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By SPENCER GLEASON
Daily News Sports Editor
Kelly Smith doesn’t talk about it.
Call it superstition, or respecting the opponent, but the Ketchikan High School Lady Kings head coach won’t mention it unless it comes up in conversation. Even then, it’s a quick note.
‘It’ of course, is the streak.
The Lady Kings have won 20 consecutive games against the Thunder Mountain High School Lady Falcons, dating back to the 2014-15 season, when this year’s senior group was in eighth grade.
Their latest victory against Thunder Mountain was a 35-27 win in the Lady Lynx Prep Shootout at Dimond High School on Saturday. The win gave Kayhi seventh place in the tournament, and bumped the Lady Falcons to eighth place.
“It’s a Southeast rivalry,” Smith said. “I don’t talk about (the streak). But (the girls) talk about not wanting to be the first team to lose to them in a while.”
And on Saturday, the Lady Kings played like they didn’t want the streak to end.
For a brief moment, the Lady Falcons had a 4-3 lead. But Kayhi’s Nadire Zhuta hit her second 3-pointer of the game, nudging Kayhi ahead, 6-4. And the Lady Kings never looked back.
“I thought we had a really good first half, offensively and defensively,” Smith said. “And even the third quarter, when we spread it to 21 (points).
The Lady Kings carried a 22-6 lead at the half, and continued to roll along after the break. Kayhi extended its lead to 31-10, before Thunder Mountain went on an 8-0 run to close out the third quarter.
Thunder Mountain’s Neal Garcia and Sydney Strong combined to score nine points in the fourth quarter. But Kayhi’s Lianne Guevarra and Zhuta hit a couple shots to put the game out of reach of the Lady Falcons — and keep the streak alive.
“There were some big moments,” Smith said. “Lianne had a big tournament. She’s probably been our MVP up here. And Emmie (Smith) did a great job guarding Nina (Fenumiai).”
Fenumiai, Thunder Mountain’s senior leader, has the capability to score 20 or 30 points any given game. Emmie Smith held her to just three points on Saturday — one of which was a free throw.
Guevarra scored 46 points throughout the tournament, and had back-to-back games of 20 and 15 points. But both of those double-digit games came in Kayhi losses — 49-45 against Kenai High School and 38-35 against Palmer High School.
“We always feel good about winning,” Smith said after Saturday’s victory. “But we’re frustrated because we feel like we underachieved up here.”
Kayhi, which was 7-7 before the Lady Lynx tournament, travels back home with an 8-10 record.
“We haven’t been very good at making that extra pass,” Smith said. “We’re shooting too many 3-pointers, which is great when they’re going in. But if not (we need) to be looking for that extra pass.”
Kayhi allowed 18 3-pointers against its opponents at Dimond High School this week, while hitting 12 of its own.
The only game in which the Lady Kings outshot their opponents behind the arc was their win against Thunder Mountain. Kayhi hit three threes — Zhuta’s pair and Ashley Huffine drained one.
The Lady Falcons hit two threes — both coming in the second half.
“Thunder Mountain plays hard,” Smith said. “They worked really hard to take Ashley away (offensively).”
Despite Thunder Mountain’s defensive focus on Huffine, Kayhi’s senior still managed to score seven points. And it created opportunities for five other Lady Kings to score.
That aggressive nature plays right into the hand of Kayhi, and the Lady Kings thrive on that.
“When a team is aggressive on us, we tend to play better,” Smith said. “And we naturally react to (the game of) basketball.”
That’s when the Lady Kings’ instincts of the game take over, and they don’t have to think about what to do with the ball from moment to moment. Thinking too much can have the reverse effect.
The Lady Kings will have a 20-game winning streak against Thunder Mountain on the line when the Lady Falcons fly to town on Feb. 15. But that won’t be at the forefront of the Lady Kings’ minds. Kayhi will have its sights set on the region tournament in March.
“We have a shot at a region title if we just take care of business,” Smith said.
Kayhi: Madison Rose, 8; Nadire Zhuta, 8; Ashley Huffine, 7; Lianne Guevarra, 6; Shaelynn Mendoza, 4; Emmie Smith, 2.
Thunder Mountain: Sydney Strong, 7; Taz Hauck, 5; Neal Garcia, 4; Nina Fenumiai, 3; Khaye Garcia, 2; Charlee Lewis, 2; Grace Sikes, 2; Tasi Fenumiai, 2.