A fast and flashy show of offense carried the Soldotna boys to a 77-54 nonconference win over Nikiski on senior night Tuesday at Soldotna High School.
Whether it be transition dunks by Joe Weltzin, hold-your-breath 3s by Brooks Furlong, stolen layups by Tim Duke or lightning-quick drives by Nate Spence, the senior class had a ball.
“We played eight or nine guys tonight, so we have some depth,” Spence said after the game. “We can all get up and down, play defense and run over the court.”
Weltzin scored a game-high 26 points to lead SoHi, while Spence netted 15 and Furlong added 14. Furlong ended the night with four 3s.
The remaining seniors all got into the scoring column as well — Hunter Phillips had six points, Duke had four, Drew Fowler had eight and Matt Trammell chipped in two.
Senior Brady Malston led Nikiski with 13 points, and teammate Hunter Holloway added 12.
“It’s senior night, and especially with so many guys, it was a great way to send them out,” Spence added.
With a slate of Northern Lights Conference road games this weekend against Palmer, Wasilla and Colony, the Stars will have their hands full. But SoHi coach Mark Tuter said if the Stars can exploit a zone defense like they did Tuesday, the weekend will be made much easier.
“I think next week we’ll be running into teams with tougher defenses,” Tuter said. “We’ve been working a lot with our set offenses so it’ll be a real complement for us.”
Tuter said he was pleased with the way his squad matched up with Nikiski’s zone defense, which allowed the Stars to grab steals and get second-chance points.
“We were clicking pretty well against their defense tonight,” he said. “We were picking it apart.”
Soldotna (10-10 overall) started hot as Furlong’s trey with 2:49 left in the first quarter kickstarted an 8-0 run that was capped by a Weltzin’s crowd-pleasing, two-handed dunk.
Furlong’s transition layup with 28 seconds left in the first quarter sparked another mini run that had SoHi up 25-14 early in the second quarter.
Malston and Sam Tauriainen answered back for Nikiski with a few big buckets, but any chipping away of the lead they did was undone by Weltzin’s baseline shots.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to 35-29 with 1:44 to play in the first half on a 3-pointer by Malston, but the Stars answered with some crafty play; Furlong nailed a trey of his own with 1:02 left on the clock, and on the ensuing Nikiski inbound, Duke stole the ball and sent in a sneak-attack layup. Duke pulled the same stunt later in the third quarter, accounting for his only points of the game.
Leading 40-29 at halftime, the Stars returned to the court driven to add to their lead. Fowler found space under the net for a layup, Furlong laid in another trey, and Fowler put up a second layup for a quick seven-point spurt. SoHi scored 23 points in the quarter — which was ended by a last-second trey by Phillips — to push its lead to 63-40.
Spence drilled a 3-pointer with 1:14 to play to cap off his night, as well as most of the seniors on the floor. Following the shot, Tuter immediately subbed in several bench players to the applause of the crowd.
“That was a great moment, to hit that 3 and end my year playing at home,” Spence said. “All my teammates that I’ve played with for four years, that was special.”
Nikiski girls 48, Soldotna 42
The Nikiski girls have proven themselves to be one of the premier Class 3A girls teams in the state this year by racking up a glorious record. Tuesday night, they showed they can contend with any team, regardless of rank.
Helped by 15-for-18 shooting from the free throw line, Nikiski (14-5) toppled the Class 4A Soldotna Stars with a nonconference win.
“I’m really proud of the girls, they’ve really bought into our system this year,” said Nikiski coach Scott Anderson. “They play great defense, they play well together, and I really can’t ask for more than that.”
Senior Rachel Thompson scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Bulldogs, while teammate Alison Litke netted 12.
Hayley Ramsell led the SoHi seniors with 12 points, and junior Lindsey Wong added 12 as well. The Stars were missing key starter Kelsey Jackson due to an injury in practice.
The game was close through much the night, but Nikiski pulled away in the end thanks to a few clutch shots by Litke. Anderson said the Nikiski junior has improved her game in recent weeks, which has helped spread the floor on offense and opened it up for a better balance in scoring.
“It was kind of by design by the girls,” Anderson said. “They understand that if they wanna be successful later on down the road, they need to even out that scoring and do a better job at looking at the basket and attacking.”
Trailing 25-21 at halftime, the Stars came back in the second half with buckets from Wong and Ramsell that had the game tied at 29 apiece with 4:49 left in the third quarter.
That’s when Litke found her groove. Litke cobbled together a 7-1 effort by herself that distance the Bulldogs, and when SoHi tried to fight back, Thompson stepped up, hitting a trey with 7:15 left in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 41-35.
From there, Nikiski used clock management to try to keep the Stars from touching the ball as least as possible.
Nikolaevsk cagers sweep Kenai C teams
The visiting Nikolaevsk girls and boys basketball teams notched victories over the Kenai C team on Tuesday.
The Warriors girls won 53-25, taking control with a 13-6 second quarter that gave them a 21-13 lead at halftime. Serafima Kalugin had 20 points for Nikolaevsk, while Vera Fefelov added 12.
The Nikolaevsk boys won 74-50, taking a 19-10 lead after the first quarter. Felemon Molodih pumped in 25 points for the Warriors, while Nikit Fefelov had 22. Jonah Fefelov added 10 rebounds for the Warriors.
Bulldogs 48, Stars 42
Nikiski 13 12 13 10 —48
Soldotna 8 13 14 7 —42
NIKISKI (48) — Parrish 1 3-4 5, Riddall 1 2-2 4, Pitt 0 0-0 0, Litke 5 0-0 12, Kornstad 0 0-0 0, Thompson 6 7-8 22, Litzen 1 3-4 5. Totals 14 15-18 48.
SOLDOTNA (42) — Rouse 3 1-2 7, Nelson 2 0-0 5, Shaw 1 0-0 2, Wong 5 1-6 12, Ramsell 4 4-6 12, Miller 2 0-0 4, Glaves 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 6-14 42.
3-point goals — Nikiski 5 (Thompson 3, Litke 2); Soldotna 2 (Nelson 1, Wong 1). Fouled out — none.
Stars 77, Bulldogs 54
Soldotna 21 19 23 14 —77
Nikiski 14 15 11 14 —54
SOLDOTNA (77) — Kuntz 0 0-0 0, Weltzin 11 3-6 26, Gibbs 1 0-0 2, Furlong 5 0-0 14, Phillips 2 1-2 6, Casey 0 0-0 0, Spence 6 1-1 15, Duke 2 0-0 4, Fowler 4 0-2 8, Trammell 1 0-0 2, Dickson 0 0-0 0, Marcuson 0 0-0 0. Totals 32 5-11 77.
NIKISKI (54) — Anderson 2 0-0 6, Johnson 3 0-0 6, Holloway 3 4-4 12, Malston 4 3-3 13, Tauriainen 1 0-0 3, Carstens 2 0-0 5, Jackson 1 5-6 7, Pamplin 1 0-1 2. Totals 17 8-10 54.
3-point goals — Soldotna 8 (Furlong 4, Spence 2, Phillips 1, Weltzin 1); Nikiski 7 (Anderson 2, Holloway 2, Malston 2, Carstens 1). Fouled out — none.