M's move into 3rd in Southcentral race with win over Nikiski
Kody Etzwiler and Jordan Beachy combined for seven three-pointers and the Mariner defense turned in a smothering defensive effort in the final 7 minutes of play on Saturday and helped power the Homer Mariners to a clutch 65-61 victory over the Nikiski Bulldogs in Southcentral Conference basketball action.
With the victory, Homer moved into third in the conference standings with a 4-2 record.
Just how good was Homer's defense in the final seven minutes of play? Consider this, Nikiski managed to score just one basket over a six-minute stretch in the final stanza. That stretch enabled the Mariners to break open a tight 51-49 battle.
Nikiski, which fell to 4-3 in conference play, got off to a quick start against Homer. The Bulldogs pounded out 18 points in the first eight minutes of the contest and took a slim 18-17 lead into the second. They opened the second with a quick 5-0 run and stretched their advantage to 23-17 before Homer managed to get untracked.
Trailing by five, Beachy ignited an HHS run midway through the frame by tossing up one of his team-high four three-point shots. Charles Rohr followed moments later with a baseline jumper to cap a 9-2 run and put Homer up 26-25 with 3:25 left in the first half.
As a team, Homer outscored Nikiski by a 12-9 clip in the second and took a 29-27 lead into the half.
Etzwiler took control in the third. The HHS senior pumped in 13 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter and helped the Mariners take control. Homer, backed by a 9-0 run at one point, built its lead to as much as 10, at 42-32, in the period before Nikiski closed during the closing minutes to 47-40.
The Bulldogs continued to chip away at Homer's lead in the fourth, moving to within one, at 50-49, with 6:38 left in the contest. The Mariner defense took the wheels of the Bulldogs' wagon from there. Homer held Nikiski without a basket for the next 6:07 to salt away the contest.
Beachy finished the game as Homer's second-leading scorer with 22 points. Joel Carroll and Rohr added nine and five points, respectively.
The win over Nikiski helped wash away the dour memory of the Mariners' 53-43 loss to Soldotna in an endowment game on Jan. 30. As an endowment matchup, the contest does not count toward the team's overall record.
In the game, Soldotna used a 37-23 second-half run to erase a 19-16 halftime deficit. The Mariners snapped a 9-9 deadlock in the first by outscoring the Stars by a 10-7 clip in the second quarter.
Beachy finished the game with 24 points.