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By A.J. JANKOWSKI
Daily News Sports Editor
For a couple of hours before Saturday night’s rematch, the Ketchikan High School girls basketball team was practicing in a gym with no baskets, trying to figure out how to rebound from a 34-point loss the night before to Juneau-Douglas.
With the main gymnasium at J-D occupied by the city’s basketball league, the Lady Kings’ game-day walk-through was relegated to a gym tailored to gymnastics and wrestling.
Several of the Kayhi players took turns acting as the hoop, standing still while holding their arms together in a circle as teammates and coaches strategized.
"There was only one rule — no bank shots," joked head coach Kelly Smith.
So on the heels of a blow-out loss with no real time between games to practice, it comes as little surprise that even Smith was shocked by how quickly the Lady Kings rebounded from Friday’s debacle.
Kayhi played its best defensive game of the year, and got just enough offense as the Lady Kings defeated the Crimson Bears Saturday evening, 32-27.
"During the second half Friday night, there was a point where I came to the realization that that one was over, and it was time to figure out how to get these girls prepared to bounce back," Smith said. "I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect the bounce to be as soon as Saturday."
But Kayhi (5-5, 3-1) did just that, overcoming a 14-9 halftime deficit to outscore Juneau-Douglas 15-4 in the third quarter and earn its first victory on the Crimson Bears’ home court in three seasons.
"In the first 10 or so games of the season, every time we were faced with adversity, we let it affect us," Smith said. "But (Saturday) we handled it all, and played with the confidence of a team that I hadn’t seen yet this year."
Known for wanting to get up and down the floor in a hurry, the Lady Kings slowed the pace Saturday night, and stymied J-D in the half-court.
Less than 24 hours after shooting more than 60 percent from the floor and scoring 68 points, the Crimson Bears managed just 8-of-41 on field goals Saturday — a 20-percent shooting clip.
"It was a phenomenal defensive effort," Smith said. "We tightened up the rotation — only eight kids saw time — and we were all on the same page."
Smith used the word "phenomenal" five times when talking about Saturday’s game — one day after the coach said "meltdown" on several occasions when describing Friday’s 68-34 loss.
"We did a lot of soul searching all day Saturday," he said. "(Saturday’s win) just shows what kind of kids (the Lady Kings) are. A lot of people wrote us off after the 34-point loss. Hopefully this proved that the only ones we need to listen to are in our locker room."
Despite being outscored 14-9 in the first half, Smith headed into the break pleased with his team’s performance. Kayhi was moving the ball past Juneau-Douglas’ press in the first two quarters, he said, due in large part to the point-guard play of freshman Charley Edwardson.
In her second start of the year, Edwardson navigated the ball up and down the court for the Lady Kings, helping to free up space for their main shooter, Jayley Taylor.
"Starting Charley ... took some of the pressure off Jayley," Smith said. "It’s hard to be the primary ball handler and the scorer. With Charley as the primary ball handler, we were able to run some sets just for Jayley that we hadn’t run yet."
It was Edwardson’s older sister, Alexis — now an assistant on Smith’s staff — who started at point guard the last time Kayhi won on J-D’s court.
Unfortunately, Charley was forced to leave the game in the second quarter, when she caught an elbow to the face while taking a charge.
"Her calmness to start the game was phenomenal," Smith said. "(After the injury) Alexis Crellin came in, and played the final three quarters. Her defensive effort was so amazing, we didn’t have to press at all."
Taylor scored a game-high 15 points, including eight in the third quarter. Bayley Lindgren scored seven; Brooke Simmons had six, and Crellin (3 points) and Courtney Kemble (1) also registered points.
Gabi Fenumiai led Juneau-Douglas in scoring with eight points, and fellow senior Esra Siddeek had four. After scoring 17 points Friday night, Kayhi held Marissa Brakes to just two points on a pair of free throws.
"Brooke did a phenomenal job on Brakes ... and Jayley took Esra out of the game," Smith said. "Bayley and Mikayla (Brown-Harrison) did an excellent job in the post."
With a tightened rotation, only eight Lady Kings saw the floor, but were able to conserve energy as Kayhi controlled the tempo.
"Younger teams that aren’t as composed as Juneau, we’re going to get up and down the floor," Smith said. "But against a team that starts five seniors, you can’t. It was a great job by our kids to adjust, learn and execute our gameplan."
It was an adjustment that caught Smith by surprise — in the best way possible.
"I was in shock it worked so well the very next day," he said. "I was hoping for when we play at home (Feb. 15-16) or at least by the region tournament. It was pretty impressive."