March 11, 2015: In the photo, the name of Mariner player no. 32 has been corrected; he is Jeremy Tedesco.
In their final weekend of regular season games, the Mariners took on Grace Christian, Anchorage Christian School and Houston at home in a series of nail-biting contests that were decided in the final seconds of play.
Both Mariner teams came out of the weekend with a 2-1 record, seeding them both third in the line-up for the Region III tournament starting today. The Lady Mariners set a winning tone for the weekend last Thursday night in a match against the Grace Grizzlies, a game the Mariners’ head coach, Chad Felice, described as their best yet.
“It was a great team win from top to bottom. It was the first game we played a complete game, from start to finish,” he said.
The Mariners had lost to the Grizzlies by close margins twice before this season, which junior Madison Akers said provided the motivation to propel them to last week’s win. When asked what factored into her team’s success, her answer was clear.
“Our defense — it was incredible,” she said.
Indeed, the Mariners’ aggressive full-court defensive press stopped the Grizzlies’ offense short, allowing Homer to pull ahead early on. The Mariners finished the first quarter up nine points, and as their arms continued to fly, snatching passes and diving for jump-balls, their lead steadily increased throughout the game.
In the third quarter the Mariners outscored the Grizzlies 11 to 0. The win was punctuated by a final buzzer shot from sophomore Uliana Reutov solidifying a 51-30 victory for the Mariners.
The Mariners boys’ contest against the Grizzlies was a much closer fight. Homer ended the first quarter down one point, 16-17, and held on through the second quarter with tight defense gaining them several crucial point-scoring steals to finish the first half 32-35. Three minutes into the third quarter the Grizzlies landed back-to-back three-pointers that set them on a run to increase their margin to 11 points.
The Mariners had far from given up, however, as a series of three-pointers from seniors Jaruby Nelson, Filip Reutov, and Brandon Beachy brought them back within three points of the Grizzlies in the final minute of the game.
With 26 seconds left on the clock, Nelson stole the ball to score, bringing his team within one point of Grace. Two foul shots from the Grizzlies left the Mariners with a three point deficit and only seven seconds on the clock.
Nelson landed another two-point shot on the buzzer, but it would leave the Mariners just shy of victory, with a 65-66 loss to the Grizzlies.
“All but the ending was a coach’s dream,” said the Mariners’ head coach, Nate Creel, of the game. “The guys laid everything out there on the court. I thought they played excellent,” he said.
The excitement continued on Friday with games against ACS. The Lady Mariners came out strong against the Lions, holding the lead for the first two quarters, going into halftime up 26-22. Two three-pointers from ACS brought the Lions even with the Mariners, 30-30, with five minutes left in the game. Tapping into their tried and true late-game comeback energy, the Mariners surged to the finish. Junior Kayla Stafford landed a three-pointer, and followed it less than a minute later with a layup after snatching a full-court assist from Akers. In the game’s final minute, senior Larson Fellows sunk two free throws to nail down the Mariners’ 39-32 victory over the Lions.
The Mariner boys’ game against the Lions continued to hold the enthusiastic crowd at the edge of their seats. The Mariners got off to a high-scoring start, heading into halftime 38-25. ACS refused to admit defeat, however, as senior Bobby Wilson and sophomore Trey Huckabay led their team to a powerful late-game comeback adding a combined 24 points to the Lions’ score in the fourth quarter. With one minute left on the clock, ACS pulled ahead, 67-68. With 14 seconds left in the game, the Mariners took possession of the ball and raced it down the court. A foul was called on senior Kenneth Schneider as he moved to the basket, and he took to the line with just five seconds remaining. The gym stood with rapt attention as Schneider sunk both shots, the screams of the home crowd and the buzzer ringing out a 69-68 victory for the Mariners.
“I always say free throws win games, and that’s a great example,” said Creel.
Saturday’s senior night brought more close game action against the Houston Hawks. The Lady Mariners’ score was tied with the Hawks, 15-15, at halftime, and the teams continued to trade baskets throughout the second half. With a mere 6 seconds left on the clock, Houston was up by three points, when Homer gained possession of the ball and raced it down the court. Junior Aurora Waclawski stopped on the three-point line to sink an outside basket just as the buzzer sounded. The crowd and home team erupted in cheer thinking the basket had tied the game, but the official’s whistle blew, announcing the shot was valid for only two points. The night ended in a contentious 45-46 loss for the Mariners.
The Mariner boys finished the weekend with a decisive win over Houston, holding a strong 41-16 lead at halftime to put away a 73-46 victory over the Hawks.
The Mariners will host the 2015 Southcentral Conference Championships starting today. The season records for the girls teams were so close that event organizers reverted to conference bylaws, referencing head-to-head records and records against a common opponent, to determine the tournament ranking. Nikiski, seeded first, shares an 8-4 record with Grace, seeded second, and Homer, seeded third, shares a 7-5 record with ACS, seeded fourth.
The Mariners girls kick off their championship play today at 6:30 p.m. against Houston. The Mariner boys, who are seeded third, take on Nikiski at 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s competitions will be determined based on a double elimination tournament bracket. Fans can find up-to-date tournament information as well as a live-stream link at homerhighschool.blogs.kpbsd.k12.ak.us/wpmu/sports/.
Lindsay Olsen is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.
Mariner girls v. Grace
Mariner boys v. Grace 65-66
Mariner girls v. ACS
Mariner boys v. ACS
Mariner girls v. Houston 45-46
Mariner boys v. Houston 73-46
March 5 at Homer
Mariner girls v. Houston 6:30 p.m
Mariner boys v. Nikiski 8:15 p.m