Despite scoring only one point in the first quarter on Friday, the Kayhi Lady Kings’ defense held the reigning state champion Bartlett Golden Bears to just six points in the same frame.
The second quarter started just as slowly for both teams at the Doc Larson Roundball Classic at Wasilla High School.
Then, with about 5:30 remaining in the first half, Kayhi opened the scoring floodgates.
Lindsay Byron put up a nice rebound put-back for two points. Then it was a Bree Johnson pass to a fast-breaking Shealyn Mendoza for two points, followed by a Johnson 3-pointer. By the time the first half ended, Johnson had put up eight points; Mendoza had six; Byron had three; and Paige Boehlert, Gabby Das and Jenae Rhoads had added two points each. Kayhi was up 24-12.
“We talked a lot to the girls about the style we play — we play a lot of those runs,” coach Kelly Smith said after the game. “I know we had one point at the end of the first (period) and 24 at the end of the half, and so it was a good run.”
The defense continued to hold steady as well, stifling the drives of Bartlett’s talented players and chasing down rebounds.
Smith recalled that Bartlett had out-rebounded Kayhi when the Golden Bears beat the Ketchikan squad in the 2021 state tournament — but Kayhi turned the tables on Friday.
“When we lost to these guys in the state tournament, they out-rebounded us 39 to 23 — they really dominated us on the boards,” Smith said.
He said Friday’s rebound differential was 54-32 in Kayhi’s favor.
“Jenae and Lindsay were phenomenal rebounding the basketball,” Smith said. “We out-rebounded them big time.”
The Lady Kings added a point to its lead margin in the third quarter, heading into the final frame up 37-24.
Bartlett narrowed the gap to eight points early in the fourth quarter, but Kayhi kept the Golden Bears at bay. After Kayhi slowed its pace to protect the lead, Mendoza hit a 3-pointer with about 55 seconds remaining to close the scoring at a 45-32 final score.
Smith was pleased with the Kayhi defense that contained a talented Bartlett squad.
“I was so excited about the defense we are playing,” he said. ‘When it was 6-1 , we just couldn’t make a basket. Second quarter, we got out and pressed, and things happened for us. The third quarter, we kind of really controlled it to get an almost 20-point lead, and then we let up a little bit in the fourth, but that’s kind of a natural habit.”
He credited Boehlert with excelling in defending against one of Bartlett’s best players, Mikayla Johnson.
“Paige, she’ll never get enough credit for what she did today, chasing and holding (Johnson) to nine points and staying right with her at all times,” Smith said. “She’s kind of our heartbeat on the defensive end, she takes one person, we put her on the best player on the team we play, and we just had her stay with her at all times.
“… (Boehlert) hit a couple shots today,” Smith added. “She had six (points) today. So she took a Division 1 player and held her to nine, and then scored six. We’ll take that every day.”
Now with a 2-0 record, the Lady Kings will close their Doc Larson tournament run against Wasilla at 5:15 p.m. Saturday.
Wasilla is tough; they defend really hard,” Smith said. “They’ve got a 6’4” girl, their guards are young but they’re athletic. So its going to be an up and down game. We’ve got to be ready to compete hard, or it’s going to be trouble for us.”
Kayhi — Bree Johnson, 11; Shaelyn Mendoza, 11; Lindsay Byron, 8; Jenae Rhoads, 6; Paige Boehlert, 6; Gabby Mas, 2; Hya Bondoc, 1.
Bartlett — Mikayla Johnson, 9; Mariya Oliver, 6; Nyakoat Ruot, 6; Aviana Stoute, 4; Yatzary Encarnacion, 3; Avaya Stoute, 2, Empress Walker, 2.
Data and names from the game scorebook.