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Saturday March 09, 2013
Falcons claim first Region V basketball title - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Thunder Mountain tops Juneau-Douglas 56-52

With his team leading 55-52 and just seconds remaining, Thunder Mountain High School junior Matt Seymour calmly stepped to the free throw line to ice the Region V 4A Boys Championship and give the Falcons' their first basketball title in the school's short history.

It would have to wait one free throw.

"Yeah, I missed that first one," Seymour said. "But man, the second one felt so good. It was a great feeling when that buzzer went off, there is nothing else like it. I was in the championship last year and we lost it, that was awful. This is great."

The second one gave Seymour a game-high 17 points. Just 25 seconds earlier he scored on a twisting layup.

And with four seconds remaining Seymour stole the eight-time defending Southeast champ Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears' inbound pass and time expired and fans stormed Mt. Egecumbe's B J. McGillis Memorial Gymnasium floor.

"I want to give a shout out to Michael," Seymour said in an interview later. "Our coach read us an email from Michael, a home school kid who is a big fan of ours. We want to give a big shout out to Michael and all our fans."

Senior Sam Jahn, the team's workhorse, waited four years to defeat cross town rival JDHS in the Region V championship, to follow shots and post up, to defend the post and to hear the buzzer that signals his Falcons were going to the state tournament for the first time.

"I was so excited for our team," Jahn said. "We have been working so hard for four years now and it is just such a great feeling to finally accomplish what we have been working so hard for."

Jahn has had his arms full with Crimson Bears big men Gary Speck, Jeffrey Pusich and Bruce Jones all season.

"I was just thinking I have to go after every ball as hard as I could," Jahn said. "I had to fight for every rebound. If I got the ball inside I had to be strong with it or they would just take it away. I tried to be as strong as possible. The guys on JD are pretty tough."

Senior brothers Vili and Josh Tupou, the team leaders in composure and ball control, have battled their childhood friends for the past four years and when the buzzer sounded they hugged not only their Falcons' teammates but their brethren in the Crimson Bears' red and black as well.

"It was a good feeling to know that we beat a really good team," Vili Tupou said. "I grew up with almost all those guys, I am going to miss them a lot too. Our senior class has been working hard for this."

The Falcons were looking at a 16-10 first quarter deficit and trailed 29-21 at the half as Crimson Bears' senior Phillip Fenumiai nailed a basket at the break.

The second half was back-and-forth action.

V. Tupou hit five points in a row in the third period to cut the lead to three, 33-30 at the 3:15 mark.

"Those Tupou boys played controlled and intelligent," JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. "We used to be able to rely on them to force passes and shots... those two boys are the difference makers. To see their growth over four years and their maturity coming through proved to be very tough for us to deal with."

JDHS' Adam Empson came out of a time out to drop a soft jumper in the lane and the Crimson Bears put on a full court press for the first time in the evening.

V. Tupou found Ty Grussendorf in the corner for the first of his three triples to make it a 35-33.

Bruce Jones hit inside for the Crimson and Grussendorf hits his second three to cut it back to two. Another hoop by Jones and free throw by Speck pushed the lead to five but Seymour buried a three to cut it to 41-39 at the buzzer.

At 7:13 of the fourth quarter, clinging to a 41-40 lead, the hopes of another Crimson Bears' Region V title lay writhing on the court as JDHS senior Phillip Fenumiai landed on a defenders foot after a jump shot.

Suffering a severely dislocated ankle, Fenumiai refused to leave gym after medical personnel and coaches carried him back to the bench. Instead he gave what little he had left in vocal support.

On the next possession Seymour gave the Falcons their first lead since the first quarter on an up and under for a basket and a free throw for a 43-41 lead.

JDHS' Jeffrey Pusich answered by drawing S. Jahn's fourth foul and tied the game with two at the charity stripe. Senior teammate Keith Ainsworth rebounded a miss and fed Speck for a 45-43 Crimson Bears' advantage with 4:58 remaining.

The back-and-forth play continued as Ben Jahn, who game-to-game does all the quite dirty work on the boards, gave the Falcons a tie. JDHS' Gary Speck answered to regain the lead with a free throw.

J. Tupou hit V. Tupou for a 47-46 lead with 3:36 remaining and Ty Grussendorf hit his third shot from beyond the arch for a 50-46 advantage. V. Tupou added an old-fashioned three point play for a seven point led.

Ainsworth answered with a JDHS triple, and Seymour answered right back for a 55-49 Falcons lead.

JDHS' Jeffrey Pusich scored and fouled S. Jahn out of the game with nine seconds remaining. Teammate Ainsworth would rebound a missed free throw and get fouled, making one, missing the second and fouling Seymour on the rebound.

"I could not believe it, it was pretty surreal," TMHS coach John Blasco said of hearing the final buzzer. "I am extremely proud of these guys. They have been fighting for me for four years, putting in all the hard work truly paid off for them, I couldn't be more proud. It was a great win. It was a hard fought game. We have had quite a few comeback wins this year. The guys have a lot of confidence in each other and I have a lot of confidence in them. We just kept battling and we knew our shots would fall. We just kept attacking and finally we hit some big shots. Everybody contributed. That is the team aspect of us. Guys stepped up."

S. Jahn added 12 points for the Falcons, V. Tupou 10, Grussendorf nine, J. Tupou and B. Jahn four each. TMHS hit 8-15 at the charity stripe, JDHS went 9-15.

Pusich led the Crimson Bears with 15, Speck had 11, Fenumiai eight, Aquino Brinson and Jones six apiece, Ainsworth four and Empson two.

"We were focused and came out playing hard," Casperson said. "I know are guys are disappointed and I am disappointed for them, but I have told them all year long that all I can ask is they do their best. By far I got their best effort tonight. They played smart and played together. I am sure they would have liked a different outcome but it just wasn't in the cards for us tonight. I was proud of how they played. I hate to lose but they played as hard as they could and left everything out there." The Falcons will play tonight at 8 p.m. against the Mt. Edgecumbe Braves in the 3A/4A crossover championship for trophy-less southeast bragging rights. The Braves defeated top ranked Sitka 55-45 for the Region 3A title and trip to state.

"We will approach it to win," Blasco said. "We want to go out and compete to win every game."

Friday March 08, 2013
Crimson Bears' boys nip Kings 60-58 to earn title bid - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     JDHS tops Kayhi in must-win game, will face TMHS in championship

A big rebound by Juneau-Douglas High School senior point guard Jackson Lehnhart in the fourth quarter drew the fifth foul on Ketchikan’s hot shooter Brien Auger and the Crimson Bears survived a 60-58 nail biter in the loser-out game of the 4A Region V Basketball Championships at Mt. Edgecumbe’s B. J. McGillis Gymnasium on Thursday.

Senior Gary Speck’s seven rebounds in the fourth quarter and Ainsworth’s first free throw of the game with five seconds left sealed the win.

“We had a great team effort on both sides of the ball against a very determined opponent,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “The Ketchikan kids had a lot of heart and play extremely hard the entire game and today was no exception.”

The Crimson Bears drew two quick fouls on Ketchikan mainstay Malik Alamenzor with just a minute gone in the first quarter but the Kings rallied to take a 16-12 lead at the break seven minutes later.

Back-to-back baskets by Kayhi’s Brien Auger gave the Kings a 21-12 advantage in the first moments of second quarter action.

Keith Ainsworth hit a deep triple and Bruce Jones blocked a Kayhi shot off the glass.

Ketchikan stretched a lead to ten 28-18 with three minutes remaining in the first half when Phillip Fenumiai took a rebound and drove the length of the court to draw a foul and sank both shots at the charity stripe.

Aquino Brinson hit two of his own from the line to bring the Crimson Bears within three points at the break, 30-27.

“I believe the difference in the game was that we were willing and able to match their competitive drive for a full 32 minutes,” Casperson said. “It was truly and entire team effort with everyone contributing at some point throughout the game, which is what we talked about pre-game.”

Fast paced action pushed the third quarter score to 36-32 Kings with just two minutes gone.

Gary Speck followed a Brinson miss to close within two points. After a Kayhi free throw, Brinson scored underneath on a tip pass from Speck and Ainsworth drew a charging call against the Kings for ball possession with 3:36 left in the period.

Ainsworth then cut back door and received a lob pass from Fenumiai for the Crimson Bears’ first lead of the game, 38-37 with 2:39 left in the period.

Brinson drew his third foul of the game to join Speck and Fenumiai on the danger list.

Kable Lervick gave the Kings a three-point lead and Fenumiai drove the floor to cut that margin to one with less than a minute in the third. Kayhi’s Auger was called for his fourth foul on an offensive drive but JDHS could not get off a final shot and trailed 41-40 starting the fourth quarter.

Fenumiai hit two free throws to give the Crimson Bears a one-point lead. Pusich hit two more for a 44-41 advantage for their biggest lead of the game.

In one 10 second stretch Lervick buried a triple for the Kings, Ainsworth dunked on a base line drive to pull the crimson Bears within one and Alex Pihl drove right down the middle to score for the Kings and draw Ainsworth’s fourth foul and a 49-46 Ketchikan lead.

A deep three by Ainsworth off the glass tied the score at 49 but Isaiah Navales came right back to score and earn Adam Empson’s third foul and a Kings lead.

Fenumiai scored on his own follow, Speck on a Fenumiai miss to pull within one and to tie game at 52 from the line with three minutes remaining.

Speck followed with two more charity stripers to give JDHS the 56-54 lead with 2:43 remaining.

Speck hit another free throw to give JDHS the 58-54 lead with 20 seconds remaining and Ketchikan’s Navales drove the floor to cut the lead to two with 11 seconds left.

Ainsworth was fouled and hit two free throws to seal the win and a last second shot by Kayhi’s Malik Almenzor at the buzzer notched the game’s final basket.

“I am proud of our guys,” Casperson said. “But our job is not finished. We will have to replicate today’s focus and desire against Thunder Mountain.”

Ainsworth led the Crimson Bears with 18 points, Fenumiai added 13, Speck and Empson nine apiece, Brinson six, Pusich and Jones two each, and Lehnhart one.

Lervick led the Kings with 12 points, Auger and Navales had 10 apiece, Phil eight, Gass seven, Almenzor six, Colton Paulsen and Mo Bullock two each and Erwin Malabanan one.

The Crimson Bears will play Thunder Mountain at 4:45 today in the championship game. A win for JDHS means both teams will battle again on Saturday. A win for TMHS will be the Falcons first Region V basketball championship.

Thursday March 07, 2013
UAF's Brinson named to All-GNAC team - Juneau Empire
     PORTLAND, Ore. – Second-year head coach Mick Durham has been named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year while three men’s basketball starters were named to the All-Conference teams, the league office announced Monday afternoon.

Senior guard Dominique Brinson (Juneau, Alaska/Accounting) and junior center Sergej Pucar (Belgrade, Serbia/Business administration) were both honored on the All-GNAC Second Team while junior guard Pat Voeut (Bellingham, Wash./Communication) was tabbed as a GNAC Honorable Mention selection.

“I think those three are very deserving,” Durham said. “Our team by finishing fourth had a very good GNAC season so I’m excited for them. Anytime you finish higher than people expect, you feel good about that and we definitely did that.”

In only his second year at the helm, Durham led the Nanooks to their first winning season in six years with a 15-11 overall record and turned in the program’s best mark in conference play in seven seasons with a 10-8 record to finish in fourth place.

“It’s a great honor for Mick and a great acknowledgement of the program,” director of athletics Gary Gray said. “He and the team worked very hard and what a tremendous turnaround in one year. He is well deserving and it says a lot about his ability and speaks really well for the future of the program.”

The Nanooks won GNAC Team of the week three times throughout the 2012-13 season and its three All-GNAC honorees were named Player of the Week a combined five times. The signature win of the season, which clinched the program’s first post-season berth since 2005, was against Western Washington on Feb. 21, in which the ‘Nooks snapped WWU’s program- and GNAC-record 30-game win streak with a 77-73 victory at the Patty Center.

“I sure felt we could be a top-four team with how we recruited and we were able to do that,” Durham said. “I sure didn’t think we were an eighth-place team and I don’t think we overachieved. I think we played to our ability and that was fourth place.”

Durham shared the Coach of the Year accolade with WWU’s first-year head coach Tony Dominguez, who led the Vikings to the regular-season title with a 26-1 overall record and 17-1 mark in GNAC play.

Brinson led the team and ranked 12th on the GNAC’s scoring list with 12.5 points per game. He also ranked eighth in three pointers made (2.0) and ninth in free throw percentage (.831). Brinson recorded 15 double-figure scoring games and five 20-point games, which included a season-best 28 points at home against Western Oregon. He drained a career-high six treys in that win.

“You want your seniors to have a great season to remember and Dom has been very consistent,” Durham. “He’s our leader, he’s our second-year senior and he leads by example. He’s done that since last season ended. He had a great summer and I’m excited he was able to get this honor.”

Pucar turned it on the second half of conference slate and finished the regular season with 11.2 points per game while ranking tied for seventh in the GNAC with 6.9 rebounds per outing. Despite his size and being a post player, he was one of the league’s top three-point shooters as he connected on 45.8 percent (33-72) of his shots from beyond the arc. Pucar scored in double figures on 16 occasions and brought down 10-plus rebounds five times. He had career-highs of 26 points in the upset win over Western Washington and 16 rebounds, which he achieved twice in the road trip at Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene.

“Sergej just really came on the second half of conference and had two outstanding weeks where he was named Player of the Week,” Durham said. “We go how Sergej goes because he gives us that inside game and is also tough to guard because he can pop out and shoot it.”

Voeut ran the offense for the Nanooks at the point guard position and was solid on the defensive end as well. He was 18th in the GNAC with 11.8 points per game while also leading the league with 5.3 assists per game. In addition he was third in steals (1.7), ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.8) and 10th in free throw percentage (.828). Voeut recorded 16 double-figure scoring games and his season highlights included 25 points at Central, nine assists versus WWU and five steals against Seattle Pacific.

“Pat has been the leader on the court as the point guard,” Durham said. “We recruited him to be our point guard and he knew that the day he signed with us. It was a great opportunity for him and he really took advantage of it. He gets a lot of credit for being a leader on both ends of the court.”

The Nanooks fly to Lacey, Wash., this week for the GNAC Men’s Basketball Championship and will face fifth-seeded Montana State Billings in the first round Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. (PST).First Team: John Allen (WWU), Jarrell Crayton (MSUB), David Downs (SPU), Kyle Fossman (UAA), Paul Jones (WWU), Mark McLaughlin (CWU).

Wednesday March 06, 2013
Kayhi stuns JDHS boys 51-47 in tourney opener - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Free throws advance Kings to face top seed Thunder Mountain

The Ketchikan Kings hit four free throws in the final minute and stole a last second inbounds pass to top the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears 51-47 at the Region V basketball tournament in Mt. Edgecumbe on Tuesday night.

Ketchikan (1-0) will advance to face top seed Thunder Mountain (0-0) today at 4:45 p.m. in the double elimination format. JDHS (0-1) will play the loser of that game on Thursday at 9:45 a.m.

The Kings (1-0) hit three triples in the first quarter to take a 14-9 lead.

Six-foot-two senior guard Phillip Fenumiai went 6-7 from the free throw line and scored 11 points in the second quarter to spark the Crimson Bears.

Ketchikan stole a pass with 30 seconds left to tie the score at 23-all but Keith Ainsworth followed a JDHS shot to score at the buzzer for a 25-23 Crimson Bears advantage.

Aquino Brinson hit a layup at the buzzer to give JDHS a 39-34 lead ending the third period.

At the start of the fourth quarter Fenumiai was whistled for a charging foul and Jackson Lehnhart fouled on the defensive end but Kayhi managed just one point.

The Crimson Bears then traveled to give up the ball again and Kable Lervick scored on a baseline drive to cut the lead to 39-37 with six minutes remaining.

Alex Pihl dished off for a score and then drove for another as the Kings took a 44-43 lead with 4:02 remaining in the game.

A Crimson Bears turnover and a missed shot with a Pihl rebound gave the Kings a spread offense set. With three minutes remaining the Kings took a 45-43 lead.

Another missed Crimson Bears shot and the Kings brought the ball up court.

The Kings spread the court, forcing JDHS to chase and foul.

The Kings hit two free throws with 44 seconds remaining to open a four-point lead.

Fenumiai saved a loose ball on the JDHS end and drove to the hoop and fed a team mate for a layup.

The Crimson Bears fouled with 20 seconds remaining and put Kayhi on the line for a three-point lead.

Jackson Lehnhart drove the length of the floor to score and close within one, 48-47.

Malabanan was fouled and hit two free throws for a three-point lead with 10 seconds remaining, 50-47.

The Crimson Bears called time out and when they inbounded the ball the Kings picked it off. Alex Pihl was fouled and made one free throw to push the final lead to four.

Fenumiai led JDHS with 14 points and Ainsworth added 10.

Monday February 25, 2013
Saturday's season finales hard fought at Thunder Dome - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     After clinching the Southeast Region V Basketball Tournament top seed on Friday night, the Thunder Mountain High School Falcons boys could have let up on senior night Saturday and coast into the championships next week.

That is not in the Falcons nature.

After Friday’s 62-43 win over Juneau-Douglas High School, TMHS (7-1 conference, 18-6 overall) went head-to-head with the Crimson Bears (3-5, 8-16) on Saturday and came away with a 57-52 win.

Ty Grussendorf and Josh Tupou gave the Falcons an early 6-0 lead and JDHS’ Jackson Lehnhart went back-to-back to pull the Crimson Bears even in a game that saw 15 lead changes and three buzzer beaters.

Josh Tupou broke a 15-15 tie at the end of the first quarter with a make at the buzzer.

JDHS went on a 6-0 run at the end of the second quarter on baskets by Keith Ainsworth and Lehnhart to lead 30-23 with four seconds remaining.

That was just enough time for Ben Jahn to can a three-pointer and pull the Falcons to within four points at the half.

The Falcons tied the score at 36 with 1:55 remaining on a Vili Tupou drive, B. Jahn hit two free throws and Grussendorf went back door for a 40-36 advantage and momentum with just seconds remaining. This time JDHS got the finish as Phillip Fenumiai hit a length of the floor lay in with time expiring to cut the score to 40-38 starting the final quarter.

JDHS’ Ainsworth tied the score for the last time with 7:25 remaining in the final stanza. A basket by Sam Jahn inside and a key momentum triple by Mike Uddipa started a 9-0 run and the Crimson Bears did not find the hoop until 1:42 remained and Aquino Brinson slashed in for a score. JDHS could not get closer than five points down the stretch.

TMHS shot 20-39 from the field and 11-17 at the charity stripe; JDHS hit 21-39 outside and just 9-22 at the line. TMHS had eight turnovers to seven for JDHS.

Sam Jahn had a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Falcons, B. Jahn added 13 points (6 RB), J. Tupou (4 RB, 2 AST) and Grussendorf seven points apiece, V. Tupou (5 AST) six, Matt Seymour four, and M. Uddipa three.

Fenumiai led JDHS with 10 points (3 AST, 1 ST), Lehnhart nine (4 RB. 2 AST), Ainsworth (2 AST, 1 ST), Brinson (2 AST) and Gary Speck (7 RB) eight apiece, Jeff Pusich four, Nathan Klein three, and Adam Empson two.

Next up for Juneau teams are the Region V Championships at Mt. Edgecumbe on March 5-9.

Sunday February 24, 2013
Falcons clinch top Region V southeast tournament seed - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     TMHS defeats JD 62-43 Friday and 57-52 Saturday

Another first was recorded in the history books as the Thunder Mountain High School Falcons

A) clinched the southeast regular season title and are the Region V tournament’s top seed, and

B) beat the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears for the first time in the Thunderdome.

“It feels great to win at home against JD,” Falcons senior Josh Tupou said. “It is a big accomplishment and we did it as a team. We exposed some of their weaknesses and played together.”

The Falcons (7-1 conference, 18-6 overall) never trailed in Friday’s game, hitting three triples from beyond the arch in the first quarter and closing with a 9-1 scoring run and a 16-7 advantage over the Crimson Bears (3-5, 8-16). Senior Matt Seymour, Ty Grussendorf and Josh Tupou tallied the long balls and junior Ben Jahn hit two buckets inside.

After the Falcons scored the first bucket of the second quarter, JDHS seniors Gary Speck and Jeffrey Pusich led the visitors on a 9-2 run to close within two points, 18-16 with 4:41 remaining in the half. Speck hit 7-8 at the free throw line in the stanza and the Crimson Bears closed to within four points, 27-23 at the break.

The Falcons went up by 10 points at the 5:11 mark of the third period and when JDHS’ Pusich scored to cut the lead to eight, the Falcons responded with a Sam Jahn jumper and Vili Tupou’s deep triple. TMHS led 44-32 starting the final quarter and went on a 12-2 run to open a 20-point lead with 2:44 remaining that put the game out of reach.

“It was everyone playing together,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “Holding on to the lead in the third quarter was crucial and the momentum stayed with us. We knew they would come at us hungry and I am so proud of our guys for responding with such a solid effort.”

Seymour and B. Jahn scored 13 points apiece, S. Jahn scored 12 and had 9 rebounds, Vili Tupou 12 points with 4 RB, 5 assists and 1 steal, J. Tupou five points, Grussendorf and Travis Johnson three apiece, Jacob Calloway and Rohan Kishore two each.

TMHS was 9-15 at the charity stripe and 22-36 from the field; JDHS went 20-28 at the line and 11-29. The Falcons had 12 turnovers to the Crimson Bears’ six.

JDHS’ senior Aquino Brinson led with a game-high 16 points (2 steals), Pusich 12 points, Speck seven (6 RB), John Yadao three, Phillip Fenumiai and Keith Ainsworth two apiece, and Bruce Jones one.

“We could not get a stop in the second half,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “They did a good job of making hard cuts and dribble drives that got them into good scoring position. We put pressure on them in the first half by attacking them and drawing fouls.”

On Saturday, Sam Jahn score 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Ben Jahn scored 13 points and hauled in six rebounds as the Falcons swept the Crimson Bears at home, 57-52 on TMHS senior night.

Phillip Fenumiai led the Crimson Bears with 10 points, Jackson Lehnhart added nine, and Gary Speck scored eight and pulled down nine boards.

Complete stats were not available at press time and will run in Monday’s paper.

The JDHS losses means that the Crimson Bears will open Region V tournament play against Ketchikan (2-6) and TMHS will await the winner of that game in the semifinals.

Wednesday February 20, 2013
Falcons host Crimson Bears in regular season series finale - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     More than wins and losses at stake this weekend

The world is not going to end after this weekend’s cross-town matchup between the Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain boy’s and girl’s basketball teams at TMHS gym.

But the cosmos my get shaken up a bit.

On the boy’s side, bragging rights and the regular season title are on the line. On the girl’s side, momentum going into the region tournament is at stake.

“It is a big weekend,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “It is the senior finale. The final games of the season, which are always big games. The winner, give or take how it goes, will be the regular season conference champion and get the bye in the first round of the tournament, which is something both teams are playing for.”

The Falcons’ boys are in the state’s top five ranking for the first time ever in the school’s short four-year existence. They are fresh off a six-game road-winning streak, four straight last week at Fairbanks’ teams, and have won nine of their last 10 games. Again, eight of which were on the road, two of them just down Egan Drive.

They are becoming seasoned to the idea of playing tough northern teams in the state tournament.

The Falcons’ home stand this weekend, which features senior night appreciation on Saturday between the varsity girl’s and boy’s games, will determine the Southeast Conference regular season champion. This would be the first regular season title, although it does not come with a trophy, and bragging rights across town.

TMHS is in the drivers seat with a five-win, one-loss conference record (6-0 in hustle and effort); that one loss was a forfeit to the Kings after a win due to a player participating in too many quarters. They have won at JDHS (57-56 and 68-49) and at Kayhi (69-64 and 57-38).

The odds are that the Falcons will defend their home court. They are 5-1 at home in hustle and play (again, 4-2 on paper).

Their lone “real-time” home loss was to Lathrop 71-46, a game they avenged at the Malemutes home last weekend. 52-50. They defeated visiting Sitka (51-45, 69-65), Kayhi (“54-36” win forfeited, 64-49) and Wasilla (39-27).

“I think the fact that we beat them (JDHS) at their place twice means they want to seek a little revenge at our place,” Blasco said. “Both teams want to end the season on a high note as they go into tournament play. You want the regular season conference title and you get the bye. In our sense we would look at it as a big achievement; the first time we have won our conference.”

If ever a senior class is deserving of wrapping up a SE Conference title it is Blasco’s group of Ty Grussendorf, Sam Jahn, Travis Johnson, Josh Tupou, Vili Tupou, Joe Ia and Avery Stewart. They have paid their dues for four years, taken their lumps and bruises, and have put their school on the state basketball map.

Talk is that the Falcons’ pep band will be bringing out a Drum Line, the dance team will unveil new moves, and the cheer squad will hop up and down hard enough to send residents to higher ground on Sunday.

The Falcons will have to slow down a more aggressive Jeffrey Pusich and Gary Speck inside and the improved guard action of Jackson Lehnhart, Aquino Brinson, Adam Empson and Keith Ainsworth on the perimeter.

The Tupou brothers are going to be vital, both ways, for the Falcons’ holding of home court. Seymour and sophomore Jacob Calloway are critical in taking pressure off of them and providing a scoring punch from the arch and in. They in turn will open up the arch and out for Grussendorf.

“I think people will be excited to watch these games,” Blasco said. “I am sure they will want to see if what we did the first time was for real. And now that they have Phillip (Fenumiai) back it adds a whole new dimension to their team.”

The JDHS boys cannot be overlooked.

The Crimson Bears (3-3) took a solid hold on second place in the conference with their weekend home sweep of the Ketchikan Kings (2-6), 56-46 and 63-51. They have lost to TMHS (57-56, 68-49) in the Bears den, at homecoming no less, and split at Kayhi (winning 49-42, losing 59-54).

“Every team that is playing this weekend is looking to build some momentum going into regionals,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “There has to be a balance between going all out to win the conference or keeping a trick or two up your sleeve. We have always looked at it as one game at a time. We are going to approach this series the same way. Friday is our next opportunity to play and we are excited for that. We are not looking beyond Friday.”

They too have seniors who have been with the program and chose to stay in town instead of head to the valley. Varsity players Brinson, Pusich, Speck, Ainsworth, Lehnhart, Ben Williams, Phillip Fenumiai and JV’s Danny Nore, Jefferson Estigoy and Jericho Erasmo deserve fan respect as well.

Fenumiai rejoined the varsity for the first time all season last weekend. The Falcons will face him for the first time on Friday, although they have grown up playing with and against him through their careers. Fenumiai brings a physical power in the mid-range setting and another ball handler and rebounder while in the rotation.

How the Crimson Bears deal with the Falcons S. Jahn is critical. Jahn is playing impressive inside ball and could tire both JDHS’ Pusich and Speck. JDHS sophomores Bruce Jones and Nathan Klein will be vital inside the key as are Williams and junior Dar Campos.

It will take a two-game sweep by the Crimson Bears to get the regular season title, and for that to happen it will require the JDHS cheer section packing up and moving down Egan Drive for the weekend.

It will also require slowing down the Tupou brothers, keeping the Jahn brothers out of the paint, and not allowing Calloway, Grussendorf and Seymour to get open looks or a path to the basket.

Two wins will also result in a tie-breaking scenario involving points against opponents and/or a coin flip. The Falcons would rather win outright, the Crimson Bears want what they can get.

“Thunder Mountain is much improved and their years of experience and playing time together has proven to be very difficult to over come,” Casperson said. “They have been successful in a lot of situations this season where they have not been in the past. What we are looking to do is make sure we are ready to play all four quarters against them because that is what it is going to take. They are a quality team and it is going to take a quality effort from us to defeat them on their home floor. It should be fun. It is the last time for many of these kids to play, I think the fans will be going through basketball withdrawls in another month.”

On the girl’s side, the southeast regular season title was wrapped up last weekend as JDHS (5-1 SE, 12-10 OA) swept at Ketchikan (4-4 SE). JDHS will get a bye in the region tourney March 5-9; TMHS (1-5 SE, 7-15 OA) will open with Kayhi.

“I think the biggest thing at stake is, now that we have clinched first place, is potentially letting down against Thunder Mountain and getting beat,” JDHS coach Dee Boster said. “Thunder Mountain is a team that can beat us if we don’t play our game. If that were to happen then I think the Falcons would be on a roll and have a huge confidence booster and make our kids think they may have taken something for granted. We talked about that specific thing today in practice. Do not take Thunder Mountain for granted.”

The Crimson Bears hosted and defeated TMHS (54-37, 60-39) back in January. Both of these teams are vastly improved since then.

“Both teams have grown and have had a good schedule against very good competition to improve ourselves,” TMHS coach Tanya Nizich said. “I think we have gained confidence and have learned as a team about transition. That was one of the biggest things we needed to work on is not letting any teams beat us down the court.”

The Falcons will have the home court edge and senior appreciation excitement.

Seniors Jonelle Staveland, Eyerus Tingley and Shayla Reeves would like nothing more than a two-game sweep over their town neighbors to finish their careers.

Staveland appears to have fully recovered from last season’s soccer injury and has become a scoring threat from the perimeter, tallying 21, 11, 9 and 10 points against tough northern competition last week.

Tingley and Reeves are more inclined to push the ball and score off the break or off their defensive pressure. Tingley will be crucial in keeping the ball in control.

Junior Micheala Demmert and sophomores Sarah Morris and Siosi Tupo will try to score either way, most notably on aggressive follows. Morris and Reeves can provide dribble relief.

One of the biggest keys will be the play of senior Cheyenne Ekis, sophomore Ashley Young and freshman Ava Tompkins.

Young is a tough defensive assignment inside, Tompkins is tough any time the ball is in her hands and Ekis will be depended on for inside power. It is on the defensive side that is vital; they will have to stay out of foul trouble trying to slow down the Crimson Bear’s inside force Gabi Fenumiai.

“It is something we have talked about and something we have been working on,” Nizich said. “We have to watch our fouls, especially on Gabi. We want to make her work for everything but we also want to move our feet and keep our hands off so we don’t make things easy on her.”

Physically, Fenumiai requires a double team to block out of either the zone or man defense or requires a teammate to double down from the top. That opens up scoring opportunities for JDHS’ senior sharp shooters Esra Siddeek or Emily Winters and inside work from junior Kayla Balovich.

Siddeek can slash and drive as well. Balovich is aggressive both offensively and defensively on the blocks. If Fenumiai is in foul trouble junior Ari Gross is still capable of shots off the glass.

The Crimson Bears also have the mid range games of juniors Kymberlee Kelly and Kaitlin Fagerstrom and sophomore Rachelle Roldan. Kelly and Fagerstrom out work opponents.

How much the Falcons control the pace of the game and keep control of the ball will decide the out come.

And the Crimson Bears possess the biggest game controller in 5-foot-2 guard Marissa Brakes. The senior is the front person in the defensive full court press and the main ball handler moving up court. Senior T-Jae Garcia and junior Tori Fogg are reliable bench.

Tireless and fearless, Brakes enthusiasm spreads among the Crimson Bear’ team and they roll as she goes.

The Falcons’ are no longer intimidated by that enthusiasm and will look to make history with a home win over JDHS.

“These games are going to be big for many of these kids,” Nizich said. “There are some girls that have stepped up tremendously along the way and we need them to all produce like they have been, but they have taken turns in every game and they need to all produce together this weekend. I think the biggest thing is gaining confidence going into regions. If either team has a bad game I think the level of confidence in the next set of bigger games might wane. Both teams are tough and all three (Kayhi) teams have the potential to make the region tourney very exciting.”

Said JDHS coach Boster, “ Just because we have the first seed in the region tournament does not mean we have it made. We still have to go out there and play basketball because Ketchikan has shown they can beat us and Thunder Mountain has beat Ketchikan. We are not overlooking Thunder Mountain at all this weekend, nor are we overlooking any team in regions. Our kids are pretty excited about any games and it is great to see that this late in the season.”

Game times for Friday and Saturday are girls at 6:15 p.m. and boys at 8 p.m. Senior Appreciation for the Falcons’ basketball, cheerleading, dance team and pep band seniors and their parents will be after the girl’s game on Saturday and before the boys warm up to play. Junior varsity action is 2:30 p.m. both days for girls and 4:15 p.m. for boys. C team action is on Thursday, 4:30 p.m. for girls and 6:15 for boys.

Sunday February 17, 2013
JDHS sweeps Kayhi 56-46 Friday, 63-51 Saturday - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Fenumiai returns, seniors play big

With four minutes remaining in the first quarter Friday night, Juneau-Douglas High School senior Phillip Fenumiai made his first competitive steps since a season ending football injury six months ago, and the Crimson Bears made a huge leap back into contention for the Southeast Conference title with a 56-46 win over Ketchikan.

“It felt great to be playing with my teammates,” Fenumiai said. “It was fun. My first thoughts were not to turn the ball over when I got in the game. I was a little rusty.”

The numbers were not what spoke loudly about Fenumiai’s initial appearance; he got his first rebound at 3:20 in the first quarter, his first assist at 3:10, forced a turnover at 2:24 and left the game at 2:26. He got an offensive charge (3 fouls total) in the second quarter, an air ball from three-point land in the third, and threw the ball away once in the fourth. And he scored one point and pulled a couple rebounds.

It was how the Crimson Bears responded.

“Our effort has never been the issue,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “It has been the execution. Tonight we executed better, certainly adding Phillip into the mix with his experience, leadership and calming presence, helps everybody. He is a good team guy, he plays for the team first and they know that. The team did not leave Phillip on an island, they didn’t expect him to be a savior. That wouldn’t be fair to him and that is not fair to all the other hard work the other players have put in all season long. Phillip is not a savior, Phillip is a piece of our team.”

Senior Gary Speck put up a monster double-double, tallying 17 points and 15 rebounds; sophomore Adam Empson scored 14 points, including two baskets and five free throws in the fourth quarter with Kayhi threatening; senior Jeffrey Pusich scored seven points, four in the crucial first minutes of play; senior Aquino Brinson scored six points, senior Keith Ainsworth and sophomore Bruce Jones four, sophomore Nathan Klein two and senior Jackson Lehnhart one.

And they did it within the framework of the team. “We got good minutes out of Jackson (Lehnhart),” Casperson said. “Aquino (Brinson) has been busting his backside all night, Gary (Speck) had every big rebound we needed down the stretch and that was huge for us.”

JDHS led 17-8 starting the second quarter and 24-19 at the break.

Alex Pihl and Erwin Malabanan kept Kayhi close in the third quarter with three shots from beyond the arch and the Kings trailed 38-31 starting the final quarter.

Kayhi’s Brien Auger scored all six of his game points in the final period but JDHS went 10-13 from the charity stripe down the stretch to secure the win.

“It is fun to watch when we are on,” Casperson said. “We have crisp cuts and passes. We have a lot of athleticism and when we execute, as we have shown in the season, we can beat some of the top teams in the state. I have confidence in every one of our players to be out on the floor.”

On Saturday the Crimson Bears took a 15-11 first quarter lead but managed only seven points in the second and trailed 29-22 at the half.

Ben Williams made an acrobatic tip in to start the third period and it fired up the Crimson Bears. Fenumiai and Ainsworth notched baskets and JDHS took the lead for the first time with 1:45 remaining in the period.

Ainsworth hit eight of his game-high 21 points in the fourth period, including six free throws, Speck scored four of his eight and grabbed six rebounds in the quarter, and Adam Empson scored all four of his game points in the stanza with four assists.

JDHS went on a 5-0 run to open the fourth and had control of the game the rest of the way.

“The fans really helped us out,” Casperson said. “They welcomed Phillip back on Friday night very classy. And they really stayed with us when we were behind tonight. I was proud of the guys. It was a very good senior weekend. To battle back tonight and erase Ketchikan’s lead like we did and then to turn the tide to get our own lead in that situation was key. We took care of the ball.

JDHS had just seven turnovers in the game.

Fenumiai added nine points, Speck eight, Brinson, Pusich, Empson, Lehnhart and Williams four each, Jones three and Klein two. JDHS hit 13-19 at the free throw line, Kayhi went 12-14. Lervick led the Kings with 14 points, Auger added 11, Navales 10, Phil five, Pawsen four, Gass three and Almenzor and Malabana two each.

JDHS improves to 8-14 overall and 3-3 in the Southeast Conference; Kayhi is 2-6 in the SE Conference.

Friday February 15, 2013
Crimson Bears senior boys to be honored on Saturday - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears boy’s basketball team will hold their senior appreciation night on Saturday while hosting Ketchikan. The ceremony will be prior to the 8 p.m. tip off. Senior basketball, pep band, cheerleaders and dance team members and their parents will be celebrated. JDHS also play the Kings Friday night at 8 p.m.

Following are coaches remarks of senior players:

Aquino Brinson (team captain) has had a strong senior year for us. He has played multiple positions this year and has easily logged the highest number of minutes this season. Aquino has made great strides in his final year and is enjoying success as an outcome of his dedication in the off-season.

Jeffrey Pusich (team captain) was selected by his teammates as our speaking captain due to his leadership on and off the court. He is a hard working and dedicated young man that gives stability to our team. He is also an inside-outside presence this year with his ability to score in the post or knock down a 15-foot jumper. Jeffrey has provided guidance to our underclassmen and proudly shown them what it takes to be a Crimson Bear.

Jackson Lehnhart (team captain) is quite possibly Juneau-Douglas’ most decorated varsity athlete in recent memory. He has competed in varsity basketball, baseball, football, and soccer. While injuries have limited his time this season on the basketball court, he has not let that impede his ability to provide leadership. He has been a valuable member of the team this season in whatever capacity he has been able to fill. He has become more comfortable on the court in recent weeks and always provides the team a spark.

Ben Williams is in his second season of participation with the boy’s basketball team. He brings a level of toughness and competitiveness to the team that is highly appreciated. His skills continue to improve and he has been a pleasure to work with.

Gary Speck is a high-energy post player that is no stranger to contact in the key. He works hard to gather rebounds that start fast break opportunities for his teammates. Gary’s desire to rebound and ability to shoot a high percentage in the paint have provided a lift to the team this season.

Phillip Fenumiai has worked diligently to recover after an injury suffered at the beginning of football season. While working through his rehab process, and anticipating his return to basketball, Phillip has been attending practice on a nightly basis where his years of varsity experience have allowed him to provide guidance and leadership to the team. Upon his return, he has the ability to cause match-up problems due to his combination of skill, size, speed, and strength.

Keith Ainsworth is a high-flying player that has brought an ability to attack the rim and shoot the three-pointer to the team this year. He has taken on challenges to meet the needs of the team. If the team need a basket, rebound, or defensive stop Keith is willing to do what it takes to help his teammates be successful.

Jericho Erasmo has a high work ethic, pleasant demeanor, and willingness to learn. He has improved consistently throughout the season and provided a lift to practice and game situations. He is a very respectful young man that will continue to find success in his life as he moves forward.

Jefferson Estigoy is well liked by his teammates and coaches. He has brought an energy and flair to the team this season. He has continued to increase his basketball knowledge and skill as the season has progressed.

Danny Nore is steadily improving and has really come on in the last several weeks of play. He is athletic and hard working. Danny has constantly pushed his teammates to improve in practice due to his high energy.

Thursday February 14, 2013
Boys Lose to Mt. Edgecumbe - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The visiting Mt. Edgecumbe Braves toppled the Crimson Bears’ boys 69-54 Thursday night in a close game that was decided only by a Braves run in the fourth quarter.

Jackson Lehnhart’s two deep triples showcased the opening stanza as both teams scored 16 apiece. Heading into the second quarter both teams upped the pressure with Mt. Edgecumbe taking a 29-25 advantage at the break.

The Braves’ Leo Ford tallied 10 of his game-high 24 points in the third period and Gary Speck seven of his 11-game points as both teams put 20 points apiece on each side of the score clock.

Mt. Edgecumbe hit 14 free throws in the fourth quarter, while JDHS got deep three’s from Aquino Brinson and Adam Empson. The charity stripe margin was enough for Mt. Edgecumbe to take the game.

Lehnhart led the Crimson Bears with 12 points, Speck 11, Keith Ainsworth and Empson nine each, Jeffrey Pusich seven, and Dar Hodge-Campos six.

JDHS hit 10-17 at the charity stripe, Mt. Edgecumbe went 20-30.

Ford led the Braves with 24 points, Ryan Morgen 17, Donald Edenshaw and Grant Akaran nine apiece, Kenny Jackson seven, and Alan fisher three.

JDHS host the Ketchikan Kings tonight at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m. Saturday is Crimson Bears’ senior appreciation for boy’s basketball, the cheerleaders, dance team and pep band. The ceremony will be held before the 8 p.m. start.

Sunday February 10, 2013
JDHS falls to Lathrop - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Juneau-Douglas High School boy’s basketball team ran into an athletic Lathrop team on Friday and Saturday at the Crimson Bears’ den, falling 69-57 and 47-38. On Friday a first half saw seven lead changes and the Malemutes clinging to a 33-30 halftime lead.

“I feel that we came out flatter than I expected,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “I feel that when we kept them in front and forced them to play in the half court we did a lot better.”

Senior Keith Ainsworth scored eight of his 18 game-points in the first quarter as JDHS held a 16-14 advantage. Lathrop’s Tremon Washington was unstoppable in the second quarter, scoring 12 of his game-high 26 points on an assortment of long range and driving shots. Ainsworth kept the Crimson Bears in play with two deep triples and sophomore Adam Empson tallied four of his eight game-points around the bucket.

“We did a really good job of rebounding,” Casperson said. “Especially considering the athleticism on the other side of the ball.”

The Malemutes went on a 12-6 run to open the third quarter and ended the stanza up 51-41.

Senior Aquino Brinson nailed a deep triple to start the fourth quarter that pulled the Crimson bears to within seven points at 51-44 and then added two free throws to make the lead just five, but another 8-2 run by Lathrop off of their defensive full court press denied a comeback.

“A lot of their points tonight came off of transition,” Casperson said. “Whether it was turnovers that turned into layups or defensive rebounds that they got quick outlets and down the floor, I thought that was where they really hurt us. We need to do a better job in sprinting back in either situation.”

The Crimson Bears would not get closer than nine points the rest of the game.

Brinson added 14 points for JDHS, senior Jeffrey Pusich and sophomore Bruce Jones five apiece, junior Dar Hodge-Campos three, senior Gary Speck two, and sophomore Nathan Klein one.

JDHS hit 13-18 at the free-throw line, Lathrop went 17-23.

Tevin Gladden added 12 points for the Malemutes, Gabriel Cunningham 10, Everett Green eight, Kyle Carlson seven, Cole Berner five, and Alex Jordan one.

On Saturday Lathrop shot 47 freethrows to Juneau’s 20 in a game the Crimson Bears lost by nine points. A technical foul on the JDHS bench in the fourth quarter saw an injured Lathrop player Carlson sub in to shoot the freethrows and then sub out without a click on the clock going off.

The Crimson Bears wore black uniforms and battled from behind the entire game. JDHS trailed 8-5 after one quarter, 18-16 at the half, and 35-26 starting the final stanza. Whenever the JDHS pulled within striking distance their press resulted in a foul and Lathrop converted, stemming momentum. Ainsworth led with 10 points, Brinson, Pusich and Speck added six, Lehnhart four, Empson, Jones and Klein two apiece. Lathrop’s Cunningham led with 12 points, Gladden and Washington added eight, Green six, Jennis five, Carlson four, Jordan two, Berner and Ford one each.

“We were better tonight than last night,” Casperson said. “And that is our goal, to get better every night.

JDHS hosts Mt. Edgecumbe on Thursday and Ketchikan Friday and Saturday.

Tuesday February 05, 2013
JDHS earns 52-44 O.T. win over Wasilla - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Juneau-Douglas High School senior Jeffrey Pusich scored 16 points, four in overtime, and classmate Keith Ainsworth added 10 points, with four in the extra time, as the Crimson Bears turned a careless first half into a 52-44 O.T. win over the Wasilla Warriors on Monday night in the Juneau gym.

“It certainly beats the alternative,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said of the win. “What made a difference for us was that we started moving the ball quicker and our timing got better in the second half and we started playing with more fire and energy.”

Pusich went scoreless in the first half and traveled twice. Ainsworth went scoreless and threw the ball away three times. JDHS committed 10 turnovers in the first half.

The Crimson Bears fell behind nine to zero as Wasilla’s Emillio Carney and Cash McGregor tallied four points apiece. JDHS waited until 3:20 seconds remained in the first quarter to get their first points, a Jackson Lehnhart basket that sparked a 6-2 JDHS run ending the period.

Sophomore Adam Empson ended the run with a soft floater and started the second quarter with another basket as JDHS cut the Warriors lead to 14-8.

An 11-6 run for Wasilla, including deep three’s by Alex Baham and Emillio Carney, closed out the half 25-14 in the Warriors favor.

After senior Gary Speck scored on a reverse lay up to start the third quarter the Warriors ran off three straight baskets, including two straight by Stone Krueger, and looked to be putting the game out of reach at 31-16.

The 6-foot-five Pusich then took matters in his own hands at the 6:09 mark, posting hard on the block and scoring three straight baskets and 10 of the Crimson Bears next 16 points as JDHS held Wasilla scoreless through the end of the third period.

“Jeffrey is going to do as well as the position on the floor he gets when he receives the ball,” Casperson said. “Tonight he really fought for good position and he held his ground and if he gets deep position he has good touch around the basket. If he reads what the defense gives him he has a sweet touch from 15-feet and in and he took what the defense gave him tonight instead of trying to force the issue.”

With 12 seconds remaining Lehnhart stole the next possession for a layup that gave JDHS a 34-31 lead. Ainsworth went 4-4 from the charity strip in the period and senior Aquino Brinson 2-2.

The Crimson Bears’ Speck hit two freethrows to start the fourth period and after McGregor matched that for Wasilla, Ainsworth and Pusich found the net again for a 42-37 lead with 2:50 remaining. Dustin Cook brought the Warriors to within three points and a Crimson Bears turnover gave the ball back to the Warriors Baham who nailed another three to tie the game. Neither team could get a shot off in the last minute of regulation.

Pusich started the overtime with a quick turnaround hook, Ainsworth scored and then fed Speck on a fast break and the Crimson Bears defense stymied the Warriors in the half court as Wasilla missed five straight shots before getting their final points of the game with a minute remaining.

Pusich scored again with 1:12 remaining and Ainsworth hit a free throw before Wasilla scored their only bucket on a Cook power layup.

JDHS hit 11-18 at the charity stripe for the game, Wasilla went 5-7.

Speck added eight game points, Brinson six, Empson and Lehnhart four apiece, Kevin Guimmayen and Bruce Jones two each.

Wasilla’s Carney led the Warriors with nine points, Baham and McGregor eight apiece, Krueger and Cook six each, Cameron Brown five, and Nathan Hanson two.

“It is time to move on and we have to focus on our next opponent,” Casperson said. “This was a great opportunity to play Wasilla and have a tight game with them and learn about winning in overtime. Lathrop this weekend is going to present a major challenge for us too.”

Wasilla will play today at 4:30 p.m. against Thunder Mountain in the Falcons gym.

The Falcons will host Lathrop on Thursday at 7 p.m., and the Crimson Bears will host Lathrop on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Sunday February 03, 2013
Falcons soar to first ever wins over Crimson Bears - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     There is an old sports adage that says simply: You can’t have a rivalry until the other team beats you.

The capital city now has an official rivalry.

With the Juneau-Douglas High School crowd on his back all night long, Thunder Mountain High School junior Matt Seymour rose into the air just feet away from their exuberant cheering, pointed his elbow towards the rim, rolled his wrist to let the 22-ounce basketball leave his finger tips, and pointed his index finger high into the sky as the orange orb settled into the net for a Falcons 57-56 lead with six seconds remaining in the game.

“I knew that was in,” Seymour said of the shot. “I flicked my wrist and I was like, ‘oh my gosh, that is in.’ To do this for my senior classmates makes me pretty happy. It feels awesome. Our first win against JD. This is what we have been working for.”

For four long years, Seymour’s senior classmates have been the second school in town. On Friday night they became visible on the radar.

When JDHS’ Gary Speck missed a layup in the last seconds and Adam Empson missed the follow and Keith Ainsworth lost the ball out of bounds, time expired and Falcons’ fans stormed the court.

“It is a pretty exciting feeling,” TMHS coach John Blasco said as fans and players celebrated around him. “Of course it is a hell of a win, but to win in these conditions is a lot of fun. I don’t know... I am speechless.”

Those conditions included a near-capacity crowd, a noise level that required teams to use hand signals and officials to gesture more forcibly after each whistle.

“Thunder Mountain really worked their butts off to get back into this game,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “Hats off to them, they did not quit.”

Seymour’s last second heroics almost never materialized.

The Falcons trailed by 10 at the half, 27-17, as JD used a 15-4 run to ease into the break. The lead was 11, 45-34 at the end of the third period.

With three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter the Crimson Bears had a 53-39 lead, control of the game, and the ball.

“I just said guys we have been in this position before,” Blasco said. “You are seniors. It is your turn to just keep working hard and make it happen. I am going to leave all of you on the floor until the end of the game. They played with a lot of heart tonight. I am proud of them.”

A JDHS turnover on a forced pass inside resulted in junior Ben Jahn being fouled on the other end and hitting one of two.

The Falcons’ full-court pressure forced another missed pass by JDHS and Jahn scored inside on an assist by senior Sam Jahn.

B. Jahn scored again and senior Josh Tupou stole the ball and scored.

With 2:09 left, the Falcons trailed 53-47 and S. Jahn was called for his fourth foul as JDHS senior Aquino Brinson drove to the bucket.

Brinson hit both free throws and the lead was eight, 55-47.

After a Falcons’ turnover, Seymour stole the ball back and hit a deep three, making the score 55-50 with 1:36 remaining. JDHS turned the ball over in the press again and S. Jahn made it a three-point game with 1:15 left.

“We dribbled into trapping areas when they were in trapping situations,” Casperson said. “The pressure of the moment seemed to have gotten to us at times and we made poor decisions with the ball. Guys were hiding it seemed, instead of being confidant in their abilities. Our timing was bad; guys didn’t work to get open. Reality being, we allowed too many points in the fourth quarter. We had been patient all game long and then they forced us to take quick, bad shots.”

JDHS missed a free throw on their next possession and B. Jahn grabbed his ninth rebound of the game.

On the Falcons’ end, B. Jahn scored on a put back of his own shot with 14.5 seconds left, making the game 55-54.

Speck hit one-of-two free throws for a 56-54 Crimson Bears lead with 13.6 seconds left and Seymour found himself unattended in front of the JDHS fan base to drain the game winner.

“Now we go take a deep breathe,” Blasco said. “We wake up tomorrow and think about tomorrow, tomorrow.”

S. Jahn led the Falcons with a game-high 27 points, B. Jahn added 12, Seymour 10, J. Tupou and Vili Tupou four apiece. TMHS hit 12-21 at the charity stripe, JDHS went 10-12.

“You can not worry about how the game is called,” Casperson said. “It comes down to we have to execute. There is not a referee in the game that does not block out or allows his man to score or turns the ball over. We had every opportunity to seal the game.”

Ainsworth led the Crimson Bears with 20 points, Brinson added 15, Speck 11, Nathan Klein six, and Empson four.

“I am so glad for our team,” Vili Tupou said. “The first to beat JDHS. We have been wanting this since we first started the program. We have been waiting so long for this opportunity and now we got it. Everybody knows that Thunder Mountain doesn’t mess around any more.”

On Saturday the Falcons went on an 8-0 run and never trailed in the game enroute to a 68-49 win. TMHS opened a 20-11 first quarter advantage as Seymour knocked down 12 of his game-high 26 points, including three from beyond the arch, in the stanza.

TMHS followed with 18 points in the second quarter, including three more triples (two by Ty Grussendorf and one from Jacob Calloway) and led 38-23 at the break.

Jeffrey Pusich and Adam Empson each scored eight of their 10 and 12, respectively, game points in the first half to keep the Crimson Bears with a little momentum coming into the second half.

JDHS would play almost even over the final 16 minutes but the Falcons went 12-17 from the charity stripe in the final two quarters and 18-22 for the game.

JDHS hit 15-21 (11-13 in the second half) from the line but had 12 turnovers.

Pusich, Jackson Lehnhart and Kevin Guimmayen scored the only field goals for the Crimson Bears in the second half.

The Falcons led by 20, 64-44, with three minutes remaining in the game and the end was almost official when fans chanted for TMHS’ Rohan Kishore to be let off the bench and onto the floor.

“It shows a lot of character,” Blasco said. “This is our first cycle of freshman to seniors, there is a lot of chemistry. We obviously showed a lot of heart last night pulling off that one point win. Tonight the guys were focused and played much better for 32 minutes and everybody stepped up in a big way.”

Calloway added 11 points for the Falcons, Grussendorf and S. Jahn eight apiece, B. Jahn seven, V. Tupou six, and J. Tupou two.

Brinson added 10 points for the Crimson Bears, Lenhart five, Ainsworth four, Guimmayen and Klein three each, and Jones two.

“Friday was an emotional situation for us,” Casperson said. “That was evident in how we started tonight. The disappointment seemed to carry over for us and the confidence seemed to carry over for them. I was proud of our guys for the way they came out and competed in the second half. They scraped, they clawed, they fought, they tried to stay in it. I thought they conducted themselves with class on the floor. I felt they were respectful to their opponent and to the officials at all times, and that is important. It was easily a situation where they could have let their emotions get in control of their intelligence.”

TMHS (9-5, 3-1 southeast) take the top spot in the conference from Ketchikan (2-2) while. JDHS (5-9, 1-3) hosts Wasilla on Monday, the Falcons host Wasilla on Tuesday.

Friday February 01, 2013
Crimson Bears and Falcons set for Homecoming tip-off - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     First meeting of the season for boy's Southeast Conference powers

The most anticipated high school basketball matchup of the season for local Juneau fans takes place tonight and Saturday at the Juneau-Douglas High School gym as the Crimson Bears’ boys host the Thunder Mountain Falcons.

Juneau-Douglas (5-9 overall, 1-1 conference) and Thunder Mountain (7-5, 1-1) have a chance to take the conference lead or grab a share of it with Ketchikan (6-10, 2-2). The Falcons beat Ketchikan three times this season, although one win was taken away due to a player participating in more quarters than allowed.

On paper this is supposed to be TMHS’ year. JDHS has split with the Kings.

“Everybody views it differently,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “It is easy to get overly hyped up for this game. It is a conference game, it is the in-town rival, and obviously a team we have not beat. It is an important game, but in my view we are just approaching it as another game with a game plan and preparation just as we would with any other team. Nothing is different.”

For the Falcons’ seniors, this is their last chance to get a first-ever varsity win over JDHS in the Crimson Bears home den.

For the Crimson Bears’ seniors, it is a “not on our watch” moment.

“These kids grew up playing basketball with and against each other their whole careers,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “When you bring the schools together like this, it brings the community together. I think some of my fondest memories in high school were playing in front of a packed house here.”

The Falcons have not played in three weeks.

“You have to be confident,” Blasco said. “If you are not a confident person on a team you are not going to be successful. People have said we have had a heck of a season, but there is a lot more of the season to go. We prepare for JD like we prepare for anybody. You study film, you break down your opponent and you figure out the best game plan that gives you the opportunity to win.”

JDHS has been up and down this season. That was evident in last Friday’s 49-42 double overtime win at Ketchikan. In that game the Crimson Bears did not score a point in the second quarter and racked up 26 points in the third quarter.

The Crimson Bears have played their last nine games on the road and are glad to be playing at home.

“We are certainly road tested and the guys are excited to be back playing in front of their home crowd,” Casperson said. “Thunder Mountain is bringing a lot of experience. I would be absolutely shocked if we had any issues with effort. I am happy for Blasco, he has worked hard to get his team in the position they are in.”

Home crowds were cut in half for both schools four years ago; now the division rematches fill the bleachers.

“JD has the ability to press full court and either speed the game up or slow it down,” Blasco said. “Hopefully on Friday our layoff hasn’t made us rusty.”

Both teams like to attack the rim and hit the boards.

Both have been getting more comfortable with their teammates and reaching a higher fitness level.

Both have made rebounding a primary focus in recent weeks.

While neither coach would comment on a starting five, both teams have combinations of players that can affect the game.

JDHS’ Aquino Brinson and Keith Ainsworth are quick at the guard positions and like to get to the rim, Jeffrey Pusich and Gary Speck have a nose for the ball, Adam Empson does not play like a sophomore. Bruce Jones and Nathan Klein can impact the game inside and Jackson Lehnhart and Dar Hodge-Campos outside.

TMHS’ Vili and Josh Tupou are solid physical ball handlers, Matt Seymour is a scorer, Ty Grussendorf likes to shoot the three ball, Sam and Ben Jahn are aggressive inside players and Jacob Calloway is far beyond sophomore talent. Travis Johnson can influence inside and Mike Uddipa outside.

“Everybody wants to win right away,” Blasco said. “It took me a while to realize that you are building a program and you are not necessarily going to win right away. You have to find systems that work and get the guys to buy into it and get them comfortable playing with each other. It has taken some time.”

Said Casperson, “One of the only reasons someone is not inside our gymnasium tonight is pretty simple... they must not be a fan of basketball.

Both boys’ games on Friday and Saturday start at 8 p.m. The JDHS girl’s host the Colony Knights both nights at 6:15 p.m.

Sunday January 27, 2013
Crimson Bears' boys split at Kayhi - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     JDHS wins 49-42, falls 59-54

The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boy’s basketball team took control of the Southeast Conference with a win at Ketchikan on Friday, dropping the Kings 49-42, and then lost conference control with a 59-54 double overtime defeat.

“It was ugly,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said of Friday’s game. “It was a pretty lackluster first half of scoring for the Crimson Bears.”

JDHS over came a slow start and a scoreless quarter to get into the conference standings on Friday night.

After being tied 8-8 in the first quarter the Crimson Bears did not hit the scoreboard until after halftime. Ketchikan held a 16-8 lead starting the third period, yet JDHS led 34-28 starting the final period.

Aquino Brinson led the Bears with 14 points, Keith Ainsworth added 12, Jeffrey Pusich 10, Gary Speck six, Bruce Jones three and Nathan Klein two. JDHS hit 18-26 from the charity stripe, Ketchikan went 11-28. Kable Lervick led the Kings with 14 points.

On Saturday the Kings led throughout the game taking a 15-11 first quarter advantage, 22-21 at the half and 38-33 into the fourth period.

Both teams scored five points in the first overtime and Ketchikan outscored the Crimson Bears 7-2 in the second overtime for the win.

Ainsworth led the Crimson Bears with 19 points, Speck added 10 and Jones eight. Lervick led the Kings with 11, Malek Almenzor and Colton Paulson added 10 apiece.

Sunday January 20, 2013
Crimson Bears' boys fall in final games of Prep Classic - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     JDHS loses to Chugiak 53-49, Palmer 51-28

The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boy’s basketball team lost in the semifinals of the Dimond Prep Classic in Anchorage on Friday to the Chugiak Mustangs 53-49 and then in the third-place game on Saturday against the Palmer Moose 51-28.

“We got good shots but didn’t make any,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said of Saturday’s consolation loss to Palmer. “And we shot less than 30 percent from the floor.”

The Crimson Bears could not buy a basket, according to Casperson, and missed short hook shots, wide open three’s and layins against the athletic Palmer team.

“You are not going to beat too many teams at the varsity level shooting that percentage and scoring that low,” Casperson said. “Let alone the good teams like Palmer.”

The game was actually tied at six-all after one quarter of play, but the Crimson Bears couldn’t score in double figures in any of the final three periods while Palmer rode the shooting touch of all-state player Connor Looney.

Looney scored nine of his game-high 25 points in the second quarter as the Moose opened a 21-12 halftime advantage, and 12 more in the third period as they put up 20 points to seven for the Crimson Bears.

Senior Keith Ainsworth led JDHS with eight points, seniors Aquino Brinson and Jeffrey Pusich added six each, senior Gary Speck four, sophomores Adam Empson and Bruce Jones one apiece. Empson led with four rebounds and two assists.

JDHS hit 6-12 at the charity stripe, Palmer went 8-11. The Crimson Bears had 17 turnovers to 12 for the Moose.

Brian Selmer added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Moose, Hayden Niekamp five points, Nathan Mayer and James Nisbett two apiece.

Other Saturday scores included Grace beating Ketchikan 72-57 (Kable Lervick led the Kings with 26 points), Dimond over Soldotna 55-43, and Bartlett taking the championship game 61-59 over Chugiak.

Brinson was selected to the all-tournament team and Pusich received player of the game honors.

“He played hard,” Casperson said of Brinson. “He played consistent throughout all three games.

I hope it is a turning point for him.”

On Friday, the Chugiak Mustangs led 17-10 starting the second quarter against JDHS and opened up the largest lead of the game until the Crimson Bears hit a bucket to close to 31-19 at the half. The Crimson Bears outscored the Mustangs 12-9 in the third period and 30-22 in the second half, including a 12-2 run in the final period, but Chugiak held on for the four-point win, 53-49.

Ainsworth led the Crimson Bears with 12 points, Speck added 11, Empson eight, Brinson seven, Pusich six, Nathan Klein four, and Jones one.

JDHS hit 13-22 at the charity stripe, Chugiak went 15-23.

Skyler Fullmer scored 26 points to lead the Mustangs, Jake Brownlee added nine, Payton Fullmer and Roger Jorgensen eight apiece, and Alex Hess two.

The Mustangs outrebounded the Crimson Bears 41-29 (Brownlee 10 CHS, Fullmer eight CHS, Ainsworth eight JD, Speck six JD). JDHS had 11 turnovers, Chugiak 15.

Ainsworth was selected player of the game.

In other Friday action Ketchikan fell to Dimond 60-44, Bartlett topped Palmer 74-51, Soldotna over Grace 51-28.

JDHS will play at Ketchikan on Friday and Saturday.

Friday January 18, 2013
Crimson Bears top Dimond in tourney opener - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears put in four solid quarters to open the Dimond Lynx Prep Classic in Anchorage on Thursday night, toppling the host Lynx 62-59.

“We shot a much higher percentage tonight,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “We were able press that created lay up opportunities for us.”

JDHS trailed 11-9 starting the second period as a new three-quarter-court press took hold.

The Crimson Bears got some separation in the second quarter, scoring 17 points to Dimond’s 7, as Aquino Brinson and Jackson Lehnhart provided a solid point guard and two guard combination and JDHS took a 26-18 lead into the half.

“The guys played harder for the whole game,” Casperson said. “Even when our lead was slipping away they still played hard, just didn’t execute as well.”

JDHS led 42-31 starting the final period.

Jeffrey Pusich hit a key free throw to push the margin to three, a second free throw missed but the ball went out of bounds with .3 seconds remaining and the Lynx looking at the full length of the floor.

Brinson stole the inbounds pass to seal the win.

Brinson led the Crimson Bears with 15 points, Keith Ainsworth 14, Jackson Lehnhart 10, Jeffrey Pusich and Adam Empson nine apiece, and Bruce Jones five. Ainsworth led with five rebounds and Empson four assists.

JDHS hit 11-16 from the charity stripe, Dimond went 15-23. Damon Cikanek led the Lynx with 23 points.

The Crimson Bears play Chugiak tonight at 8 p.m. The Mustangs beat Ketchikan 62-47. Other games included Bartlett topping Soldotna 51-50 and Palmer beating Grace Christian 52-49.

Thursday January 17, 2013
JDHS boys fall 55-34 at Colony Knights - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     A slow start defensively put the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boy’s basketball team in a deep hole on Wednesday night at Northern Lights Conference leader Colony and allowed the Knights to take a non-conference 55-34 win.

The Crimson Bears won the opening tip and scored first on Aquino Brinson’s jumper and after the Knights tied the score Brinson drained a three for another advantage. Colony put a run to tie the score again and then take a 17-9 lead.

“We gave up the biggest quarter of the game to them in the first,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “Right out of the gate we were down big. Brinson has had some big games for us this year and now if we can just find that consistency all around, we have guys scoring one game and disappearing the next.”

Brinson led the Crimson Bears with a team high 13 points and tallied six of those in the second quarter as JDHS pulled to within five points at the break 25-20.

Another flat start in the third quarter put the Crimson Bears down 41-26 starting the final quarter.

“We gave up some nice looks to them,” Casperson said. “They caught us in the help side rotation and knocked down some pretty open shots. We have got to do better defensively if we are going to compete. Scoring 34 points doesn’t help us a whole lot, but if we are playing better defensively it will help to withstand those draughts on offense.”

Key to the game was the loss of Crimson Bears senior forward Gary Speck who rolled his ankle in warm-ups. Speck is listed as day-to-day.

“Gary just has a nose for the ball,” Casperson said. “He cuts hard, he always has his hands ready and he goes after rebounds. Not having him affected us.”

Jeff Pusich added six points for the Crimson Bears, Keith Ainsworth five, Adam Empson and Jackson Lehnhart three apiece, Manase Maake and Nathan Klein two each.

JDHS hit 6-13 at the charity stripe, Colony went 11-19.

Damien Fulp led the Knights with 14 points, Joe Gray added 10, Hunter Eisenhower nine, and Nathan Umbarger eight to top the scoring. Five other Knights added two points apiece.

“We have shown at times that we can do the things we need to do,” Casperson said. “It is the concentration and the execution that we need to do through the entire game. We were not aggressive enough, we were back on our heels. We finally decided we were going to attack a little more in the fourth quarter but by then it was already a 15-point game.”

JDHS plays Dimond tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the opening game of the Dimond Lynx Tournament.

Tuesday January 15, 2013
JDHS alum Brinson GNAC Player of the Week - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     When it is 40 below zero in Fairbanks, it is still warm inside a gymnasium. At least that is the mantra that 2008 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate Dominique Brinson has adhered to.

“Winters are rough but you stay pretty warm when you are inside the gym here,” Brinson said of playing college basketball at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “It has been a lot of hard work. A lot of shooting, getting as many shots as I can, and practice, and studying, and then finding additional time for some more basketball work.”

All that work is paying off as the UAF senior guard, an accounting major, has been named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Red Lion Player of the Week, the league office announced Monday morning, according to a press release from UAF.

“I’m very happy for Dom,” UAF head coach Mick Durham said in a UAF media release. “He’s probably the hardest worker we have in the program and had a great summer. He loves to play, so it’s exciting to see him get rewarded for his play.”

Brinson scored 44 points, including a season-high 28 in last Saturday’s 89-56 victory against Western Oregon to lead the Nanooks (10-4, 5-1 GNAC) to a home sweep, which extended their winning streak to six games, with the last five wins coming in conference play.

Brinson shot nearly 62 percent (16-26 FG) for the week and drained nine three-pointers to finish the week 53 percent (9-17 3PT) from beyond the arc. In Saturday’s win, Brinson knocked down a career-best six threes while also tying a career-high with seven rebounds to go with six assists. He also netted three triples in Thursday’s 81-58 win over Saint Martin’s and finished with a game-high 16 points.

Durham credited Brinson as also playing backup point, being a defensive specialist, and the ability to get his shot going quickly in a game.

“Really it has just been finding confidence in practice and games,” Brinson said. “And the team is playing really well as a team, that allows everybody to relax and feel comfortable on the court.”

Brinson leads the Nanooks and ranks eighth in the GNAC in scoring with 15.0 points per game this season. He also ranks third in free throw percentage (.889, 40-45 FT), fifth with 2.4 treys per game and tied for 13th in three-point percentage (.415, 34-82 3PT).

“The big thing with Dom is we’ve been trying to get him to become a more consistent shooter, get his percentage up from a year ago,” Durham said. “He gained valuable experience last season as a junior in the GNAC.”

Brinson spends up to three hours a day in practice, finds additional time to shoot around and additional time to lift weights.

“My game stepped up after high school,” Brinson said. “I was always athletic, but scoring wise I didn’t really get that mind set until my first two college years. Hitting the weights has been key. I wasn’t the biggest guy in high school so it took a lot of work to get my size now.”

Brinson began his college career playing at College Of The Redwoods in Eureka California, under coach Rich Mendoza. Brinson was spotted at a team camp the Crimson Bears attended in Fairbanks which Mendoza taught at.

Two solid years in Eureka did no produce a lot of four-year college interest, so Brinson took a year off to hone his game. He contacted old coaches to improve his talent and find a home court to call his own.

UAF coach Durham saw tapes of Brinson and wanted the Alaska sharp shooter in his program.

UAF returns to action this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when the Nanooks face their in state rival Alaska Anchorage Seawolves (10-4, 3-3 GNAC) at the Patty Center.

“I am really looking forward to playing against Fossman,” Brinson said of UAA’s Haines alum Kyle Fossman. “It is a pretty exciting matchup. He is a hard working player and it is going to be a challenge for me to guard him.”

Brinson hopes to find an outlet for hoops after this season.

“I don’t see basketball ending for me,” Brinson said. “I would like to turn it into a career but really I am just focused right now to help the team make the conference tournament and, hopefully, the national tournament.”

Thursday January 10, 2013
The 1981-82 Crimson Bears state basketball champions - Juneau Empire by Ethan Billings
     In 1981-82 Back in Black was a top selling album for AC/DC and it was also the perfect theme for the 1981-82 Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears Boys 4A Alaska State Championship Basketball Team. The JD High boys first State title since 1972-73. Black uniforms were introduced to the Crimson Bear program for the first time for the 1980-81 season and the second year of Back in Black proved to be straight ahead rock and roll. The team dominated the State of Alaska going 30-1, with the season’s only loss, a one-point loss to Bothell, Washington at the Ketchikan Christmas Tournament. The team went 20-0 in Region 5 (Southeast) Conference play for the first time since 1954. In fact, a bet was made by the team with Head Coach Jim “Hambo” Hamey that if the team went undefeated in conference play, Coach Hamey would shave his head. The bet was satisfied after the season in front of the entire school at the most well-attended assembly at JD High that year.

The 1981-82 State Champions were led by 1st Team All-Alaska senior guards Lance “Soul” Solberg (Team MVP), Ethan “E” Billings (1982 Alaska Player of the Year) and junior forward All-Alaska Honorable Mention Craig “Dough Boy” Kahklen. These three were known as “The Triangle”. The team was a defensive team with offensive tendencies, meaning the defense dictated most of the offense as this team could run and gun fast break with anyone. The team averaged 85 points a game off of defensive pressure, mind games, mental toughness, and fast break basketball, all without the 3-point shot which was introduced to Alaska high school basketball in the 1987-88 season.

The defense was led by team captain, leading rebounder, defensive specialist, and ‘best dressed’, senior forward Brent “Spectreman” Fagerstrom. Enforcing the front line was 6’ 5” junior jumping jack forward/center Ross “Og” Ogden and 6’ 8” junior center Scott “Stew” Stewart. Other key bench contributors known as The Bomb Squad included: future Crimson Bear coach, junior guard Kevin “Casper” Casperson, junior forward Eric “Bird” Holst, junior guard Ken “Wizard” Willard, sophomore guard Marc “Banger” Greeley and sophomore forward and future Crimson Bear coach Matt “Hoss” Newhouse. The assistant coach was future Crimson Bears coach George “General” Houston and the manager of the team was future Crimson Bears coach Steve “Potts” Potter.

The average margin of victory per game during the 1981-82 season was 23 points. The team scored 103 points in the first game of the season at Prince Rupert, BC. Of the 30 victories, the team had only five games all season closer than five points: a two-point down to the wire victory at Ketchikan, a one-point last second buzzer beater at Sitka, a Dough Boy last second turn-around jumper one-point heart-pounder in the Southeast Tournament Semi-Final in Sitka against the 4-corners offense of stubborn Metlakatla 31-30, and a five-point State Tournament Semi-Final overtime victory over Chuck White’s East Anchorage Thunderbirds dynasty.

The 1981-82 team must be considered as one of the best overall Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bear basketball teams ever assembled. As youths, most of the players were coached by such Juneau’s legends as Bill Tompkins, Roger Polley, Bruce Casperson, Butch Holst, Bill Szepanski, and Darrell Ness (yes he’s a legend). The players also benefited from honing their skills at open gyms against a fraternity of past Crimson Bears including Mike and Steve Bavard, Pat Kemp, Tim O’Donnell, Jeff Miller, Creighton Miller, Dennis Edwards, Mark Pusich, Rich Eakins, Guy Tompkins, Dave Ignell, Mike Kelly, Don Nowlin, Chip Cantrell, Kevin Fagerstrom, Steve Brandner, Chris Monagle, Bret Schmiege, and John Richards to name a few.

The team was as unselfish as could be found on the court. Teammates got more thrill out of making the great pass, playing tough defense, and setting a hard screen than worrying about “getting their points”, everyone except for Soul that is. The greatest strength was team chemistry on the court as well as off the court on the many memorable road trips. Most of the core of this team had been playing together since 7th and 8th grade and it showed as this team could play with any team from any era in Alaska High School Basketball History.

As I look back on that championship year, I realize how unique and special it is to play high school athletics in Southeast Alaska and I thank Coach Hamey and Coach Houston for the work ethic they instilled in me and my teammates to work hard to reach your goals. GO BEARS!!

The strength of this basketball team is easy to affirm by reading the names of opponents on the teams they played: Kevin Worley (Skagway), Brien Craig, Steve and Paul Axelson (Ketchikan), Ken Winger, Jamie Castillo, Grussendorf (Sitka), Tompkins, Wilson (Haines), Conrad Hudson, George Blandov, Byron Hayward and J.R. Booth (Metlakatla), Mitch Eide (Petersburg), Tony Reed (East), Mike Farrell (West), Paul Durham (North Pole), and Ron Williams (Kodiak) to name but a few.

They also faced alumni who played at major, minor and junior colleges and that were kings of city league tournaments for years, their names are mentioned in the article. These alumni would return in the summers and the school breaks. In what is fondly remembered as the good old (pre-three-point-line) days there was a Southeast tradition of basketball play. Freshmen and sophomores would team up to play juniors and seniors and both would play alumni and city leaguers in open gyms at all hours.

There were no social media distractions. No easy outlets to other pastimes. High School travel trips were bonding experiences for teams as they got on the ferry or plane and were gone for three or four days without texts and facebook.

“That is why basketball was so good then and still can be,” Billings said. “You are bonding on these road trips. You are traveling sometimes every weekend. There is a lot of disconnect now. There was a time when you knew these guys were coming back to live in the town, and they would be in the gym over Christmas and be back in the summer and after they graduated they were in the city leagues.”

As with all communities Juneau too is seeing many college graduates not returning. The world is more accessible. The player’s tradition is not as strong. Luckily Juneau still has the coaching connection that has carried on various philosophies from Claire Markey, to Hamey, to Houston, to Potter, to Casperson.

The Crimson Bears Philosophy was actually a 20-plus page booklet given to players. Aside from terminology of the game and X’s and O’s it also included how to conduct oneself on the road.

A few years ago former JDHS coach James Hamey told me the most talented team he ever had was his first season in Juneau when the Bavard’s and O’Donnell tortured him with their long hair and wild ways. He also mentioned the 1977 and 1978 teams with Fagerstrom, Calvin, Ignell, Kelly, Monagle, Nowlin, Cantrell, Brandner and Richards when East High School used an illegal player to win state.

“The best team I ever had though were the state champions of 1982,” Hamey said. “We got there not because of talent, but because of all the character and hard work.”

Hamey credited the work ethic of that team and assistant coach Houston, calling their season a “cooperative effort.”

Perhaps the most over looked part of the 1982 state championship team is the author of the historical piece this accompanies, Ethan Billings. Only two JDHS Crimson Bears MEN’s basketball players have been selected as Player Of The Year. Carlos Boozer in 1998 and 1999, and Billings in 1982.

To be a State Anything Of The Year, you have to possess some talent. Billing’s was his ball handling, passing, defense and well, all around game.

Billings selection is possibly even more impressive if you look at the size difference (Boozer was an imposing power forward while Billings was a 5-foot-something, 150-pounds when wet guard) and the fact that Billings almost died on the basketball court the previous year.

“It was October 18, 1980,” Billings said. “A three man weave drill but only on the baseline.”

Billings suffered a skull fracture that first day of his junior season. Colliding in the air with friend and teammate Lance Solberg, Billings landed awkwardly, the back of his head striking the maple floor. The trauma was so severe that green membratic fluid was coming from his eyes, ears and mouth as he lay in unconscious convulsions. EMT’s said at the hospital it didn’t look good. Billings came too while at Bartlett during his medevac and next awoke in Anchorage two weeks later.

“I remember seeing Hamey and Guy Tompkins and Lance as they wheeled me out to the plane,” Billings said. “I remember taking up three seats in the plane and then waking up over a week later to Monday Night Football in the hospital.”

Billings recovered and was cleared to play, making the final 10 games of that season. That JDHS team lost to Sitka on a last second shot in the southeast tourney and went to state as the number two seed where they placed fifth. Billings played sparingly as he had lost weight and was out of shape. The next season he would add various team hustle awards and the honor of being named the state’s best player.

“My mentality was who cares, I could have died,” Billings said. “I was all Let’s go, let’s play ball attitude.”

Sunday January 06, 2013
Boys fall at Kodiak - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     After two quality outings in the tournament the Crimson Bears boys stumbled against the home town Kodiak Bears.

“There wasn’t much to talk about really,” JDHS coach Casperson said of the boys 55-24 loss. “We have some work a head of us. We got some decent looks but just didn’t get anything to drop.”

Bruce Jones led the Crimson Bears with six points (complete scoring was not available by press time).

Jeffrey Pusich won the tournament free throw shooting competition. Pusich also made the all-tourney team and Keith Ainsworth was selected the tournament Most Valuable Player.

Saturday January 05, 2013
JDHS boys win 67-56 - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Ainsworth put on a highlight show to lead the Crimson Bears past the North Pole Patriots 67-56.

Ainsworth went 6-6 from the charity stripe in the first quarter, threw down two break-a-way dunks in the second, notched a couple normal deuces in the third, and found the long ball in the final period.

“None of that by itself stands out other than what it totals up to,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “It was typical good solid consistent play from Keith and it came out of the offense. He put in some work to get there.”

North Pole played a 1-3-1 zone defense through the entire game.

“They were very aggressive out front with their guards,” Casperson said. “They have some strong kids and we weren’t ready to counter that until later in the game.”

Leading 15-13 starting the second period the Crimson Bears found themselves at the free throw line for seven of their 11 second quarter points and went into the half leading 26-24.

Jeff Pusich established inside position in the third period, and Adam Empson and Jackson Lehnhart got into the flow on the outside to keep JDHS up 40-36 starting the final quarter.

Ainsworth collected 15 of his game high 29 in the final eight minutes of play and Aquino Brinson six more, including four key free throws in the final possessions. Pusich finished with 11 points, Brinson eight, Lehnhart and Empson seven, Gary Speck and Dar Campos two apiece and Nathan Klein one. JDHS hit 25-36 at the free throw line, North Pole was 14-27. JD committed 20 fouls to NP’s 27. J. Million and K. Steward led the Patriots with 12 points each, Gibson added eight, Tamse seven, Tucker five, Reich and Campbell three, Hill, McCoy and Betts two.

“A win certainly feels better than the alternative,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “But we were still way to loose and sloppy with the ball. We can’t accept in victory what we can’t accept in defeat. We had a few more turnovers and more fouls than we would like.”

Friday January 04, 2013
Crimson Bears battle at Kodiak - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boys and girls opened play in the 46th Annual Joe Floyd/ERA Aviation Winter Classic Basketball Tournament on Thursday after high winds forced a return flight to spend the night in Anchorage. The teams over headed Kodiak Wednesday evening.

The boys were up at dawn and arrived at the tourney in time for their 2 p.m. start Thursday, losing to West 76-46, and the girls did not touch down in Kodiak until close to 8 p.m.

The Crimson Bears’ boys got a valiant effort from senior Aquino Brinson in the first quarter as the lefty guard hit for eight of his team high 16 points. Senior guard Jackson Lehnhart returned from a broken nose to man the point position and registered four assists and sophomore Adam Empson moved to the sixth man rotation, which gave JDHS a solid rotation.

“It was a decent game through most of the first half,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. ”I thought we played too loose with the ball against a team that likes to take the ball away from you. West was just quicker to the ball and more aggressive and in high school athletics, victory usually goes to the aggressor.”

West still continues to be a tough draw for JDHS, opening a 23-15 first quarter advantage and pulling away early in the second stanza to lead by 12 points.

JDHS senior Keith Ainsworth’s shot from beyond the corner arch cut the lead to eight mid-way through the quarter but double bonus foul trouble for the Crimson Bears allowed West to hit 10-15 at the charity stripe in the first half.

Starting the third period down 37-25, JDHS saw four triples by West fall into the net as the Eagles got hot to take a 55-37 lead into the final stanza.

Jeff Pusich added nine points for the Crimson Bears, Adam Empson seven, Dar Hodge-Campos and Ainsworth five apiece and Gary Speck four. JDHS went 10-19 at the charity stripe, West was 14-26. Christian Nidoy led the Eagles with 14 points, Deandre Wilson 11, Theo Oghide and Joe Riley 10 apiece, Curtis Sicks seven, Da’Zhon Wyche and David Harrison six each, Jhayde Zamora five, Don McMorris four and Ivan King three.

Junior Dar Hodge-Campos and seniors Gary Speck and Jeff Pusich were credited by the coaching staff as playing aggressively throughout the game.

“But it has to be everybody, it is not a team mind set yet,” Casperson said. “The way we practiced to get ready and the way we played in the Capital City Classic I figured we would be ready. It almost feels like we hit the reset button today. We took some punches and we were dazed, we kind of hung in there sometimes but we would go on some stretches where we couldn’t sustain the positive things we were doing.”

The JDHS girls ran into a hot shooting Kodiak Bears squad, including Christy Cannon who connected for 16 points early and gave the hosts a 26-19 lead at the half.

Juneau cut the score to within 11 with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter when a turnover gave Kodiak a basket. Esra Siddeek hit a buzzer beater from the top of the key to make it 41-30 starting the final quarter.

JDHS’ Siddeek and Fenumiai pulled the Crimson Bears to within four points with one minute remaining in the game. JDHS had the ball in the last minute and an errant pass gave it to the Bears from the host city. Kodiak scored for a six point margin and hung on for the 49-40 win as JDHS was forced to foul in the closing seconds.

Siddeek led with 14 points, Fenumiai added 12 and Balovich six to lead the Crimson Bears.

“We got out hustled, honestly,” JDHS coach Dee Boster said. “We are having a hard time getting started. We wait until the last seven minutes of a game to get going and that is too late.”

Sunday December 30, 2012
JDHS boys stun East T-Birds in Cap Classic - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boy’s basketball team won the battle but East Anchorage won the war.

“This is huge,” JDHS senior center Jeff Pusich said. “It shows the rest of the state that we are for real and team should not take us for granted. East is definitely a powerhouse in the state and this is just the beginning of what we can do.”

In the Capital City Classic final game, the Crimson Bears downed the Thunderbirds 56-53 to make a three-way tie among the two 4A schools and 3A Sitka (West Valley went 0-3). East would win the title do to point differentials in wins.

In the eyes of the players and a packed JDHS gymnasium however, the toughest team on the night were the Crimson Bears.

JDHS guard Dartanan Hodge-Campos cut backdoor with 19 seconds remaining and the Crimson Bears leading East by one point 52-51.

A perfect pass by senior Keith Ainsworth and Hodge-Campos scored, was fouled, and hit the free throw to give JDHS a 55-51 lead.

“Less contact than a football game,” Hodge-Campos said after the game. “But way more fun. Oh yeah I was excited, oh yeah.”

East’s Desmond Johnson drove for a basket to cut the margin to 55-53 with 9.9 remaining.

“I just let the game come to me,” Johnson said. “And work with the team. I think this game is going to make us work harder in practice. We are going to come back in the season and work hard. I think this was good for us to lose now rather than in the middle of the season.”

Ainsworth was fouled in the East press with 8.8 remaining and hit one of two free throws for the 56-53 advantage.

East still had on chance on the rebound and pushed the ball the length of the court but time ran out as they tried to find tournament MVP Jarred Laws.

“We are a family and we play like it,” Laws said. “Every day in practice we just want to work harder and get better. That is all we do. This tournament was great, the atmosphere was great. I enjoyed it.”

After a 19-8 first quarter run by East, the Crimson Bears enjoyed their own binge in the second stanza, outscoring East 18-4 for a 26-23 lead at the break.

East got the upper hand in the third period with Laws and Xavier Johnson downing three’s while Pusich battled inside for JDHS.

“We know what we can do,” Pusich said. “We just have to keep our heads and stay focused under the pressure. I am confidant. I have gone against players just as athletic in my three years here so it is really routine.”

Each time East would go on a run the Crimson Bears would answer.

Each time JDHS would go on a run, the Thunder Birds would answer.

East led 43-37 starting the final stanza and JDHS went on an nine to two run tying the game at 45 on a basket by Pusich and a free-throw for the lead

An East basket by Johnson regained the lead at 2:48.

Ainsworth then lofted a soft floater for JDHS, stole the ball on the other end and fed Aquino Brinson on another back door basket for a 50-47 advantage.

East’s Xavier Johnson tallied two free throws to draw within a point but Gary Speck drained a jumper with 43 seconds remaining. East again pulled too within one on X. Johnson’s basket, setting the stage for Ainsworth to fed Hodge-Campos his heroics.

“For a young group like that this is a very big win,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “They had to work hard to stay in it, play through some adversity. It is a pretty tough East Anchorage group. I am really proud of my guys and their effort. They are really starting to do the things we practice and make progress, I think we are always going to have a chance. With a group this young and green you are going to get player surprises every night.”

Pusich led JDHS with 14 points, Ainsworth and Speck10, Hodge-Campos seven, Brinson and Bruce Jones six, and Adam Empson three. The Crimson Bears hit 8-15 at the line, East Anchorage went 6-17. Xavier Johnson led the Thunderbirds with 13 points, Laws and Michael Bond 11 each, Travon Brackett eight, Desmond Johnson six, Matthew Hardwick four.

“Games like this are made by executing and making great decisions, great plays and little plays,” East coach Josh Muehlenkamp said. “We didn’t make enough little plays. Juneau played great. They played disciplined. This atmosphere is why teams come here. I want my kids to feel the band, the fans, and get in a close game and understand the execution, the passion and the pride that people have here. There is nothing like Southeast tournament basketball.”

Saturday December 29, 2012
Speck leads JDHS through West Valley- Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Juneau-Douglas High School senior Gary Speck picked up the Crimson Bears on his broad shoulders and carried them to a 65-64 victory over West Valley in Friday's nightcap game of the Capital City Classic.

Speck picked up Southeast, Speck picked up the town, and Speck picked up just about every loose ball and rebound, as he turned the fourth quarter into his personal highlight reel en route to scoring a game high 19 points stealing the wind out of the Wolfpack and leaving fans breathless as well.

The biggest of those came with 9.5 seconds remaining in the game and the Crimson Bears trailing 64-63.

Fouled inside after rebounding a missed Crimson Bears shot, Speck hit two free throws to seal the win.

"I was pretty nervous," Speck said. "I was shaking." The Crimson Bears went into the fourth quarter trailing 52-51. A 7-2 run by the Wolfpack, including a three-pointer by Jason Gordon (who fouled out 10 seconds later, pushed the lead to 59-53. West Valley's Charles Sudduth fouled out at the 4:19 mark and put Speck on the line.

Speck hit his first pair of free throws to edge closer, then rebounded a missed Wolfpack shot and hustled down court to receive a pretty pass from Keith Ainsworth for a baby hook. Twenty seconds later he rebounded a West Valley free throw, hustled down court, and received a nice pass from Adam Empson for another inside score to tie the game at 59.

Daniel Hornbuckle hit a deep three at the 2:15 mark for a 62-59 Wolfpack advantage. A trio of free throws by Empson, Aquino Brinson and Ainsworth countered a Hornbuckle basket and stay within two at 64-62 with 55 seconds remaining.

Brinson stole a pass and fouled out West Valley's Danny Egan. Brinson hit one of two and the Crimson Bears put West Valley's Forrest Clark at the line. Clark missed both and Speck had a rebound. Both teams committed turnovers and with less than 10 seconds remaining Speck sank the winners.

"I don't remember what I was thinking," Speck said. "I am pretty happy right now."

The Crimson Bears put on a full court press that made possible only a half court fling by West Valley as the buzzer sounded. The Wolfpack were hit with eight fouls in the final period and 42 for the game, of which the Crimson Bears connected on 31. West Valley hit 17-27 from the charity stripe.

Speck was human, missing two free throws in his nine-point second period. Brinson and Ainsworth picked up that slack, each scoring a deep triple and tallying seven and six points, respectively.

Scoring for JDHS were Speck with 19, Brinson and Ainsworth 11 apiece, Dar Hodge-Campos, Jeff Pusich and Empson six each, Kevin Guimmayen four and Ben Williams two.

Hornbuckle led West Valley with 14 points, Daniel Remington 13, J. Gordon 12, Sudduth and Clark eight, Egan seven and Damon Gordon two.

The Wolfpack led 18-12 starting the second quarter and trailed 38-35 starting the third.

The win gave the Crimson Bears a chance to derail East on Saturday and muddle up the tournament championship. The loss put the Wolfpack at 0-2 heading into their final game against Sitka.

Friday December 28, 2012
Wolves' boys take down Crimson Bears in Classic nightcap - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Sitka High School Wolves boy’s basketball team overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to stun the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears 65-59 in the nightcap game of the 22nd Annual Capital City Classic on Thursday night at JDHS gym.

“We came back from 19 down in the fourth quarter at Thunder Mountain,” Sitka coach Andy Lee said. “And we got it to three. So we have character and it revealed itself at the worst time. It has to reveal itself at better times; we have to be able to sustain it. It is a growing thing. We are pleased but not satisfied.”

The difference in the Thunder Mountain game is that Sitka lost. The Wolves scratched and clawed their way back into Thursday’s game against JDHS, scoring 29 points in the stanza to 12 for the Crimson Bears.

Sitka senior Jon De La Cruz started the run with a string of six straight points.

Each time the Wolves drew close JDHS responded.

Sophomore Adam Empson dished off to classmate Bruce Jones to push the lead to nine.

Sitka’s Brian Way and De La Cruz brought the score within three, 51-48, at the 4:15 mark and Oscar Barragan scored two of his biggest, and only, buckets to pull the Wolves within one at 51-50 and 53-52.

Jones scored between the two tallies for the Crimson Bears.

When Keith Ainsworth ripped a rebound from Sitka’s grasp and laid it in the momentum had turned again.

Way closed for Sitka again, hitting on a put back and then being fouled on a defensive rebound and sinking two from the charity stripe for a 56-55 lead. De La Cruz scored on a back door cut after a JDHS turnover for a three-point cushion with 1:44 remaining.

Empson kept JDHS within two with a pair of free throws with under a minute remaining but Barragan fed Way on a back door cut for an easy deuce and De La Cruz notched another pair of freebies. Empson again took charge, floating a soft shot high over the Sitka defense for his team high 20th point and the Crimson Bears last bucket.

“I like to keep it calm out there when there is a lot of pressure,” Empson said. “I like to work the offense in the high pressure situations.”

Forced to foul, JDHS watched Sitka’s AJ Inman sink three of four in the last 17 seconds for the win.

In the first half JDHS senior Gary Speck played a huge roll on the boards and Ainsworth hit for five points as JDHS battled to stay within four, 15-11, starting the second period.

Empson tallied eight points in the second period as the pressing Crimson Bears outscored the Wolves 16-7 and took a 27-22 lead into the break. Empson hit for six more thin the third period and Speck four as JDHS countered 10 points from Sitka’s Inman in the stanza.

“I just try to move the ball around, screen, and once you get open make the shot,” Empson said. “Then keep working on defense, play better and play harder.”

Ainsworth added 14 points for JDHS, Speck eight, Aquino Brinson six, Jeff Pusich and Jones four apiece, and Dar Hodge-Campos three.

Way led Sitka with a game high points, AJ Inman 16, De La Cruz 15, Joey Inman five, Barragan four and Kendrick Payton three. The Crimson Bears went 9-16 at the charity stripe, Sitka 17-26.

“We have won a couple games in a row and every one is sweeter,” Lee said. “But to come over here with a group of juniors and have them come together as a team and do it with teamwork and poise... that means as much as who we beat.”

Sitka will play East, a 77-54 winner over West Valley, at 3 p.m. today. JDHS plays West Valley at 7 p.m. tonight. Shooting contests are at 11 a.m.

Thursday December 27, 2012
Magic happens at Capital City Classic - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The holidays come to life on the basketball court of Juneau-Douglas High School beginning today.

The 22nd Annual Capital City Classic-Princess Cruises Basketball Tournament, back after a one-year hiatus, has produced some magical performances over the years and is a place for community winter gathering.

“The most fun of it all, my biggest memory, would probably be just how packed the gym was,” Thunder Mountain girls head coach Tanya Nizich said. “Standing room only for both the guys and the girls games.”

Nizich, who graduated from JDHS in 2000, played in four classic’s tournaments.

Seattle dynasty Garfield High School, California powerhouse Edison, Nampa (ID.), Australia... the CCC was the finest tournament in Alaska, if not the Pacific Northwest.

“We had all out-of-state teams come in for it every year,” Nizich said. “The competitiveness of those teams and we, the JD boys and girls, weren’t extremely powerful. It was a battle. I have not seen standing room only for a long time at high school games. It was just solid in the gym. Those are my best memories, there is no other better way to play than for a packed house.”

Nizich and the Crimson Bears won the tourney each of her four years and claimed the MVP trophy in 1999.

JDHS girls coach Dee Boster played in the tourney in 1985 as a member of the Prairie High School Falcons team from Brush Prairie near Vancouver, Washington, back before the classic took the Capital City moniker.

“I remember going to the Chapel By The Lake,” Boster said. “I remember going to the glacier. I remember this gym and I remember it being cold. But I remember most liking it because I met a whole bunch of people. It was a really cool experience.”

That experience included Boster’s first airplane trip, which still happens for some visiting squads.

JDHS boy’s coach Robert Casperson played in the tournament from 1993-95.

“One of the really cool things was playing those teams from down south,” Casperson said. “Just that complete unknown. And I remember that the teams from California would just rave about the snowball fight they had at the glacier, because they are not used to that.”

According to Casperson, the Capital City Classic came about when one of the JDHS squads in the late 80’s became weathered out of Juneau and stuck in Seattle, missing the holidays.

“It was in order to keep our kids home and provide safe and family fun entertainment over the Christmas break,” Casperson said. “It brought the alumni in to watch and became a community event.”

Last year’s bad economy forced multiple teams from down south to drop out of the tournament and has begun a long process to attract out of state competition. A team from Seattle, for instance, may have to fund raise for over three years just to afford the airfare involved. A team from California even longer. But when the teams arrive, the games become monumental.

JDHS alum Carlos Boozer, now with the Chicago Bulls, helped teammate Casperson win a title in his senior year by picking up a loose ball and laying it in with three seconds remaining over California's Northgate High School.

Garfield High School (Seattle, WA.), the defending 4A state champion, featured former Portland Trailblazer (now Minnesota Timberwolves) Brandon Roy (then a sophomore) and battled JDHS in the title game of 1999.

Referee Mike Kelly stated that the crowd was so noisy he was afraid no one would hear the official’s whistles.

“The gym would be packed an hour before the game,” Casperson said. “And I believe that was Garfield’s only loss that year. That was a talented group for Juneau, outside of Boozer.”

It could be the fans, delirious on coffee and coco and straight off the cold December streets.

It could be the student body, with their painted chests and alumni attending.

It could be the spirit of the award winning Juneau Dance Team, the top notch JDHS Cheer and Stunt team or the loud and proud JDHS Pep Band (all will perform at the JDHS games in the tourney).

Whatever it is, the Capital City Classic will provide it.

In 1997, when Nizich was a sophomore, senior Caroline Gruening was a late-game hero in wins over Burroughs (Calif.), Lakeside (Wash.) and then Castro Valley (Calif.) in the title game. Nizich scored 14 points in the title, Gruening scored 13 and garnished the MVP. Both made all tourney along with senior Kiersten Smith and junior Christina Capacci.

In that year Boozer, Dan Baxter, James Wilson and Robert Ridgeway were key in leading the Crimson Bears to the title over Kent-Meridian (Wash.)

Boozer would win the slam-dunk competition and Wilson the 3-point contest.

Those events will be featured on Friday this year as well, starting at 11 a.m. The contests are never a given by just the starting five.

In 2000, JDHS team manager Aaron Larson, a 6’5 towel and beverage dispenser, won the free-throw competition. Larson did it in style too, defeating the previous year’s winner, JDHS star Curtis Lane. Lane would get revenge by winning the three-point long ball contest. JDHS’ Kacie Murphy won for the girls and senior point guard Courtney Mason won the long ball contest. Kentlake’s (Wash.) Kenny Jackson won the slam-dunk competition.

This years tournament has an all-Alaskan look to it but the teams are still relatively unseen by many local sporting fans.

On the girl’s side, the 3A Anchorage Christian Lady Lions have nine players returning from their state playoff team of last season and seniors Sarah Geagel and Samatha Busse will be a hand full.

East Anchorage is fresh off a third place win over Kenai in their T-Bird Classic. Senior Togafitti Manu is a scoring machine and sophomore six-footer Taria Page is a power rebounder. Junior Dajah Motuga is a defensive wiz and leads the team in steals and assists. The T-Birds are straight up athletic.

Sitka lost the state 3A championship last season. The Wolves swept TMHS earlier this year. They feature no seniors and battle like they have a roster full of them.

The JDHS girls will have the crowd behind them. The Crimson Bears are finally starting to gel from the end of last season and through an 0-4 road trip up north. With the inside strength of Gabi Fenumiai, the all around play of Esra Siddeek and the quick backcourt leadership of Marissa Brakes they could turn that record around.

“It is an unknown,” Boster said. “It is three teams that are unknown, really, that we haven’t played before. That is exciting. You get to see new people, new ideas, and the game is different.”

On the boy’s side, East Anchorage is fresh off a 58-51 title win over Kodiak in the 2012 Powerade Al Howard Tip-Off Basketball Tournament. The T-Birds also beat Bethel 53-50. With five seniors taller than six-foot and six juniors that approach that mark, this squad is very athletic.

West Valley features all-around athlete Larenzo Graham who tallied 17 points, six rebounds and eight steals against powerful valley team Wasilla last week. Point guard Charles Suddeth is a key factor for the Wolfpack, as are Caleb Rowles, Simeon Ng and Daniel Remington off the bench.

The Sitka boys are tall by 3A standards (and defending region champs) and juniors Brian Way (6’5), Kendrick Payton (6’5) and AJ Inman (6’3) will battle on the boards to get the ball into the hands of their playmaker, senior Jon De La Cruz.

The JDHS boys showed they could compete with an athletic team in two losses to West Anchorage. They have scoring talent in senior Keith Ainsworth and sophomore Adam Empson, inside play from seniors Jeff Pusich, Gary Speck and sophomore Bruce Jones, plus a supporting cast that knows how to compete.

“From a fan’s perspective it is exciting,” Casperson said. “They get to watch team’s play their butts off. But they also get to see the championship cheer team and the championship drill team. There are so many positive youth activities the fans will get to see during the tournament.”

Continued Casperson, “We operate this tournament out of the red. We really appreciate the fan support because that helps us cover the costs and helps us try to break even.”

Now with two high schools, the Capital City Classic still searches for outside teams.

“We have never really talked about getting Thunder Mountain in the Classic,” Nizich said. “We haven’t really been offered an invite but we have our own winter tournament and, quite frankly, we play JD during the season. We understand the allure of playing out of town teams. I will be going to watch.”

This year the Falcons girls will host North Pole, Mt. Edgecumbe and Kotzebue in the Thunder Dome Tournament on Jan. 10-12. The Falcons’ boys could not find a tourney field and will travel to Anchorage.

The Game and event schedule for the Capital City Classic is on page B2 in the At Home box and as follow:

Today - 10:00 AM Tour of Juneau / 12:00 PM Coaches Meeting JDHS Gym / Session One, 1PM Anchorage Christian v East Anchorage Girls / 3PM West Valley v East Anchorage Boys / Session Two, 5PM JDHS v Sitka Girls / 7PM JDHS v Sitka Boys.

Friday December 28 - 11AM Shooting Contest / Session Three, 1PM East Anchorage v Sitka Girls / 3PM East Anchoarge v Sitka Boys / Session Four, 5PM JDHS v Anchorage Christian Girls/ 7PM JDHS v West Valley Boys

Saturday December 29 - 10AM Banquet Brunch in commons/ Session Five, 1PM Sitka v Anchorage Christian Girls / 3PM Sitka v West Valley Boys / Session Six, 5PM JDHS v East Anchorage Girls / 7PM JDHS v East Anchorage Boys / 8:30PM Awards / 9PM Dance.

Tournament pass for $30 gets fans in for every session. Individual pricing is $7 for adults per session; $5 for middle/high/college student with ID per session; $3 senior citizen/youth (6 years - 5th grade); children 5 years and under are free. Evening games will have half-time entertainment by the Juneau-Douglas High School Dance Team.

Wednesday December 26, 2012
Capital City Classic returns - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     There is one holiday return that all gift-giving Juneau basketball fans will enjoy.

The 22nd Annual Capital City Classic-Princess Cruises Basketball Tournament is back after a one-year hiatus. Look for a report in tomorrow’s sports. Schedule of games is on B2 in the At Home postings. Following is a brief run down of teams attending:

The 3A Anchorage Christian Lady Lions are a yearly representative in the high school state tournament at the end of every basketball season.

They are Tanner Ealum (1, FR., 5’0), Abigail Crayton (3, JR., 5’4), Michelle Coderre (5, JR., 5’2), Casie Warren (10, JR., 5’6), Dallas Dickerson (11, JR., 5’8), Hollie Duncan (13, JR., 5’6), Sarah Geagel (20, SR. 5’7), Madison Ealum (21, JR., 5’6), Samatha Busse (25, SR., 5’8), and Becca Land (52, FR., 5’10).

The 4A East High School Lady Thunder Birds play in, arguably, the strongest conference in the state, the Cook Inlet.

The Lady T-Birds are Vaasaumamao Pedro (12, JR., 5’9), Dajah Motuga (20, JR., 5’8), Kaitlyn Miles (22, JR., 5’7), Jasmine Richard (24, FR., 5’7)

Felila Manu (25, SO., 5’9), Shanterria Gillion (33, JR., 5’6), Togafiti Manu (42, SR., 5’9), Taria Pae (45, SO., 6’), and head coach Rick Henderson and assistant Joe Kueter.

The Sitka High School Wolves girl’s varsity returns to Juneau after sweeping the TMHS Falcons at the start of the season. Head coach Rich Krupa lost a lot of height from the team that lost in the 3A state championship game to Galena in overtime last year.

Sitka has experience from playing in a major spotlight and is a physical full court defensive club. The Wolves are Sophia Mudry (24, JR.), Hannah Davis (31, JR.), Kendal Phippen (2, JR.), Megan Reid (33, JR.), Sid Riggs (21, SO.), Ellie Cagle (32, SO.), Kyla Young (23, SO.), Kalene Koeling (34, SO.), Maraelia Romine (5, SO.), Minh Iwamoto (22, FR.), Haily Denkinger (3, FR.), Head coach Rich Krupa, assistants Jarrett Hirai, Mindy Jacoby, Kelly Garvin.

The 4A East High School Thunderbirds varsity boys are headed up by former Metlakatla coach Josh Muehlenkamp. Once again, strong conference play, and now the southeastern Met mentality, always makes the East side boys a very athletic opponent.

The players are Michael Bond (42, SR., 6’3), Matthew Hardwick (32, SR., 6’3), Xavier Johnson (11, SR., 6’1), Jarred Laws (12, SR., 6’0), Damon Pelham (34, SR., 6’2), Travon Brackett (22, JR., 5’10), Eudy Gomez (24, JR. 5’10), Matthew Gwayi-Chore (30, JR. 5’11), Haney Jacobo (15, JR., 5’10), CJ Pastor (14, JR. 5’10), Amaje Voliva (20, JR. 6’0), Desmond Johnson (10, SO., 5’10) and assistant coaches Al Harris, Jamie Poston, Kenton Sims, Jason Jno-Lewis, and Larry Wilson.

The 4A West Valley Wolfpack boy’s varsity battle in the Mid Alaska Conference, where the cold keeps a lot of players inside the gyms and honing their games.

The Wolfpack are David Carr (0, SR., 6’0), Jacob Carson (2, SR., 6’2), Larenzo Graham (4, SR., 6’3), Danny Eagan (10, JR., 5’10), Jordan Rodenberger (12, JR., 5’7), Daniel Remington (20, JR., 6’2), Charles Sudduth (22, SO., 6’0), Daniel Hornbuckle (24, FR., 5’10), Forrest Clark (30, JR., 6’4), Jason Gordon (32, JR., 6’2), Elijah Connell (34, JR., 6’3), Corey Kulis (40, SR., 6’4), Evan Colbert (50, JR., 6’7), Isaac Meadows (52, JR., 6’1), Joaquin Martines (54, SO., 6’5), Tyler Christmann (SO., 6’1), Simeon Ng (SO., 5’8), and Damon Gordon (SO., 6’2).

The 3A Sitka High School Wolves boy’s varsity is headed up by coach Andy Lee. Lee’s teams are always tenacious on the defensive end and this year the Wolves have a significant height advantage at the 3A level. The Wolves did fall in two close games to the 4A Thunder Mountain Falcons just a few weeks ago. The Wolves are Brian Way (32, JR., 6’5), Kendrick Payton (33, JR., 6’5), AJ Inman (3, JR., 6’3), Joey Inman (2, JR., 6’0), Oscar Barragan (1, JR., 5’9), Jon De La Cruz (23, SR., 5’10), Quentin White (12, JR., 6’1), Jaren Sumauang (20, JR., 5’8), Ryan Samuelson (34, JR., 6’3), and Tevin Bayne (21, FR., 6’0).

The JDHS Crimson Bears girl’s basketball team brings a unique factor to the tourney. Coaches Dee Boster and assistants Mary Rehfeld, Maddie Swofford, and Brittany Fenumiai all played in the classic.

This seasons team is Tori Fogg (4), T Jae Garcia (5), Marissa Brakes (21), Rachel Roldan (12), Amberli Fitka (30), Kymberlee Kelly (11), Esra Siddeek (34), Ari Gross (31), Gabi Fenumiai (33), Kayla Balovich (24) and Kaitlin Fagerstrom, along with assistant Jim Carson.

JDHS boy’s head coach Robert Casperson also played in the tourney.

The JDHS boys are Keith Ainsworth (11, SR., 6’3), Aquino Brinson (3, SR., 5’10), Adam Empson (12, SO., 6’1), Kevin Guimmayen (10, JR., 5’6), Dar Hodge-Campos (1, JR., 6’0), Bruce Jones (43, SO., 6’6), Nathan Klein (44, SO., 6’2), Jackson Lehnhart (14, SR., 5’10), Manase Make (25, SO., 5’8), Brenyn Marshall (2, SR., 6’0), Jeffrey Pusich (5, SR., 6’5), Gunnar Shultz (30, SO., 5’11), Gary Speck (40, SR., 6’4), Ben Williams (22, SR., 6’0), and John Yadao (23, SO., 5’3).

The JDHS Dance Team will be performing their award winning routines throughout the tourney. The team this season features Kassandra Burke (captain), Corby Abel (1st lieutenant), Taylor Daniels (1st lieutenant), Sarah Endicott (officer), Hannah Cassell (officer, Lily Hagerup, Krista Yadao, Caitlyn Taboada, Haley Ogoy, Maureen Carrillo, Caitlyn Hyatt, Ashley Wittwer, Brooke Moss, Anna Tran, Yana Warner, Galen Wright, Catherine Walsh, Adrienne Sypeck, Brandi Hall, and Amanda Stevenson.

The JDHS cheer and stunt team will be adding to the festive spirit with Charity Anderson, Marial Carrillo, Erika Cruz, Addie Gonwa-Ramonda, Jacob Hamilton, Randi Held, Troy Holden, Jerry Hudson, Tess Jeans, Emily Keithahn, Gina Kim, Brenda Lamas, Abigail Maloney-Sheakley, Tania Miramontes, Billy Palmer, Casandra Partin, Fernando Pintang, Elden Punongbayan, Sally Roesel, Jessica Sjoroos, Siaosi Sua, Derik Vance, Tempest Smith, Summer Smith and coaches Carlene Nore & Dawn Skrzynski.

Another important part of the action will be the musical talents of the JDHS Pep Band members are Sam Bibb, Seth Bodine, Elle Campbell, Matthew Campbell, John Connolly, Jon Edillor, Cheyenne Helmers, Sierra Helmers, Alexandra Hiley, Abram Leigh, Leah Liebelt, Spencer Lunda, Justin Miller, Bernadette Osborne, Megan Sheufelt, Alexander Soboleff, Carl Uchytil, and Ivan Urrutia-Narino.

Sunday December 16, 2012
JD Boys Fall South to Northern Foe West - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Juneau-Douglas High School boy’s basketball team ran into one of Anchorage’s tougher ball clubs over the weekend in a season-opener that will not soon be forgotten.

The West High School Eagles used a powerful inside game and a full court press to dominate the Crimson Bears on Friday 66-29, and had to fight a tougher Crimson Bears squad in their 60-43 win on Saturday.

“The kids won’t forget that game,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said of Friday’s game. “They have to use it, tuck it away in their memory banks and pull from it when they need to. They need to realize how far they came in one game even.”

Keith Ainsworth led JDHS with 12 points on Friday, but two quick fouls in the first quarter limited his action with 6:01 left in that stanza and the Bears trailing 14-2.

West was up 17-8 starting the second quarter and tacked on another 14 points before the break, compared to six for JDHS. Ainsworth got his third foul with three minutes remaining in the half.

JDHS never got into an offensive flow and fell behind 44-23 starting the final quarter.

Aquino Brinson and Jeffrey Pusich scored four each in the game, Bruce Jones three, Kevin Guimmayen, Adam Empson and Nathan Klein two apiece.

JDHS hit 9-13 at the charity stripe, West was 7-12. Theo Oghide led the Eagles with 12 points, Joe Riley and Deandre Wilson 10 each, David Harrison eight, Ivan King seven, Da’zhon Wyche six, Jhayde Zamora five, Christian NiDoy four, Curtis Sicks and Riley McGee two each.

On Saturday West again got the first quarter advantage, taking an 18-8 lead into the second stanza but the Crimson Bears forced the action.

“We certainly did things better tonight,” Casperson said. “We executed a lot better. “

The Crimson Bears did not let the Eagles get the open looks they had the night before, closing out on the perimeter and pushing West out of the key.

JDHS played even with West through the second and third quarters, losing both by just one point. Empson scored seven of his eight game points in the period to pull JDHS to 47-35 starting the final quarter.

A quick three by Ainsworth cut the deficit to nine at 47-38 with 6:57 remaining. West pushed the margin again until Speck brought the Crimson Bears back to nine again.

West would pull the ball out to force action and drive to the basket, going to the free throw line 16 times in the final period and 29 for the game, making 15. JDHS went to the charity stripe just 13 times and hit nine.

Ainsworth led JDHS with 13 points, Speck and Empson eight apiece, Brinson seven, Pusich five, and Jones two.

Joe Riley led West with 16 points, McGee 11, Oghide nine, Wilson eight, Nidoy six, Wyche five, King and Harrison two each and Sicks one.

“There are definitely some positives,” Casperson said. “With a group like this needing experience, to see them go from a 37-point loss on Friday, and use an hour shoot-around on Saturday to make some adjustments and see them implement them in a game. That is encouraging. We are a work in progress and we are going to keep getting better. They have to understand that where we are now is not where we are going to be.”

Friday December 07, 2012
Historical Sports: 1957 JDHS Cheerleaders - Juneau Empire
     Click on (or copy and paste in a new web browser) the following link to view a picture of historic interest!