Before the start of Friday’s game against Soldotna, Kodiak boys basketball coach David Anderson had just one message for his team: “We are going to win this one for Red.”

Red West was smiling from above.

Playing for the first time since the death of their former assistant coach, the Bears won an exciting Northern Lights Conference matchup, 49-44, at Kodiak High.

It was only fitting that senior Max Mutch — the player who would stop at West’s house to talk hoops while he battled cancer — had the biggest game of his prep career.

The 6-foot-1 forward splashed the nets for a career-high 18 points. He drained all four of his 3-point attempts and scored four points in the final 90 seconds that preserved the Bears’ second NLC win of the season.

“It was definitely dedicated to him,” Mutch said. “After the fact, I was like, ‘wow.’ It felt like he was helping me out.”

West joined the Kodiak coaching staff when Anderson took over the program in 2011. He was diagnosed with brain cancer a few years later and died on Feb. 7.

The game got off to a slow start as Soldotna methodically passed the ball around the perimeter for much of the first half. The halftime score was knotted at 14.

“I don’t know if they were baffled by us playing zone or what,” Anderson said. “It took them a few minutes to understand what we were doing out there.”

The pace picked up in the third quarter, and the speedy Bears took advantage of it.

A Jemuel Mangalus 3-pointer that spun around the rim before dropping in triggered an 11-1 quarter-ending spurt that gave Kodiak the lead for good at 33-24.

Mangalus scored six of his 15 points during the run, while Billy Alcaide added a 3-pointer and Ryan Bezona a bucket.

Soldotna got back in the game behind the shooting of Brooks Furlong. The senior guard scored 11 of his 19 points in the final quarter as the Stars pulled to within three points twice.

The final time came on Furlong’s fifth 3-pointer that cut Kodiak’s lead to 47-44 with 24 seconds left.

Mutch sealed the game three seconds later by sinking both of his free throws.

“You can’t say enough about the effort going down the stretch,” Anderson said.

Saturday

Kodiak was held to five points in the middle two quarters as Soldotna ran away with a 64-42 NLC win.

Kodiak dropped to 2-4 in the NLC and 4-14 overall, while Soldotna improved to 3-3 NLC, 8-10 overall.

The final four minutes of the game took 16:04 to play as Kodiak fouled even though it was down by more than 20 points.

Soldotna hit 25 of its 31 free throws in the final quarter.

“Most of the time I’m not going to drag the game out, but this one I did just to show them that down the stretch this is what could happen — if the game is close this is going to be how we play it,” Anderson said.

The game ended in confusion when one of the officials walked off the floor with 1.7 seconds left, leaving the two other officials to finish the game.

Alcaide paced Kodiak with four 3-pointers and 16 points, while Joe Weltzin had 24 points and one first-half dunk for Soldotna.

Friday

BEARS 49, STARS 44

Soldotna 2 12 10 20 — 44

Kodiak 6 8 19 16 — 49

Soldotna (44) — Kuntz 0 0-0 0, Weltzin 5 5-8 15, Furlong 7 0-0 19, Phillips 0 1-3 1, Spence 0 0-0 0, Duke 1 0-0 3, Gibbs 0 0-0 0, Fowler 2 2-4 6, Trommell 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 8-15 44.

Kodiak (49) — Mangalus 4 6-12 15, Alcaide 2 3-3 8, Bezona 3 0-0 6, Osowski 0 0-0 0, Mutch 5 4-4 18, Fried 1 0-2 2. Totals: 15 13-19 49.

3-point goals: Soldotna 6 (Furlong 5, Duke), Kodiak 6 (Mutch 4, Mangalus, Alcaide). Team fouls: Soldotna 19, Kodiak 10. Fouled out: Bezona.

STARS 64, BEARS 42

Soldotna 12 8 17 27 — 64

Kodiak 9 2 3 27 — 42

Soldotna (64) — Kuntz 0 8-9 8, Weltzin 8 8-8 24, Furlong 2 5-8-10, Phillips 2 2-6 6, Spence 0 0-0 0, Duke 0 2-2 2, Gibbs 0 0-0 0, Fowler 5 0-1 12, Trommell 0 2-2 2. Totals: 18 27-36 64.

Kodiak (42) — Mangalus 2 0-0 5, Monge 0 2-2 2, Alcaide 4 4-4 16, C. Caguing 0 0-0 0, Talai 1 0-0 2, B. Caguing 1 1-2 4, Osowski 0 1-2 1, Mutch 3 0-0 6, Fried 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 8-11 42.

3-point goals: Soldotna 1 (Furlong), Kodiak 6 (Alcaide 4, Mangalus, Mutch). Team fouls: Soldotna 16, Kodiak 23. Fouled out: Mangalus, Fried.

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