Wasilla girls defeat Kenai in NLC semis, will face Colony in final

The Warriors are back, and they’re hunting another state crown.

After failing to even make the state tournament last year after three straight years of dominating the Alaska girls basketball scene, coach Jeannie Hebert-Truax and the Wasilla Warriors are right back to where they are comfortable, scoring a 40-18 Northern Lights Conference semifinal win Friday night over Kenai Central on Cliff Massie court to punch their ticket to the state tournament and set up a championship showdown with Valley rival Colony on Saturday night.

“It’s pretty exciting for the kids,” Hebert-Truax said. “They’ve worked really hard, we’ve had our ups and downs, but to be able to go to state and get to that next level is great. But we’ve got to first concentrate on winning tomorrow.”

Colony beat Kodiak in the other semifinal to advance to the NLC final and punch its ticket to state. The top two in the tournament get automatic state bids.

“I just think the juniors and sophomores and freshmen that I had last year that had to go through being the first team not to make it in fourteen years, had the motivating factor to get back,” Hebert-Truax said. “We had some talented kids step in, come aboard, and this motivates the upperclassmen.”

Kenai saw its chances at a state berth end Friday, but the Kardinals will play once more in front of the home crowd Saturday at 1:45 p.m. against Kodiak for third-place honors in the tournament.

“At the end of the night, I’m so thankful for my kids and what we’ve done,” said Kenai coach Stacia Rustad, who considers Hebert-Truax a good friend of hers. “We got to the semifinal game, we got to play in this super awesome atmosphere, and even with the Wasilla boys chanting behind us, that’s all part of this. It was all in good fun and just a wonderful opportunity for my ladies, who’ve never made it this far.”

Rustad said Saturday’s third-place matchup was something the team is looking forward to, even with a shot at state gone, as it represents the final time the two seniors on the team — Allie Ostrander and Hannah Barcus — will get to represent their school in a Kardinals basketball uniform. 

“I’m super proud of my kids holding Wasilla to 40 points,” Rustad said. “Jeannie played her starters for 31 minutes and pressed us the entire game. Although the ball didn’t drop for us in the second half, we had a lot of good looks at the basket.”

With 22 combined points — more than the entire Kenai team — coming from Cassidy Edwards and 6-foot-3 Leya DePriest, Wasilla found the most success inside and under the rim.

“Kenai’s a very physical team, they’ll get after you for 32 minutes,” Hebert-Truax said. “You can’t let down at any possession.”

Sophomore Abby Beck scored six points to lead the Kenai offense, which did not score a field goal until six minutes, 33 seconds, left in the second quarter, a midrange jumper by Barcus, which became the only bucket by Kenai in the first half. Wasilla led 10-1 after the first quarter.

Rustad said she thought her squad found it difficult handling pressure on the perimeter. The only successful 3-point attempt by Kenai was by open Allie Ostrander late in the game.

“We had a lot of turnovers. If you’re turning the ball over, you’re not getting shot attempts at the basket, so we weren’t getting enough opportunities to score,” Rustad said. “It’s not anything new, we struggled on the offensive end many nights this season.”

Leading 17-5 at halftime, Wasilla began to find a better flow in its offense, as Catherine Baham notched three quick shots in a span of 1:31 midway through the third quarter. It allowed Wasilla to open up a 29-9 lead late in the quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Warriors went on an 11-2 run to ice the game and seal up an NLC title game berth.

Friday night, Ostrander was named to the All-Conference girls first team, while Abby Beck was named to the second team.

Soldotna girls 56, Palmer 44

SoHi ended its season with a win Friday afternoon, beating Palmer in a consolation matchup.

Soldotna junior Lindsey Wong poured in 25 points, no doubt helping her to be named to the All-Conference girls first team later that night. SoHi teammate Haley Miller was named to the second team. Wong went 8-for-12 from the free throw line, and the Stars as a whole sunk 16 of 28. 

Katy Bowan led the Moose with 14 points, and teammate Kiana Till added 10.

SoHi started fast with three baskets from senior Skylar Shaw, who ended up with 12 points. The Stars also held tough on defense, holding Palmer to only two second-quarter points to lead 24-8 at halftime. SoHi led 38-26 after three quarters.

Colony girls 52, Kodiak 35

The Knights handled the Bears in a Friday afternoon semifinal to earn a state berth and set up an all-Valley NLC championship clash Saturday night against Wasilla.

Girls tournament MVP Faith Farris netted 18 points, all in the first three quarters, to lead Colony. Teammate Sarah Bonn added 12. Ila Hughes paced Kodiak with 10 points.

The Knights grabbed a 35-23 lead at halftime, then outscored the Bears 13-6 in the third quarter to take a 48-29 lead into the final quarter.


Girls All-Conference 1st team:

Leya DePriest, Wasilla; Machia Toews, Wasilla; Azzy Brandenberg, Wasilla; Cassidy Edwards, Wasilla; Ila Hughes, Kodiak; Allie Ostrander, Kenai; Ashley Turcotte, Colony; Chase Stephens, Colony; Lindsey Wong, Soldotna.

2nd team:

Kiana Till, Palmer; Carly Venzke, Palmer; Charmaine Fabricante, Kodiak; Abby Beck, Kenai; Sarah Blumbaugh, Colony; Haley Miller, Soldotna.

Girls MVP: Faith Farris, Colony

Girls coach of the year: Jeff Bowker, Colony.


Friday girls

Warriors 40, Kardinals 18

Wasilla 10 7 12 11 —40

Kenai 1 4 6 7 —18

WASILLA (40) — Kelly 0 2-3 2, Drorbaugh 1 0-0 2, Heath 0 0-0 0, Baham 4 0-1 9, Lindeman 1 0-0 2, Brandenburg 1 0-0 2, Toews 0 0-1 0, Anderson 0 0-0 0, Dinkel 0 1-2 1, Edwards 5 0-2 10, DePriest 5 2-3 12. Totals 17 5-12 40.

KENAI (18) — Ostrander 1 0-0 3, Holmes 0 0-0 0, Drury 0 0-1 0, Steinbeck 1 0-0 2, Baker 0 0-0 0, Booth 1 0-0 2, Barcus 1 1-3 3, Beck 2 2-5 6, Every 1 0-0 2. Totals 7 3-9 18.

3-point goals — Kenai 1 (Ostrander); Wasilla 1 (Baham). Fouled out — DePriest.


Knights 52, Bears 35

Colony 19 16 13 4 —52

Kodiak 12 11 6 6 —35

COLONY (52) — Smith 0 2-2 2, Farris 4 7-7 18, Carlton 0 1-2 1, Stephens 4 2-2 10, Steiner 0 2-2 2, Turcotte 2 3-5 7, Brumbaugh 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0-0 0, Bonn 5 0-0 12. Totals 15 17-20 52.

KODIAK (35) — Walker 3 0-0 6, Fangonilo 2 1-2 7, Hughes 4 2-2 10, Price 1 0-0 2, Fabricante 1 3-6 5, Gongora 0 0-1 0, Catt 2 0-0 5. Totals 13 6-11 35.

3-point goals — Colony 5 (Farris 3, Bonn 2); Kodiak 3 (Fangonilo 2, Catt 1). Fouled out — none.


Stars 56, Moose 44

Soldotna 12 12 14 18 —56

Palmer 6 2 18 18 —44

SOLDOTNA (56) — Rouse 1 0-2 2, Nelson 2 0-0 5, Shaw 5 2-3 12, Wong 7 8-12 25, McElroy 0 0-0 0, Kruse 0 0-0 0, Ramsell 1 5-8 7, Miller 2 1-3 5, Glaves 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 16-28 56.

PALMER (44) — Murphy 0 0-0 0, Venzke 1 0-0 3, Bowan 3 7-12 14, King 1 4-6 6, McCall 2 0-0 4, Uschmann 0 0-0 0, Madruga 0 0-0 0, Smylie 0 0-0 0, Till 4 2-5 10, Sherman 0 0-0 0, Millard 3 1-2 7. Totals 14 14-25 44.

3-point goals — Soldotna 4 (Wong 3, Nelson 1); Palmer 2 (Venzke 1, Bowan 1). Fouled out — Ramsell, Venzke.

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