JDHS, TMHS Boys Host Wasilla, Ketchikan, Girls Travel

    JDHS junior Kai Hargrave (24) and sophomore Sean Oliver defend a jumpshot by TMHS junior MJ Tupou during Saturday's game at the Thunderdome. (Klas Stolpe)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and Thunder Mountain High School boys and girls basketball teams are either in the grind of Southeast Conference play or mixing in last non-conference games to fortify their skill level as the last third of the high school basketball season is upon the hardwoods of Alaska.

      The Juneau Douglas boys host the Wasilla Warriors at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Crimson Bears den.

      "We've seen Wasilla and expect that they will shoot the three well," Crimson Bears coach Robert Casperson said. "They made 14 of them while shooting 62% from deep against Colony last night."

      Colony won that game 74-70. JDHS lost to Colony 64-43 on Jan. 22.

      The Crimson Bears will follow the Wasilla matchup with Friday and Saturday home games at 8 p.m. against their SEC rival the Ketchikan Kings.

      “It will be nice to be off the island,” Ketchikan coach Eric Stockhausen said. “I have watched a lot of teams play this season, in person and live, and I can say I don’t think anybody plays as hard as Juneau. Those kids really get after it and play the entire 32 minutes at full speed. So they are going to bring a lot of intensity.”

      Juneau Douglas is 4-12 overall and 1-1 in the SEC, splitting at the Thunderdome last weekend with a 63-50 win and a 56-55 overtime loss to their cross-town SEC rival TMHS Falcons.

      "Ketchikan will be a battle," JDHS' Casperson said. "We expect them to work hard and shoot a lot of threes too. It is going to be an exciting three-game series of games for people to come watch."

      Ketchikan is 9-6 OA and 2-0 SEC with home wins against Thunder Mountain 50-43 and 60-46. The Kings are coming off two wins over Metlakatla, 56-37 and 68-42.

      “This is what you spend December 1 until now getting ready for,” Ketchikan's Stockhausen said. “But you can throw anything written on paper out the window when you have a rivalry game and a conference game. I think only once or twice in the 14 years I have been here has either of us swept the other one and it is not always the team with the best record that wins at the region tournament.”

      Thunder Mountain is 6-8 OA and 1-3 SEC. The Falcons will host Wasilla at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday.

      “I don’t know a lot about them,” Falcons coach John Blasco said. “Wasilla is a very strong program. They have produced a lot of quality basketball players, many which go on to play college ball. You always have to be prepared for a talented team that executes quite well. If we can get a glimpse of them Thursday against JD… but we don’t know much about them. They are definitely in one of the tougher conferences in the state…”

      Wasilla is fifth out of six teams in the Northern Lights Conference. Anchorage Christian, Kodiak and Colony are tied at the top of that conference, followed by Palmer, Wasilla and Soldotna.

      JDHS lost to Wasilla 73-59 Jan. 29 and to Colony 64-43 Jan. 22.

      Ketchikan defeated Wasilla 71-48 and lost to Colony 71-66, both games in the first week of the season.

      Thunder Mountain defeated Palmer 57-54 on Jan. 13.

      Coach Blasco said the Falcons have to build off their momentum from last weekend’s split with JDHS.

      “It was a physical and emotional weekend,” he said. “Great basketball but also tiring for the body and the mind. So we just have to shift our focus now to a team that is highly competitive and skilled and hopefully build off of the momentum that Friday and Saturday created.”

      On the girls side, Thunder Mountain plays on the road in the Grace Christian Hardwood Classic starting Thursday when they face Barrow.

      “I’m excited about this tournament,” Falcons coach Andy Lee said. “I’m excited about the teams progress. But Barrow is Barrow. This is a classic Barrow team. It is five ball handlers, different sizes, they are all guards.They all want to shoot the three. They all want to shoot it on every touch. They are aggressive on defense…”

    Thunder Mountain is 4-11 OA and 0-4 SEC with losses at Ketchikan, 71-43 and 67-36 on Jan. 28-29, and at home last weekend against Juneau-Douglas 47-37 and 42-33

      3A power Barrow is coming off a split with the Sitka Wolves, winning 52-44 Feb. 2 and losing 55-47 Feb. 3. As far as common opponents Barrow has lost to Wasilla 67-32 Dec. 30 (TM lost 58-14 in their season opener to Wasilla, JDHS lost 47-33 Jan. 28 and Ketchikan lost 62-53 in their season opening tourney); Barrow lost to Grace Christian 52-51 Dec. 31 (KTN defeated Grace 58-38 Feb. 2); and Barrow beat Mt. Edgecumbe 49-46 Feb. 4 and lost to MEHS 48-41 Feb. 5 (TMHS defeated MEHS 56-46 in the first week of the season, KTN defeated MEHS 53-19 in the first week, and JDHS won 57-40 and 62-35 Jan. 14-15).

      “It will be a challenge,” Lee said. “They will legitimately shoot 30 threes in the game and the difference is if they make 10 you are in a fight for your life, and if they make five you might be able to put them away. They are Colony-lite… Our guards are going to be tested.”

      The tournament also features 4A power East Anchorage, Chugiak and Service and 2A power Tikigaq, as well as 3A Grace and Nikiski.

      The tournament is a traditional elimination format such as the style teams will participate in at their respective region venues and at state.

      Said Lee, “Our girls, in addition to needing experience, we need to, if you are going to go to state in the future or win regionals in the future, you need to understand the nature of win and advance. And playing for a championship. And playing in a championship. We scheduled this tournament intentionally. I wanted it before the last run of conference games. Three days of games gets you in a tournament mindset. Regardless of what happens you can’t get too high or too low because there is a game tomorrow that is meaningful. It will be a challenge for our backcourt and it’s a good measuring stick of where we are going into the stretch run of the conference.”

      The Juneau-Douglas girls travel for a weekend series at Ketchikan’s Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.

      Ketchikan is 16-2 OA and 4-0 SEC. The Lady Kings are coming off a four game road trip where they defeated Grace Christian 58-38, topped Soldotna 59-29, lost to Colony 42-40 and defeated Dimond 63-32.

      Juneau Douglas is 12-4 overall and 2-2 in Conference. The Crimson Bears lost at home twice to Ketchikan, 41-32 and 42-35, on Jan. 7-8.

      “Ketchikan is very patient offensively and crafty on defense,” Crimson Bears coach Steve Potter said. “We will have to take better care of the ball, especially down the stretch. But as always, our defensive focus and intensity will be key to our success.”

    Above - JDHS senior Trinity Jackson dribbles over a screen by junior Ashley Laudert (25) as TMHS freshman Cailynn Baxter (23) defends and senior Sydney Strong (13) rotates in during Saturday's game at the Thunderdome. (Klas Stolpe)

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