Soldotna’s Zac Buckbee dribbles against Palmer’s Malik Balmes on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Zac Buckbee dribbles against Palmer’s Malik Balmes on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna basketball splits with Palmer on senior night

The Soldotna and Palmer basketball teams split on Soldotna’s senior night Saturday in Soldotna.

The Soldotna girls won 53-35 to improve to 4-6 in the Northern Lights Conference and 11-12 overall. The Stars honored senior players Katelyn Morrison, Tanner Inman and Josie Sheridan, and manager Lily Bahl.

The Soldotna boys lost 55-51 to fall to 2-8 in the league and 7-15 overall. Coy Babcock, Jakob Brown, Eli Corbett and Will Inman were the seniors honored for SoHi.

The Stars senior girls have had three coaches in four years and also had to deal with the pandemic.

“They’ve been through quite a bit,” said first-year head coach Eric Pomerleau. “So for them to finish tonight on a high note, and really be peaking at the right time, it’s just great for them.

“I’m glad they’re finishing up their senior year in a positive way.”

In addition to the other challenges, Sheridan tore her anterior cruciate ligament in the spring of her sophomore year. She missed all of her junior year except for the last three regular season games and the conference tournament.

“It’s been really good, and a roller coaster, and a lot of fun,” Sheridan said. “I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Sheridan said the team is like one big family. She added the excitement of senior night helped the Stars get out to an 18-6 lead after the first quarter.

“We came out with energy and everybody was really excited,” Sheridan said. “We knew we needed to come out with energy on senior night.”

The Stars had just defeated Palmer 53-30 on Feb. 24. Pomerleau said his squad did a good job of executing what had been practiced during the week.

“We just played Palmer last week so we had a pretty good idea of what to prepare for,” he said.

The Moose had success with a zone in the last game, so they played a zone most of the game Saturday to slow Soldotna down. Pomerleau was happy with the way his team attacked the zone.

“We’ve been working on a lot of different aspects of how to beat it and not let the ball get stagnant,” Pomerleau said. “This is where you attack it after you reverse it.

“So it was nice to see a lot of things we’ve been practicing come to fruition on the court.”

Palmer hung in for a while, trailing 26-18 at the half and 39-27 after three quarters. The Moose could never get over the hump and get back in the game.

“I thought when there was a little bit of a momentum shift, I thought the girls reacted really well,” Pomerleau said. “They’d run the offense even better and make an even better pass.”

For the Stars, Sheridan had 12, Morrison, Kaytlin McAnelly and Inman had 10, Morgan Lemm had seven and Anaulie Sedivy had four.

For Palmer, Larkin Christiansen led the way with 16.

Making the Class 4A state tournament is tough in what Pomerleau calls the best conference in the state, but Sheridan is ready to make a run.

“We just have to keep the energy up and put the basketball in the hole, because that’s our biggest issue at times,” she said. “When we can score, we’re capable of anything.”

The Palmer boys held on for a tight win to notch their first conference win of the season.

With a minute left, Antonio Sheldon hit a 3-pointer to put Palmer up 50-47. Malik Balmes then put the Moose up 52-45 with a pair of foul shots with 33 seconds left.

Corbett came right back with a 3-pointer for a 52-50 game with 27 seconds left. SoHi got a steal with 18 seconds left, and that led to Andrew Pieh making 1 of 2 from the foul line for a 52-51 game with 12 seconds left. Balmes made 3 of 4 from the charity stripe in the final 10 seconds to seal it.

For the Soldotna boys, Brown had 17, Corbett had 10, Izaiah Gilbert had eight, Pieh had seven, Cameron Laroque had four, Zac Buckbee and Inman had two, and Lokeni Wong had one.

Soldotna’s Katelyn Morrison goes up for a shot against Palmer’s Larkin Christiansen on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Katelyn Morrison goes up for a shot against Palmer’s Larkin Christiansen on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Josie Sheridan drives on Palmer’s Ariana Belk on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Josie Sheridan drives on Palmer’s Ariana Belk on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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