, the Kards lost a pair of conference games to Wasilla and Colony, so Kenai entered Tuesday’s matchup with SoHi determined to scratch out a win.

“It’s always a big rivalry, and we didn’t want to lose,” Drury said. “We played to win.”

In her four years playing for the Kards varsity, Drury has never been apart of a Kenai win over SoHi. Tuesday’s breakthrough felt extra special for her and her fellow seniors.

“It’s nice, because for all the seniors, we’ve had some tough region years,” Drury said. “For our third game to be a win, it’s a nice confidence booster.”

Kenai senior Alli Steinbeck had seven points and juniors Lara Creighton and Abby Beck added six each.

Senior Sylvia Tuisaula led the Stars with eight points.

Kenai coach Cary Calvert said after seeing SoHi lose several key starters from last year, it left the two squads in a similar position in the NLC.

“SoHi and us, we’re pretty much at the same spot,” Calvert said. “There’s a lot of us in them I think, and our goal is to just get better from here.”

Kenai held SoHi to seven points in the first half, and kept the Stars scoreless in the second quarter. Kenai’s scrappy and tough style of defense stifled Soldotna’s offense, which had only three field goals in the first half. Drury said that is a trait that has been continued from the Stacia Rustad led squads of the past six years.

“Defense is our bread and butter, and it keeps us in games,” Drury said.

After taking an 8-7 lead in the first quarter, Drury and Alexis Baker helped push the lead out to 14-7 at halftime with free throws. The pair combined to go 4 for 6 in the second quarter from the charity stripe.

SoHi finally broke its scoring slump with a layup from Tuisaula early in the third quarter. Tuisaula helped to re-energize the Stars offense with several clutch shots from the paint, which helped to ease the burden of seniors Lindsey Wong and Daisy Nelson, who represent the two returning starters to this year’s squad.

Tuisaula found space along the baseline and lifted up a shot with 1:47 to go in the fourth quarter that put SoHi within striking distance of Kenai at 35-25.

However, Drury hit three of six free throws to ice the game.

Soldotna boys 57, Kenai 49

The Stars prevailed in a hotly contested battle for Peninsula supremacy in the Northern Lights Conference, beating the Kards on Tuesday night at Kenai Central High.

In a game that produced seven ties and 15 lead changes, Soldotna took charge in the fourth quarter with clutch shooting and sealed the win from the free-throw line. Senior center Griffin Casey went 5 for 8 from the line in the fourth quarter to ice the game.

Before the fouling began, Kenai had taken a 38-37 lead on a long range triple by Marshall Vest with 7:34 remaining, and Vest helped Kenai take the lead again with 5:52 to go on a free throw, making it 41-40.

However, SoHi senior Timmy Smithwick caught the ball with space at the top of the arc and launched the go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:45 left to give the Stars a 43-41 lead, which they never gave up. SoHi sophomore Derek Evans twirled in a layup a minute later to extend to lead.

“This feels really good,” Evans said.

The win boosted the Stars to 1-0 in the NLC and 2-5 overall, while Kenai dropped to 0-3 in the NLC and 4-5 overall.

Smithwick, a Class 1A transplant from Cook Inlet Academy, nailed five 3s en route to scoring 17 points to lead SoHi. Casey added 14 points and Evans tallied seven.

“Coach had a good game plan and we hit shots,” Evans said. “It was hard. Glad we got the win.”

Fitt led Kenai with 18 points, while senior Marshall Vest had 10 and junior Josh Jackman notched nine.

SoHi coach Mark Tuter said a halftime reminder on the whiteboard in the classroom used for visiting teams helped focus his squad.

“I wrote in tiny letters, ‘The little things make the difference,’” Tuter said.

The message must have gotten across to the players, because the Stars held Kenai to just four points in the third quarter after the home team exploded with 19 in the second quarter, resulting in a 31-30 lead at the break for Kenai.

SoHi helped its cause with big shooting in the first quarter, led by Smithwick, who recorded three 3s for a 20-12 lead after eight minutes.

Nikolaevsk girls 65, CIA 17

The visiting Warriors notched a Peninsula Conference victory over the Eagles on Tuesday night.

Serafima Kalugin poured in 19 points to lead the Warriors, while Megan Hickman added 18 and Vera Fefelov had 12. For the Eagles, Adara Warren had 11 points.


Tuesday girls

Kardinals 38, Stars 25

Soldotna 7 0 8 10 —25

Kenai 8 6 10 14 —38

SOLDOTNA (25) Nelson 0 0-0 0, Miller 1 0-0 3, A. Schmidt 0 0-0 0, Wong 2 0-1 5, Blossom 1 2-2 4, Kruse 1 1-4 3, Brush 1 0-0 2, McElroy 0 0-0 0, D. Schmidt 0 0-0 0, Tuisaula 4 0-1 8. Totals 10 3-8 25.

KENAI (38) — Holmes 0 0-0 0, Drury 4 10-20 18, Steinbeck 3 1-2 7, Creighton 3 0-0 6, Baker 0 1-2 1, Booth 0 0-0 0, Ross 0 0-0 0, Beck 3 0-1 6, Satathite 0 0-0 0, Every 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 12-25 38.

3-point shots — Soldotna 2 (Miller, Wong).

Team fouls — Soldotna 21; Kenai 13. Fouled out — Wong.


Warriors 65, Eagles 17

Nikolaevsk 24 16 13 12 —65

CIA 8 6 3 0 —17

NIKOLAEVSK (65) — S. Klaich 1 0-0 2, K. Klaich 0 0-0 0, Yakunin 1 0-0 2, Johnson 1 0-0 2, E. Fefelov 1 0-0 2, V. Fefelov 6 0-0 12, Kalugin 8 3-4 19, N. Gordeev 1 0-0 2, E. Gordeev 2 0-0 4, Dorvall 1 0-0 2, Hickman 9 0-0 18. Totals — 31 3-4 65.

COOK INLET ACADEMY (17) — Hammond 0 0-0 0, Erickson 1 0-0 2, Carey 1 0-0 2, Cizek 1 0-0 2, McGahan 0 0-0 0, Warren 3 4-6 11. Totals — 6 4-6 17.

3-point goals — CIA 1 (Warren 1). Team fouls — Nikolaevsk 10, CIA 4. Fouled out — none.

Tuesday boys

Stars 57, Kardinals 49

Soldotna 20 10 7 20 —57

Kenai 12 19 4 14 —49

SOLDOTNA (57) — Kuntz 3 2-2 9, Sheridan 1 0-0 2, McElroy 0 0-0 0, Casey 4 6-10 14, Spence 0 3-4 3, Dickson 0 0-0 0, Smithwick 5 2-2 17, Evans 2 3-7 7, Marcuson 2 0-0 5. Totals 17 16-25 57.

KENAI (49) — Ta. Landry 2 0-0 4, Ivy 1 0-1 2, Vest 4 1-2 10, Brazell 0 0-0 0, Tr. Landry 1 0-0 2, Tuttle 0 0-0 0, Jackman 4 0-1 9, Beiser 0 0-0 0, Fitt 8 1-1 18, Johnson 2 0-1 4. Totals 22 2-6 49.

3-point shots — Soldotna 7 (Smithwick 5, Marcuson 1, Kuntz 1); Kenai 3 (Vest, Jackman, Fitt).

Team fouls — Soldotna 10; Kenai 21. Fouled out — Ivy, Jackman.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Kenai Central's Lara Creighton drives to the hoop while Soldotna's Sylvia Tuisaula defends Tuesday at Kenai Central High School.

Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion Kenai Central’s Lara Creighton drives to the hoop while Soldotna’s Sylvia Tuisaula defends Tuesday at Kenai Central High School.

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