Kodiak’s boys basketball team entered the Northern Lights Conference Championships with aspirations of advancing to the 4A state tournament.

Palmer’s Connor Looney crushed those dreams in Friday’s semifinal round.

With Kodiak trailing by three in the closing seconds, Looney swiped the ball from a Bears guard and went the other way for a dunk that sealed his team’s 58-53 win at Soldotna High School.

The victory sent Palmer to the state tournament and into Saturday’s championship game — a game in which they upset top-seeded Colony 63-54 — and eliminated Kodiak from reaching state for the second consecutive season.

“I thought this was the championship game,” Kodiak coach David Anderson said. “I thought these two teams were playing better than anybody at this point of the year.”

The Bears went on to lose Saturday’s third-place game to a hot-shooting Soldotna team, 76-56, to finish fourth in the tournament.

Kodiak had reeled off seven consecutive wins before dropping its last two to finish with a 16-11 record — the most wins by a Kodiak boys team since the 2005-2006 season.

“We have improved our record every year that we have been here,” said Anderson, who just completed his third season with the team. “I think next year we will even be better.”

Palmer 58, Kodiak 53

Kodiak made a furious fourth-quarter rally, trimming an eight-point deficit down to two on a Josh Obas 3-pointer with 35.2 seconds left.

After Palmer made one of two free throws, Jemuel Mangalus drove down the lane to make it 54-53. Palmer’s Brian Selmer was fouled on the next possession and made both his free throws to push the lead to three with 11 seconds left.

Looney kept Kodiak from getting a last-second shot, by stealing the ball on the ensuing possession, which resulted in a dunk that ended the Bears’ comeback attempt.

“They played it right and had the right guy at the right time there,” Anderson said. “It was a real tough pill to swallow.”

Looney finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Selmer added 15 points and nine rebounds and James Nisbett 14 points and seven rebounds. Nisbett did most of his damage with drives to the hoop in the second half, which helped Palmer build its eight-point lead.

Palmer offset 18 turnovers by outrebounding Kodiak by 15 (47-31).

Mangalus scored eight of his team-high 12 points in the first quarter, while Obas came off the bench to score 11.

Palmer led by three at halftime and led by eight to begin the fourth.

Soldotna 76, Kodiak 56

Soldotna buried Kodiak’s boys with outside shooting Saturday morning in the third-place game.

The Stars connected on 14 3-pointers to beat the Bears for the first time in four tries this season. Seven players hit 3-pointers for Soldotna, while Colton Young, Austin Kruse and Noah Fowler each had three apiece. Soldotna was 14 for 30 from behind the arc and 15 from 30 from inside the 3-point line.

“That is one of the hottest shooting teams I have seen in a long time,” Anderson said.

Carver ended with 19 points, Fowler 18 and Young 11.

Kodiak missed all of its 11 3-point attempts and fell behind by double-digits early in the second.

Senior Elijah Hiner posted a double-double in his final game with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Obas came off the bench and added 15 points, while Jemuel Medina scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

Kodiak’s leading scorer, Austin Frick, was held without a point for the first time this season.

Obas gave the Bears their only lead of the game with the opening bucket. The Stars scored the next seven to take a 7-2 lead.

An Alec Canete-Hall basket to begin the second cut the deficit to two, but a barrage of Soldotna 3-pointers followed that to give the Stars a 13-point cushion.

The Bears pulled to within seven in the third, before another barrage of Star 3-pointers increased the lead back to 16 to begin the fourth.

This was the final game for seniors Hiner, Obas, Medina, Ryan Lenon and Germain Jimenez.

Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at sports@kodiakdailymirror.com.

Saturday

Third-place game

STARS 76, BEARS 56

Kodiak 10 12 17 17 — 56

Soldotna 14 17 25 20 — 76

Kodiak (56) — Mangalus 2 0-4 4, Frick 0 0-0 0, Medina 5 0-2 10, Jimenez 0 0-0 0, Obas 7 1-2 15, Lenon 1 0-0 2, A. Canete-Hall 3 0-0 6, Hiner 6 3-6 15, T. Canete-Hall 0 0-0 0, Mutch 1 0-0 2, Garcia 0 2-2 2. Totals — 25 6-16 12.

Soldotna (76) — Tovoli 1 0-0 3, Penrod 3 1-1 7, Young 4 0-0 11, Conradi 0 0-0 0, Carver 7 3-4 19, Furlong 0 0-0 0, Spence 0 0-0 0, Kruse 3 0-0 9, Martin 3 0-1 7, N. Fowler 7 1-2 18, McElroy 1 0-2 2, D. Fowler 0 0-0 0. Totals — 29 4-9 76.

Three-point goals — Kodiak 0; Soldotna 14 (N. Fowler 3, Kruse 3, Young 3, Carver 2, Tovoli, Penrod, Martin).

Friday

Semifinal

MOOSE 58, BEARS 53

Palmer 13 11 18 16 — 58

Kodiak 13 8 13 19 — 53

Palmer (58) — Ramoth 0 1-2 1, Looney 5 3-6 16, Mayer 2 1-2 8, Christianson 0 0-0 0, Nisbett 6 2-3 14, Selmer 5 2-4 15, Niekamp 2 0-0 4. Totals — 20 9-17 58.

Kodiak (53) — Mangalus 6 0-3 12, Frick 3 0-0 9, Medina 2 1-2 5, Jimenez 0 2-2 2, Obas 4 0-0 11, Lenon 2 0-0 4, A. Canete-Hall 0 0-0 0, Hiner 4 0-4 8, T. Canete-Hall 1 0-0 2. Totals — 22 3-11 53.

Three-point goals — Palmer 3 (Looney, Mayer, Selmer); Kodiak 2 (Frick, Obas).

Total fouls — Palmer 10; Kodiak 19. Fouled out — Medina.

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