The visiting Soldotna basketball teams swept Nikiski in nonconference play Tuesday.
The Soldotna boys won 65-55 to improve to 5-12 overall and drop the Bulldogs to 2-15. The Stars girls won 55-25 to move to 7-9 and put the Bulldogs at 5-10.
Soldotna threatened to run away with the boys game, but the Bulldogs were able to win the fourth quarter 15-8 and get to within eight points with the ball.
“I’m happy we got the win,” Soldotna head coach Darren Zibell said. “We had a couple opportunities when we were up 20 to really stretch the lead and they made some tough shots.
“We felt like we just couldn’t get away from them. Their boys came to play and they hit some real tough shots.”
Nikiski head coach Reid Kornstad said his team continues to show improvement, but also that handling pressure can still be a challenge.
“It’s been a journey all year long for us to handle pressure,” Kornstad said. “The guys are getting better at it, they’re just not quite ready to do it for 32 minutes yet.
“There were stretches where we were really successful. But Soldotna is good at what they do and they’re getting fine-tuned for the season. Ultimately, it was the difference in the game.”
The Stars were able to get the turnovers out of a zone defense.
“We’ve kind of made the switch to be more of a zone team,” Zibell said. “So we ran a couple zones, and it looked good early.
“But Reid’s a good coach and they figured out what we were doing and made adjustments.”
Zibell said the Stars wanted to play zone the whole game, but could only run zone for three-quarters of the game because SoHi stopped covering its spots.
“Our guys are learning to adjust quicker and quicker,” Kornstad said. “We had some really good success tonight, but it’s not good enough yet for the postseason.”
Kornstad also said his team rebounded better as the game went on.
“Probably the biggest thing I appreciated about our guys effort was just that it never went away tonight,” Kornstad said. “They dug themselves a pretty big hole in the third quarter. They could have just went away, but they didn’t.”
Andrew Pieh paced the Stars with 18 points.
“He’s just kind of figured out his role a little bit,” Zibell said. “He broke his arm back in October, and I think it was a little bit more recovery than we thought it would be. So he seems to be back at full strength.”
Zibell said Zac Buckbee, who had 14, did a good job of keeping cool as the Bulldogs made their run in the fourth quarter. Jakob Brown made four 3-pointers on his way to 13 points.
Also for SoHi, Cameron Laroque had eight, Izaiah Gilbert had six, and Eli Corbett and Will Inman each had three.
Kornstad said Charlie Chamberlain has been working on his 3-point shooting and it showed as he drained five treys on the way to 20 points.
The Nikiski coach added that Braeden Porter, with 10 points, and David Weathers, with seven points, are getting better and better and handling pressure.
Kornstad said Drew Handley played well on the inside in getting nine points, while Seth Payne, with nine points, did a good job guarding Brown after Brown’s hot early shooting.
The Soldotna girls used pressure defense to control the game against Nikiski. SoHi led 14-7 after a quarter, 26-12 at the half and 38-19 after three quarters.
Anaulie Sedivy, Katelyn Morrison, Kaytlin McAnelly and Josie Sheridan all had 10 for the Stars, while Morgan Lemm had nine, Annie Burns had three, Anika Jedlicka had two and Juliet Innes had one.
For Nikiski, Shelby Burman had 10, Avery White had six, Savanna Stock had three, and Maggie Grenier, Avery Ellis and Kailey Stynsberg had two.
CIA girls 46, Kenai JV 16
The visiting Eagles moved to 12-4 overall with the nonconference win over the Kardinals JV.
Hope Hillyer poured in 25 for Cook Inlet Academy, while Tatum Rozak had 12, Ella Rollman had four, Beka Dillingham had three and Kaitlyn Liles had two.
For Kenai, Alex Nelson had five, Ellsi Miller had four, Avia Miller and Evelyn Cooper had three, and Katie Johnson had one.