With a season record of 5-1, the Lady Mariners, who brought home two more wins last Thursday and Friday against Kenai and SoHi, are undoubtedly on a roll. The Mariners have squashed doubts about their small stature and new coaching staff as they continue to rebound from adversity with composure and grit.
“We just played great team basketball,” said Head Coach Chad Felice. “Everyone from one to 10 helped out. These girls just don’t quit.”
The Mariners kicked off the Kenai River Challenge tournament on Thursday in Kenai after a trying week that included getting stuck in Cordova until Monday due to bad weather, as well as final exams on Thursday.
Nevertheless, the Mariners left their struggles behind them in order to defeat SoHi on Thursday 38-34. The significance of the win was not lost on Felice, who believes it’s the first time Homer has beaten the Stars in at least a decade.
The game got off to a fast start for the Mariners, who ended the first quarter with a significant lead. In the second quarter, the Stars found the holes in the Mariners’ defense and were able to make up the difference, sending the Mariners into halftime down a few points.In the third quarter the Mariners found themselves down seven, which is when their drive kicked in.
The Mariners were soon trading baskets with the Stars for the lead. With just over two minutes left in the game, sophomore Miriah Hendrickson received an elbow to the mouth, that left her bleeding while trying to sink crucial shots to advance the Mariners’ 36-34 lead. She missed both, but her teammates had her back. In the final 23 seconds of the game Larson Fellows and Uliana Reutov sunk free throws to solidify the win at 38-34.
On Friday, the Mariners came out strong against Kenai and were in the lead from almost start to finish, said Felice. When a few calls were made against Homer, two starters had to sit out, and players from farther down the bench took their place. The team kept its composure and continued to run its offense.
The Kardinals tried to break the Mariners’ momentum by putting on full-court pressure, but the Mariners kept calm and used their practiced press-break to maintain control of the ball. They ended the night 38-34.
The Mariner boys, who competed Thursday and Friday against Palmer and Thunder Mountain in the Al Howard Tournament in Soldotna, fought hard but struggled to pull off a win. Head Coach Nate Creel said there were many good moments in the two competitions against upper division schools, but the Mariners have yet to pull together all of their strengths.
“We’ve had about one bad quarter each game,” said Creel. “We’ve been winning the second half, though, so we’re definitely showing some promise. The boys are fighting all the way to the end, we just get off to a slow start.”
On Thursday, Creel said his team looked a little sluggish. The boys were still recovering from their demanding last week of travel and finals, and the team was down several players due to sickness.
“We just didn’t come out and play with any energy,” he said.
The Mariners played good defense against Palmer, but the Moose continued to sink three-point shots, increasing their lead. The Mariners were down 22-37 at halftime, and fought hard to increase their score in the second half of the game, finishing 52-68. Filip Reutov was the Mariners’ high scorer for the game with 17 points. He played all four quarters, and tried hard to dig the Mariners out of their hole, said Felice.
On Friday the Mariners tipped off against Thunder Mountain of Juneau. Again, the game got off to a slow start but the Mariners came back strong after halftime. Creel said the second half brought a noticeable change as the defense got tighter and the Mariners took better care of the ball. Sheldon Hutt had a stand-out performance for Creel on Friday night, who commented that he “really came alive.” The Mariners ended the game with a 42-61 loss against the Falcons.
Both the girls and boys teams competed Saturday against Seward. The Mariner boys pushed past the Seahawks to secure their first tournament victory in a close game, 60-59. Jaruby Nelson had 17 points for the Mariners, with teammates Kenneth Schneider scoring 13 and Brandon Beachy 11. Schneider was named to the all-tournament team. The Mariner girls fell to Seward, 46-42.
After taking a brief break from practice over Christmas, the Mariners will host the Kenai Kardinals at home on Dec. 30. The girls will tip off at 6 p.m., and the boys will follow at 7:30 p.m.
Lindsay Olsen is a freelance writer who lives in Homer. Joey Klecka of the Peninsula Clarion also contributed to this article.
Mariner girls 38, SoHi girls 34
Palmer boys 68, Mariner boys 52
Mariner girls 44, Kenai girls 39
Thunder Mountain boys 61, Mariner boys 42
Seward girls 46, Mariner girls 42
Mariner boys 60, Seward boys 59