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Monday March 12, 2012
Alaska All-State Basketball teams announced - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Ibesate, Siddeek and Fenumiai receive distinctions

The Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches selections to the 2012 All-State Teams were announced on Monday. Juneau-Douglas senior Lance Ibesate was a 4A third team selection for the Crimson Bears’ boys and juniors Esra Siddeek and Gabi Fenumiai were second and third team selections for the girl’s honors. Ketchikan’s Kyle Day was a second team selection for the boys.

Sitka’s Mik Potrzuski and Sariah Ady and Haines’ Tyler Swinton were second team picks for 3A, and Craig’s Melissa Castle and Petersburg’s Carolyn Kvernvik were third teamers.

Yakutat’s Tina Esbenshade and Skagway’s Rori Leverton were first team 2A selections; Klawock’s Cassi Williams and Hydaburg’s William Carle were second teamers and Klawock’s Tonya Busse was third team.

Following are the AABC All-State selections:

4A Boys – Player of the Year: Connor Devine, Wasilla. Coach of the Year: Rob Galosich, Dimond. First Team – Devine (Wasilla), Ryden Hines (Dimond), Adam Klie (Service), Colter Lasher (Dimond), Treshawn King-Dunbar (Bartlett). Second Team: Trenton Anthony (Bartlett), Connor Looney (Palmer), Braydon Kuiper (Wasilla), Amu Aukisitino (Service), Kyle Day (Kayhi). Third Team: Lance Ibesate (JDHS), Evan Withrow (Soldotna), A.J. Hull (Kenai), Marques Robinson (Service), Kendall Brown (West).

4A Girls - Player of the Year: Alyssa Hutchins, Wasilla. Coach of the Year: Steve Caciari, West Valley. First Team: Hutchins (Wasilla), Sierra Afoa (Dimond), Hannah Matson (West Valley), Kaillee Skjold, (Soldotna), Mary Klapperich, (Colony). Second Team: Taylor Blake (Palmer), Alexis Imoe (Wasilla), Aminata Cole (Dimond), Esra Siddeek (JDHS), Savannah James (Houston). Third Team: Gabi Fenumiai (JDHS), Caitlyn Brice (West Valley), Alysha Devine (Wasilla), Josie Broderick (North Pole), Taria Page (East).

3A Boys - Player of the Year: Gus Simmers, ACS. Coach of the Year: Chuck Boerger, Grace Christian. First Team: Simmers (ACS), LaDarius Milton (Monroe Catholic), Colin Long (Barrow), Scooter Bynum (Monroe), Calvin Hoffman (ACS). Second Team: Mik Potrzuski (Sitka), Tyler Swinton (Haines), Jalen Terry (Seward), Nathan Blanford (Nome), Eddie Benson (Barrow). Third Team: Tyler Wells (Monroe), John Michaels (Monroe), Darren Silas (Hutchison), Glacier Rohrer (Valdez), Jared Miller (Dillingham).

3A Girls - Player of the Year: Jenna Buchanan, Galena. Coach of the Year: Levi Duca, Dillingham. First Team: Buchanan (Galena), Lynette Hepa (Barrow), Kristin Smeaton (Dillingham), Mimi Wood (Hutchison), Dessirea Kenworthy (Kotzebue). Second Team: Caitlin Auble (Valdez), Sariah Ady (Sitka), Meg Berry (Seward), Devynn Johnson (Nome), Alex Derifield (Valdez). Third Team: Melissa Castle (Craig), Kira Polk (Bethel), Dallas Dickerson (ACS), Carolyn Kvernvik (Petersburg), Misa Webber (Cordova).

2A Girls - Player of the Year: Brianna Kirk, Noatak. Coach of the Year: Bea Klaich, Nikoleavsk. First Team: Kirk (Noatak), Tina Esbenshade (Yakutat), Megan Bauder (Cook Inlet Academy), Chelsea Tooyak (Point Hope), Rori Leverton (Skagway). Second Team: Kelsi Leaf (CIA), Abbie Koenig (Point Hope), Cassi Williams (Klawock), Kilina Klaich (Nikoleavsk), Lorenda Mitchell (Selawik). Third Team: Caroline Long (Point Hope), Shanelle Coopchiak (Togiak), Shanyce Pacheco (Bristol Bay), Trisha Norton (Noatak), Tonya Busse (Klawock).

2A Boys - Player of the Year: Danny Wells, Noorvik. Coach of the Year: Darren Zibell, Noorvik. First Team: Wells (Noorvik), Stuart Towarak (Unalakleet), David Reischach (CIA), Chance Hunter (Scammon Bay), Andre Tipikin (Nikoleavsk). Second Team: Anthony Ashby (Noatak), Ronald Oviok III (Point Hope), William Carle (Hydaburg), Henry Kanulie (Akiachak), Walter Tebbits (Noorvik). Third Team: Jack Wheeler (Ninilchik), Nathan Hadley (Buckland), Jalen Katchatag (Unalakleet), Denzel Tooyak (Point Hope), Justin Ulak (Scammon Bay).

1A Girls - Player of the Year: Kandace Carroll, Fort Yukon. Coach of the Year: Ed Lester, Newhalen. First Team - Carroll (Fort Yukon), Marina Koonooka (Gambell), JoJo Nashookpuk (Alak), Sierra Nickoli (Newhalen), Maggie Beans (St. Mary’s). Second Team: Denise Fernandez (Shishmaref), Tracy Ahnangnatoguk (Brevig Mission), Ayla Rickteroff (Newhalen), Jazzlyn Garnie (Teller), Michelle Ningeulook (Golovin). Third Team: Ardyce Nayakik (Alak), Emma Weyiouanna (Shishmaref), Amber Barr (Kiana), Trish Morgan (Aniak), Maxine Kimoktoak (Koyuk).

1A Boys - Player of the Year: John Peterson, Golovin. Coach of the Year: Wayne Morgan, Aniak. First Team: John Peterson (Golovin), Tyler Anelon (Newhalen), Joe Kohler (New Stuyahok), Harry Morgan (Aniak) Joe Jemewouk (Elim). Second Team: Vernon Rock (Shaktoolik), John Tretikoff (Newhalen), Travis Tunguing (New Stuyahok), Shield Stalker (Kivalina), Brandon Tagarook (Nunamiut). Third Team: Eknaty Cobb (Newhalen), Aaron Solomon (Fort Yukon), Tyler Henderson (Huslia), Terrell Tanner (St. Michael), Brandon Long (St. Michael).

Tuesday March 06, 2012
There Be Dragons! - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     There are rumors of things that live beyond Egan Drive, past Mendenhall Glacier and over the horizon of Stephens Passage.

Beasties with three-handed jump shots; hulking creatures with elbows that can sever a man’s (or ladies) head from neck and torso; dastardly critters with breath that smells of Icy Hot and Ben Gay; wretched thingies that crouch low in the shadows and spring up without warning to snatch the life from unsuspecting travelers.

Such is the land of the ASAA state basketball tournament.

And there be dragons that await our lads and lasses venturing there.

And Lynx and Cougars.

The WPI (winning percentage index) seedings were announced on Sunday by those wicked kings on the thrones of the Alaska Scholastic Activities Association.

Various feudal lords won their respective region tournaments and seek to conquer the court north.

The Southeast Conference’s victorious Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls; Cook Inlet Conference’s Dimond Lynx and runner-up West Anchorage Eagles (girls) and Dimond and runner-up Bartlett Golden Bears (boys); Northern Lights champions Wasilla Warriors and runner-up Soldotna Stars (girls) and Wasilla and runner-up Colony Knights (boys); and the Mid Alaska Conference champs West Valley Wolfpack (girls) and Lathrop Malemutes (boys).

ASAA implemented two At-Large WPI berths this year. On the girls side they went to the Northern Lights Conference’s Colony Knights and the Palmer Moose. This is the first time four teams from one conference have made the state basketball tournament.

The boys WPI berths went to Cook Inlet’s Service Cougars and Northern Lights’ Kenai Kardinals.

The WPI measures strength of schedule and how a team does against that schedule. It does not measure margin of victory or game location, only whether a team wins or loses. It is similar to the NCAA’s RPI (ratings percentage index) used in the NCAA tournament selection and seeding. The basic WPI formula is 50% team winning percentage and 50% opponents’ winning percentage. Only games against other Alaskan schools are counted.

Following are the bracket seedings based on WPI and instate records:

Boys – 1. Wasilla (18-0) vs. 8. Lathrop (11-6); 4. JDHS (18-3) vs. 5. Service (20-4); 3. Bartlett (15-4) vs. 6. Colony (13-9); 2. Dimond (23-0) vs. 7. Kenai (10-7).

Girls – 1.Wasilla (20-1) vs. 8. Palmer (9-8); 4. Soldotna (15-3) vs. 5. Colony (15-9); 3. West Valley (18-3) vs. 6. West Anchorage (17-7); 2. Dimond (21-0) vs. 7. JDHS (13-9).

The Crimson Bears will face their most daunting task to date, against foes that have vanquished them earlier in the year, the Service Cougars (boys) and Dimond Lynx (girls).

The JDHS girls played the Lynx the first week in February and at Dimond. The game was close at 12-9 after the first quarter. Six JDHS turnovers in the second quarter resulted in the Crimson Bears being outscored by 12 and trailed 32-17 at the half. They would lose the game by 16 points, outscoring the Lynx in the third period, staying even in the fourth and losing 54-38.

“Dimond is definitely beatable,” JDHS coach Dee Boster said. “Out defense has improved and gotten more intense.”

The Crimson Bears didn’t have Kaitlin Fagerstrom at the time and Gabi Fenumiai had just returned to the roster and the Lynx double-teamed her inside. JDHS was not prepared to shoot the ball from the perimeter.

Fagerstrom will give another outside scoring threat with Esra Siddeek and another defender on the perimeter with Marissa Brakes, Kymberlee Kelly and Sierra Tagaban. Fenumiai has seen multiple double teams since that game and has adapted. Dimond will run on the heels of Alexis Rogers, Tara Thompson and Aminata Cole.

“We definitely have our work cut out for us but everybody is beatable,” Boster said. “If we play the way we have been; then we have a very good chance of getting the job done; winning is not impossible. We must be patient on offense, something we did well at regions. . It was the Dimond game that brutally showed us we needed other people to step up and shoot the ball from outside; it was that game that made us incorporate way more shooting into our practices to get people Kymberlee, Marissa, Sierra and Kaitlin to SHOOT the ball. We have improved on that and hopefully will have more offensive threats; which hopefully will make it harder for Dimond to double team Gabi and be more aware of others on the perimeter.”

The JDHS boys played the Cougars on February 1 and lost 67-60. The Crimson Bears trailed by two, 15-13, starting the second period and tallied 23 points in the second stanza to take a 36-30 halftime lead. Phillip Fenumiai hit three triples in that run and had 17 points for the game while Alec Calloway, Austin Shoemaker and Lance Ibesate added 10 apiece and Tony Yadao seven. This is significant because the Cougars like to run and so do the Crimson Bears, and both teams play a hard defensive brand of full court plunder. JDHS went 19-22 from the charity stripe in that contest and SHS went 24-38. The Crimson Bears led 50-46 starting the final period, when they were outscored 21-10.

“Service is a guard driven team,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “They don’t have a lot of size, their bigs are more perimeter oriented or have those abilities.”

The Crimson Bears have a height advantage with Evan Gross, Gary Speck, Jeffrey Pusich and Taylor Swofford. The Cougars rely on the triple threat shooting of Adam Kile, Amu Aukusitino and Marquis Robinson.

“We had opportunities to win that game,” Casperson said. “We have to minimize our mistakes and maximize our efficiency on the offensive end. We need to move our feet and keep them in front of us and not reach on defense. We identified some things we need to work on when we played Thunder Mountain and Sitka, both very strong teams, in Ketchikan. It is a new setting and a new situation and you never know if we will feel the pressure. In the end though it is just basketball. Our guys have experience through the season and through their careers with playing basketball, and that is going to be our focus. Playing basketball. At regions we had a look in our eye, we were calm, collected and confident.”

Ibesate, Yadao, and Gross started at the state tourney last season and Calloway and Fenumiai played credible minutes.

“They have been there,” Casperson said. “The bright lights and big city stuff. I am not going to bring a tape measure like in Hoosiers or anything like that and measure the baskets for them. The Sullivan Arena is a great venue for sports, on the flipside it is completely different from anything anyone plays in during the high school season.”

The Crimson Bears know what lies beyond the edge of the court-world.

To get to the site of the impending battles ye must cross the tundra, sail an ocean, skirt a mountain, and pass a Starbucks or a McDonald's; then ye hang a horse’s trot left at Good King Sullivan’s Arena.

Pay heed brave knight and...

Beware, here be dragons.

Monday March 05, 2012
Final results from Southeast Region V hoops tournaments - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     4A boys and girls champions: Juneau-Douglas High School. Boy’s runner-up Thunder Mountain, girl’s runner-up Ketchikan.

3A boys and girls champions: Sitka High School. Boys runner-up Mt. Edgecumbe, girl’s runner-up Craig.

4A girls All-Conference team: Juneau-Douglas – Gabi Fenumiai, Marissa Brakes, Esra Siddeek; Ketchikan – Jayley Taylor, Melissa Elliott; Thunder Mountain – Jonelle Staveland.

4A boys All-Conference: Thunder Mountain – Ben Jahn; Juneau-Douglas – Tony Yadao, Lance Ibesate, Alec Calloway; Ketchikan – Kyle Day, Travis Taylor.

Free Throw Contest Winners: Girls – JDHS Esra Siddeek; Boys – Kayhi’s Kyle Day.

4A Cheer champions: Juneau-Douglas High School.

3A Cheer champions: Sitka High School, runner-up Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sportsmanship Award: Haines High School.

Good Sport and All-Academic not available via press time.

3A boys All-Conference: Petersburg – Taylor Pullar; Craig – DJ Almenzor; Metlakatla – Tadd Yliniemi, Erik Hudson; Haines – Tyler Swinton; Wrangell – Clayton Stokes; Mt. Edgecumbe – Kacy Green, Jaylin Prince, Dominique Hall; Sitka – Bae Widmier, Mik Potrzuski, Devan Romine.

3A girls All-Conference: Craig – Melissa Castle, Maggie Dinon; Petersburg – Carolyn Kvernvik, Emily Luczak; Sitka – Sariah Ady, Katina Wathen, Hunter Huddleston; Haines – Hannah Wing; Wrangell – Loni Buness; Metlakatla – Theresa Willington-McGilton; Mt. Edgecumbe – Brandi Hale.

Monday March 05, 2012
Crimson Bears the #4 Seed at State
     The boys basketball team has earned the #4 seed at the state tournament next week. They will play the #5 seed, Service, at 8:00am on Thursday, March 15th. Stay tuned for more details!

Sunday March 04, 2012
JDHS boys and girls win 3A/4A Crossover Championships - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boys and girls took any bragging rights for top Southeast basketball team away from 3A champion Sitka on Saturday.

The JDHS girls topped 3A region champ Sitka 50-44. Leading 12-8 after one period of play and 23-19 at the break the Crimson Bears showed resolve by regaining a lead they lost at the end of the third quarter when they trailed 34-33. Gabi Fenumiai was unstoppable against Sitka’s Sariah Ady inside. Fenumiai scored a game-high 26 points and wing Esra Siddeek added 18, Marissa Brakes six, Kaitlin Fagerstrom and Kayla Balovich two apiece. Ady led the Wolves with 14 points, Sid Riggs nine, Megan Reid eight, Hunter Huddleston five, Kelsie Kubitch and Katina Wathen four apiece.

The JDHS boys kept an aggressive Sitka Wolves team from getting Southeast bragging rights with a 42-36 win. Sitka took a 13-11 first quarter lead, JDHS regained the quarter break advantage at 23-22 and the third quarter spread with 36-34 and then defensively put the clamps on the Wolves, allowing just two buckets in the final eight minutes of play.

Lance Ibesate had a game-high 12 points and eight assists, Tony Yadao added seven points, Austin Shoemaker and Alec Calloway six, Evan Gross five, Phillip Fenumiai three, Jeffrey Pusich and Darien Stanger two apiece. Sitka was led by Devan Romine’s 10 points, Mik Patrzuski had nine, Bae Widmier and Shad Puletau five apiece, John Dela Cruz four, and Hunter Lee three.

Saturday March 03, 2012
Thunder strikes Kayhi gym but Crimson Bears reign - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     JDHS weathers Falcons storm in 71-53 region title game win

“They are a good young team,” Juneau-Douglas High School senior guard Lance Ibesate said after his Crimson Bears had escaped a second Region V tournament game against Thunder Mountain on Friday night in Ketchikan. “They are not the ‘other’ team in Juneau anymore. There’s that little bit of rivalry but it’s all fun and games. Both of us are hard working teams and they bring that out in us. We want to come with the same intensity when we play up north.”

Friday’s 4A Region V 71-53 JDHS Championship game win on Friday, the Crimson Bears’ seventh title in a row, was all about intensity.

JDHS dropped the ball inside to Evan Gross in the first period to take advantage of his height. While Gross gave JDHS the first point of the game it was the Falcons Sam and Ben Jahn who played a bit more aggressive in the key.

“The exciting part about Region V basketball is about how tough a team can be for four straight days,” TMHS coach John Blasco said. “Our guys have matured mentally and physically over the season and then to watch them play three or four strong games in a row is really a complement to them.”

Sam tipped in the Falcons first basket and lead and Ben attacked the rim for two more. Sam added another basket on a turn around jumper and Matt Seymour followed that with a drive and foul for an old fashioned three-point play.

The Crimson Bears closed out the quarter with Phillip Fenumiai driving and Ryan Kelly knocking down a jumper from beyond the arch to pull within four at 10-6.

On paper the JDHS team looked to have the advantage. The senior laden Crimson Bears were experienced in title games and the underclassmen-led Falcons were not. The Crimson Bears had two days of rest after Thunder Mountain took them to overtime in the tournament’s first game on Wednesday night. The Falcons had a chance to win the game but Keith Ainsworth’s shot, under a time constraint and heavy JDHS pressure, went in and out of the rim. The Falcons lost that game 57-48 while only hitting two free throws in the extra period.

The Falcons then had to dispatch of the home-courted Ketchikan Kings, for the second time in the tournament (they opened with a 46-38 win over Kayhi), and their third game in three days, and they dominated the Kings 48-39.

“We just wanted to go out strong and take advantage of every offensive possession and not waste any possessions with the ball,” Ibesate said. “We wanted to pressure their guards every second. We knew they would be tired. This feels good.”

While Ibesate went scoreless in the first period he scored nine of his game-high 19 points in the second period and was a handful both offensively and defensively for the Falcons’ guards.

Even more incredible was the play of Alec Calloway who had a “Michael Jordan” type game according to Coach Casperson.

“He didn’t have Michael’s 36 points but he had the flu,” Casperson said, referring to a game in which former NBA star Jordan was ill and did well. “The medical staff at the gym checked him out and kept an eye on him in the game. I was so impressed with his toughness. He just wants to play; he loves his teammates and wants to be in the game. When his teammates saw how hard he played that got them going too.”

Calloway started the second period with a huge rebound, scored on the other end of the court, got another rebound and scored again. Then he subbed out and promptly headed to a waste basket near the bench to throw up. It was a pattern he continued through the game, but an effort that gave the Crimson Bears a 21-10 scoring advantage in the second period and a 27-20 halftime lead.

“Alec knows he is a big part of this team,” Senior Tony Yadao said. “He showed us his heart tonight and we are really proud of him.”

Yadao also had heart, scoring 14 points in the game, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and getting six steals.

The Falcons were never out of the game. Even with tired legs they cut into a 13-point Crimson Bears lead with back-to-back triples from Josh Tupou and Ty Grussendorf.

After a Yadao jumper made it 37-28 JDHS, Sam Jahn again rolled out a left handed hook, which nestled into the net as the ref’s whistle blew. Jahn made the free-throw to draw TMHS within six.

Just when the Falcons seemed to have momentum Ibesate and Yadao blistered the length of the court and dropped three straight passes to Gary Speck who tickled the twine. Matt Seymour stopped the barrage briefly by knocking down three straight free throws and again pulling the Falcons to within 10 points at 46-34 ending the third period.

Keith Ainsworth and Seymour took the Falcons under their wings in the final period but the fresh legs of Ibesate and Yadao stretched the court and the lead for the Crimson Bears. Yadao would nail 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.

“It was a good crowd,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “Our cheerleaders did a good job, Thunder Mountain’s cheerleaders did a good job. It was everything you want from a regional game in that kind of atmosphere. It was fun. Coach Blasco did a great job with his kids this year. They got out there and they competed. I think the fatigue was a factor tonight.”

Ibesate led the Crimson Bears with 19 points, Yadao added 14, Calloway 11, Gross and Speck six apiece, Austin Shoemaker five, Kelly and Fenumiai four apiece, and Jesse Miller two.

Seymour led the Falcons with 14 points, S. Jahn added 12, B. Jahn seven, Ainsworth six, Vili Tupou four, Mike Uddipa, Ty Grussendorf and Josh Tupou three each, and Trent Uddipa one.

JDHS went 12-20 at the charity stripe, TMHS hit 17-26.

“There are a lot of emotions right now,” Tony Yadao said. “We feel really good about what we accomplished. We worked hard all year to get to this point right now. We have really good chemistry on the team and play together well. Defense has been our main focus in practice. If our defense is on then our offense will just follow. Did you see how hard Austin (Shoemaker) and Phil (Fenumiai) played? That is what gets us going.”

The win gave the Crimson Bears a perfect mark in Southeast conference play, although they did drop a game to 3A Mt. Edgecumbe last month.

The best case scenario should have been that the Falcons didn’t tire in the final quarter and took the championship as they are deserving of representing Southeast at the state championships. The Crimson Bears are also very deserving, as was evident in their schedule and wins across the state.

JDHS added to their southeast win total with a 42-36 victory over Sitka in the 3A/4A Crossover Championship on Saturday night.

The Crimson Bears led 23-22 at the half and 36-32 after three quarters in a game that, historically, is for bragging rights in the panhandle.

The Alaska School Activities Association will be announcing brackets, match-ups and game times for all classifications in their March Madness Alaska Selection Show today at 6 p.m. At that time the WPI (winning percentage index) will reveal two at-large teams into each the 4A Boys and Girls State Tournament.

Automatic state berths go to the Southeast Conference winner, the Mid Alaska winner, the Cook Inlet winner and runner up and the Northern Lights winner and runner up. Two additional teams from among the schools in the conferences will be added to the tournament and ranked with the qualifiers using the WPI system.

The WPI measures strength of schedule and how a team does against that schedule. It does not measure margin of victory or game location, only whether a team wins or loses. It is similar to the NCAA’s RPI (ratings percentage index) used in the NCAA tournament selection and seeding. The basic WPI formula is 50% team winning percentage and 50% opponents’ winning percentage. Only games against other Alaskan schools are counted.

The Thunder Mountain Falcons strength of schedule was not as strong as needed to secure one of the two At-Large invitations to the state championships. They, as well as Ketchikan, needed to win the Region V tournament to go to state or at least get a win against Juneau-Douglas.

As of Feb. 29, before the various region tournaments state-wide began, the WPI rankings and won/loss records against Alaska teams were Wasilla 15-0, Dimond 20-0, Service 18-3, Juneau 16-3, Bartlett 13-3, Kenai 5-4, Colony 11-8, Palmer 11-7, West Anch. 8-9, Kodiak 7-10, Soldotna 7-7, Lathrop 7-7, Ketchikan 7-12, Houston 6-4, Eagle River 6-12, Homer 3-6, East Anch. 4-13, Chugiak 4-16, West Valley 3-11, South Anch. 2-14, Thunder Mountain 2-11, North Pole 2-9, and Skyview 1-9.

While the Falcons may have moved up a notch by beating Ketchikan, Juneau-Douglas’ wins against TMHS in the tourney may have actually moved them down in the rankings. Therefore, the Crimson Bears may get a tough draw in the first round as seeding for the state tournament is 1-8 and JDHS’ WPI may have slipped to fifth, lower than one of the At-Large selections to be announced today.

Thursday March 01, 2012
JDHS Boys Escape with 57-48 Overtime Win Against Thunder Mountain - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Lance Ibesate called for a clear out and drove into a left handed lay up for the first two points of the Crimson Bears Region V opening game against Thunder Mountain at Ketchikan on Wednesday. A sign that the senior was all business. Ibesate pushed the ball up court on the next possession and Alec Calloway buried a three pointer for a five to nothing lead. The Falcons went to a running attack and Matt Seymour was fouled on a three point attempt, making two of three from the line. Keith Ainsworth buried a deep three to tie the score and the game would be a barn burner. JDHS’ Phil Fenumiai hit a triple and Ainsworth drove again for a score and the game was tied at eights. The Falcons took the lead at 9-8 on a Ben Jahn freethrow. Calloway gave the lead back to the Crimson Bears but Jahn was fouled again inside and scored to push TMHS back in front 12-10. Ibesate gave the Crimson Bears a 13-12 lead after one quarter. After a Falcons tie, Fenumiai drove the lane for two and JDHS led, only to have Ainsworth tip in a shot on TMHS’ next possession to knot the score at 17. The teams exchanged buckets into the break with the Falcons getting the last shot at the basket as Villi Tupou hit a triple for a 23-22 advantage. The back and forth continued through the third period with Ainsworth missing a triple at the buzzer and JDHS taking a 32-30 lead into the final stanza. Grussendorf drilled a three for the lead but Austin Shoemaker tied the score and Yadao gave JDHS the lead again. Seymour tied the scoe at 42-42 with two minutes remaining on another three-ball. Ben Jahn then scored inside for a 44-42 Falcons lead but Ibesate sank two freethrows to tie the score with 1:25 remaining. Jahn drew an offensive foul on a screen, missed a freethrow and was fouled again. Jahn hit both for a 46-44 lead but Ibesate drove the length and Shoemaker tipped in a bucket to knot the game at 46 with 30 seconds remaining. A last second shot missed for the Falcons play went to overtime. Seymour hit one of two freethrows for a 47-46 lead. The Falcons zone caused a turnover and TMHS missed a shot. Yadao missed a jumper but Shoemaker rebounded and fed Yadao who spun and scored. Yadao hit the shot and was fouled by Seymour. Yadao missed the freethrow but got his own rebound and was fouled again. With the Crimson Bears leading 48-47 Yadao hit two charity strippers for a 50-47 lead. The Crimson Bears pressed and forced a no look pass out of bounds and possession went to JDHS. With 37 seconds remaining Ibesate was fouled and hit one of two for a 51-47 advantage. On the second shot miss the Falcons knocked the ball out of bounds and had to foul Fenumiai immediately. Fenumiai made one of two freebies for a 52-47 lead. The Falcons rebounded and Ben Jahn was fouled, making one of two. Calloway rebounded the miss and was fouled and the senior knocked down one freethrow, missed the second and Fenumiai put in the rebound for a seven point lead at 55-48 and sealed the win. Shoemaker added two more freethrows for the 57-48 final.

Tuesday February 28, 2012
Region V Tourney Begins Tonight: JDHS Starts play Wednesday - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     For 14 of the 20 high school basketball teams in the Southeast Region V 3/4A tournament in Ketchikan, this will be the final games of their season. Just six will move on to the state venue in Anchorage.

The Falcons’ boys play Ketchikan at 7 p.m. tonight and the Falcons’ girls play the Lady Kings at 8:45 p.m. The Crimson Bears will play the winners of those respective games with the girls hooping at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and the boys following at 8:15 p.m. A complete schedule is on page B2.

Anything can happen at tournament time. For that very reason the region tournament went back to a double elimination format, much like the set up used by the smaller 2A schools. Not only does the two-loss requirement make for more fan enjoyment, more school participation and more tired referees but it also assures that the best team represents the conference at the next level. In the past, an upset of the number one seed meant that the team with the best record over three months suddenly found itself making reservations for spring break instead of state fast breaks.

For the boys, Juneau-Douglas has to be the favorite, as their record in conference and around the state is hefty.

They also have the majority of the beef inside with Evan Gross, Gary Speck and Taylor Swofford, plus two seasoned state-tournament guards in Lance Ibesate and Tony Yadao. They also possess a potent core of rebounding, slashing and shooting players in Alec Calloway, Austin Shoemaker, Phillip Fenumiai and Darien Stanger. Then they have Jesse Miller, Jeffrey Pusich and Ryan Kelly. They have bodies and are the deepest team in the tournament.

If the Crimson Bears spread the floor and let Ibesate and Yadao create, and the rest of the squad is patient and lets the offense come to them, good things will happen. When the Crimson Bears press and run they are dangerous, as long as they do it under control. Sometimes speed can be a train wreck if there is no conductor on board.

Thunder Mountain has speed and two of the most athletic scoring players in the league in Keith Ainsworth and Matt Seymour.

Plus the Falcons get a lot of football bravado from Camden Thomas, Villi and Josh Tupou, and Sam and Ben Jahn. They get nice bench minutes from Ty Grussendorf and Coltin Lanz and coach John Blasco is comfortable putting any of his kids on the court.

That confidence shows in how they play. They are fearless. They also play a little out of control at times, but once again, speed is contagious.

Ketchikan is at home. They are in their own beds and their own school and their own town. They will be comfortable there and the fan base in the First City is usually anti-anything Juneau.

The Kings boast the best shooting guard in the region in Kyle Day who averages over 25 points per game. They also have a solid big man in Travis Taylor and lots of speed. They are possibly the most patient team in the tournament and, did I mention, they are playing at home.

JDHS beat the Kings 69-55 and 75-60 in December at Kayhi, then beat them in Juneau 65-38 and 60-43. JDHS also beat TM 52-35 and 50-44 last weekend in both schools senior nights but if the Falcons had hit their free throws they would have won on Saturday. The Falcons boys lost to the Kings at Ketchikan on Feb. 17-18 by the scores of 54-53 and 52-47; they split here losing 51-46 and winning 59-53.

The Crimson Bears lone conference loss, 54-47, was at Ketchikan in Gabi Fenumiai’s first game back from injury. The Crimson Bears played soft on defense that night, relying on Fenumiai to pick up the slack and the conditioning and team chemistry wasn’t there. The following night both Fenumiai and Taylor were pivotal to their teams in the JDHS 77-72 triple overtime win.

“We definitely need to stay focused,” JDHS coach Dee Boster said. “We need to execute our plays and make sure we are very patient on offense. Additionally we need to insure that we have really good help defense because we will need to keep Jayley (Kayhi’s Jayley Taylor) and Jonelle (TMHS’s Jonelle Staveland) from driving and dishing off. They have been the main scorers against us. They create their scoring opportunities. They get a lot of their points from the free-throw line when we foul them. We are not looking past either team.”

JDHS won the series at Juneau 37-34 and 44-33. Meaning a few free throws or turnovers either way could prove to be the difference between these two teams. If Marissa Brakes, Sierra Tagaban, Kaitlin Fagerstrom, Kymberlee Kelly and TJae Garcia can be careful with the ball good things will happen. Especially with Ari Gross back on track, Nicole George and Kayla Balovich inside and Fenumiai simply unstoppable. Plus, they have, arguably the best player in southeast in Esra Siddeek.

The JDHS girls beat TMHS 55-43 and 66-30 last weekend.

The Thunder Mountain girls have dropped all four contests against JDHS and Kayhi but, in truth, they have not put one complete game together. They are capable of playing either team close for three quarters.

“After playing Ketchikan five times now we know they are a tough team and they work the ball around well,” TMHS coach Tanya Nizich said. “We need to focus on getting it inside more and attacking the basket.”

The Falcons lost to KHS at the Thunderdome 54-37 and 57-47 and at the region tourney site 52-38, after surrendering a fourth quarter lead, and 58-54 the following night.

Turnovers have been the TMHS downfall to date. They are slowly cutting back in that respect but the atmosphere of a region tournament can be unnerving. Coach Tanya Nizich will have to keep a tight rein on the court.

The Falcons are getting a lot of aggression out of Shale Kibby, Kinsey Marshall, Jonelle Staveland and Ashley Young.

“Defensively we need to watch our fouls,” Nizich said. “Fouls can put us into some trouble right off the bat. Ketchikan pulls it out and moves it around a little bit longer each possession, making the defense work for longer periods of time. Juneau kind of runs and guns, they are looking for a quick shot. Two teams with very different styles.”

Shayla Reeves, Emily Winters, Eyerus Tingley, Sarah Morris and Michaela Demmert are just a notch back but are capable of pushing the Falcons over the hump.

TMHS has Kayhi’s number and it is just a question of whether or not they are patient enough and careful enough on the offensive end tonight. If the Falcons get a win tonight, it could steamroll into a northern trip to state.

On the 3A brackets Sitka looks to take home two region titles, and possibly two second seeds to state with Mt. Edgecumbe following. The Sitka girls are 21-3 overall with losses to 4A powers Dimond and Juneau-Douglas and top 3A ranked Barrow. The losses were all on the road. The Mt. Edgecumbe girls have, talent wise, the second best team but play erratically. The Craig Lady Panthers cold possibly pull an upset over the Lady Braves in the second round but would probably win again in the state-play-in game on Saturday. Haines may win a game or two and possibly Metlakatla. Petersburg’s Lady Vikings have managed just one win this season.

For 3A boys, Sitka again is the class, although they have dropped one conference game to Mt. Edgecumbe. The Wolves do have the most talent but, as past years have shown, they tend to get emotional to the officiating. Haines and Mt. Edgecumbe are both solid but Archie Young runs a tight Braves ship and they should be packing their bags for up north. The traditionally strong Petersburg Vikings and Wrangell Wolves are in a down season with only two wins among them, both by the Norwegians.

Tournament games will be streamed live at

Monday February 27, 2012
Bears Head to Region V Tournament in Ketchikan
     The Crimson Bears (17-5, 8-0) travel to the First City for Regionals this week. Tournament brackets, schedules, and live web-streaming can be found at:

As the number 1 seed in the tournament, our first game is scheduled for 8:15 pm Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday night's Ketchikan (#2) v. Thunder Mountain (#3) game.

Sunday February 26, 2012
Crimson Bears and Falcons bid goodbye to seniors while thrilling fans - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     JD boys win 52-35 and 50-44

With just 10 seconds left in his high school home court career, Juneau-Douglas senior Jesse Miller got the chance he had been waiting for since basketball was one of his seasonal sports.

With the Crimson Bears ahead of cross-town rival Thunder Mountain 50-35, and a packed crowd looking on, Miller broke down court on a Falcons missed shot that teammate Ryan Kelly corralled. The Falcons defenders ran at Kelly who unleashed an unlikely pass through their towering arms.

The ball floated softly into Millers hands and became a rapid dribble, a timed two-footed leap, and a soft drop down over the rim.

“I have been working on it for a long time,” Miller said. “I just thought this is senior night, my final and last chance to get a dunk on my home floor. It was kind of a bet between me and my dad to see if I could get one. Finally I got it. It definitely wasn’t something I dreamed about as a freshman, but coming into my junior year I started to think I needed to work on getting up in the air. Now, well, it is just crazy.”

Miller’s “dunk” was just one piece of a weekend of lasting memories for the four varsity teams.

Friday’s first game pitted the Crimson Bears girls hosting the Falcons girls and Thunder Mountain’s Jonelle Staveland went crazy from the field, scoring 12 of the Falcons 14 first-half points to keep them in a 23-14 barnburner.

JDHS’ Esra Siddeek matched her shot for shot and tallied 12 of her game-high 19 points in the first half as well.

For the first time all season the two teams battled evenly every quarter, with the Crimson Bears going up 32-22 after three periods.

With seniors Nicole George and Sierra Tagaban for JDHS and Shale Kibby and Kinsey Marshall for TMHS on the floor the fourth quarter became an epic scoring fest.

George’s rebounding allowed Brakes to notch seven of her 10 game points in the period and Tagaban’s defense slowed the hot-shooting Staveland to some degree. For the Falcons, Kibby and Marshall made it a point to set hard picks that Staveland used to notch another seven points and allowed Ashley Young to concentrate on crashing the boards and scoring all nine of her points in the quarter.

JDHS scored 23 points in the fourth period and TMHS 21.

Siddeek led Juneau with 19 points, Gabi Fenumiai 13, Marissa Brakes 10, TJae Garcia six, Kayla Balovich, Amberli Fitka and George two each, and Tagaban one. Fenumiai grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, Kaitlin Fagerstrom and George six apiece, Balovich and Brakes four each, Tagaban three, and Kymberlee Kelly two. Brakes gave out nine assists.

Staveland led the Falcons with 19 points, Young added nine, Kibby seven, Eyerus Tingley four, Shayla Reeves two, and Micheala Demmert and Emily Winters one apiece. Staveland and Young pulled down six rebound apiece, Kibby and Tingley three each. JDHS hit16-35 from the charity stripe, TMHS went 14-22.

If the girls game was a barn burner than the boys followed on Friday night with a barn raiser as the visiting Falcons got behind the deep shooting of Keith Ainsworth, Matt Seymour and Ty Grussendorf to open a 16-10 first period lead. The JDHS seniors scored the point total in the first half for the Crimson Bears. Taylor Swofford ripped a board and put in a sky hook off the backboard, Austin Shoemaker drilled a deep three, Alec Calloway followed in a shot, Miller was his pesky put back self, Lance Ibesate and Tony Yadao played their flawless drive and take the foul game and Evan Gross battled inside.

The upset minded Falcons relied on Seymour from the field and senior Camden Thomas and junior Travis Johnson on the boards inside to keep the game notched at the half 22-22.

JDHS senior Ryan Kelly and junior Phillip Fenumiai gave the Crimson Bears a spark in the third period and took a 35-27 advantage into the fourth period. JDHS outscored the Falcons 12-8 starting the final stanza and after a TMHS timeout the Crimson Bears scored the games final five points.

Yadao and Fenumiai led the JDHS with 10 points apiece, Ibesate added eight, Shoemaker seven, Kelly and Miller four apiece, Gross three, and Darien Stanger, Calloway and Swofford two each.

Seymour led the Falcons with a game-high 11 points, Ainsworth eight, Sam Jahn and Vili Tupou five apiece, and Grussendorf and Josh Tupou three apiece.

JDHS hit 11-14 at the charity stripe, TMHS went 4-14.

The Falcons nearly got revenge on their own senior recognition Saturday at the Thunderdome.

Trailing 22-15 at the half the Falcons stormed back to drop a tightly contested 50-44 game to the Crimson Bears.

Final stats were not available by press time.

The Falcons’ girls fell on their senior night 66-30.

Trailing 10-9 starting the second period Kibby hit a shot to give the Falcons their first lead of the game and Tingley followed with a three pointer. The Crimson Bears regained the lead on baskets by Fenumiai, Kelly and Siddeek and never relinquished the lead again, taking a 34-23 advantage at the half.

“This was the best game we played all season,” JDHS coach Dee Boster said. “Everybody contributed in many ways. One of our goals was to make Jonelle (Staveland) work to get her shots, which we did very well. She is a good shooter. Kymberlee (Kelly) really stepped up tonight and played like a veteran.”

The Crimson Bears went on a 19-2 run to open the third period and the Falcons watched defensive standouts Reeves and Young foul out in the fourth quarter.

Siddeek led all scorers with 18 points, Fenumiai added 14 for JDHS, Kelly eight, Balovich seven, Gross five, Tagaban and Brakes four, Fogg, Roldan, and Fitka two each.

Staveland led the Falcons with 13 points, Kibby added six, Reeves four, Morris, Tingley and Young two each, and Demmert one.

JDHS hit 9-23 at the charity stripe, TMHS went 1-6.

Friday February 24, 2012
Crosstown showdown for Crimson Bears and Falcons - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Senior recognition night for Juneau-Douglas on Friday at JD Senior recognition for Thunder Mountain on Saturday at TM

The best of both worlds collide this weekend as the varsity basketball programs at Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain High Schools meet in a home-and-home regular season ending hoops gala.

The contests will not affect the standings heading into the Region V Championships next weekend at Ketchikan but will be of greater importance in that they will be the final test run before a shot at reaching the state tournament in March.

Possibly of even more importance is the honors that will be bestowed the senior athletes on their final game on their home courts.

The Crimson Bears will honor their seniors involved in the basketball season on Friday at JD gymnasium and the Falcons will honor theirs on Saturday at the Thunderdome.

The night will be a long evening of athletic entertainment and performance.

If the community isn’t already aware of the efforts of the TMHS boys participation in Gov. Sean Parnell’s Choose Respect and Alaska Men Choose Respect campaigns they will be after Saturday evening. A pledge drive will be conducted and JDHS coach Robert Casperson and his Crimson Bears will be signing on. Fans should also look for TMHS soccer coaches Ryan Walters and Sam Greely and members of AWARE and other volunteers who will be offering encouragement and information. Don’t be surprised to see the Mansion Duo of Sean and Sandy spinning a ball on their fingers as well.

Boys Basketball:

JDHS - Lance Ibesate, Tony Yadao, Austin Shoemaker, Alec Calloway, Taylor Swofford, Evan Gross, Jesse Miller, Ryan Kelly, Darien Stanger, Monico Yadao,

TMHS – Camden Thomas, Allen Shaw, Coltin Lanz, manager Janessa Sabei and manager Sarah Neira.

Girls Basketball:

JDHS - Nicole George, Sierra Tagaban.

TMHS - Shale Kibby and Kinsey Marshall.

Basketball Cheer And Stunt Team:

JDHS - Krista Bontrager – Manager, Caitlyn Bossio – Manager, Richielle Corpuz, Lindsey Endicott, Jerick Ibias, Haley Klementson, Chelsea Kilgore, Angela Pintang, Dylan Skrzynski, Rina Soriano.

TMHS – Chaleb Calandra, Alexa Duran, James Gilchrest, and Dawn Shane.

Dance Team:

JDHS - Angela Endicott, Danica Paguio, Vanessa Camba.

TMHS - Megan Clough and Jeslie Villaverde.

Pep Band:

JDHS - Fiona Brown, Colton Welch, Alan Young, Ian Andrews, Zeb Bodine, Jacob Taug, Alex Matheson, Deborah Cordero, Kelsey Savikko, Matthew Staley.

TMHS - Nathalie Aguirre, Krysty Carter, MaKenzie DeRego, Taylor Edwards, Teresa Rose, Wilson Suzuki.

Friday February 17, 2012
Mt. Edgecumbe topples Crimson Bears 47-42 - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Mt. Edgecumbe’s Kacy Green sank three free throws in the final 13 seconds to stun the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears in their own gym on Thursday night 47-42.

“They are very good at what they do and they disrupted anything we tried to get into,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “They controlled the tempo and had a well executed game plan. We did not execute nearly as well with the things we had prepared for. My hat is off to them. They did a really nice job.”

The Braves, a 3A power, used a patient passing attack to counter the Crimson Bears tenacious defense.

“Most of our guys are becoming more aggressive,” Braves coach Archie Young said. “They are getting more comfortable with being aggressive and we tell them that aggressive teams win ball games.”

JDHS’ Evan Gross powered in the first bucket of the game but five seconds later Green drove the lane and hit a basket while drawing a foul on the Crimson Bears’ Lance Ibesate. Green hit the free throw to put the Braves up 3-2, it would be their only lead until Dominique Hall buried a jumper with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter for a 29-28 advantage.

JDHS’ Alec Calloway scored inside five seconds later to regain the lead, followed another shot and dished to Phillip Fenumiai for another deuce as the two teams exchanged baskets with the Crimson Bears leading 35-33 starting the final period.

Mt. Edgecumbe’s Hall gave the Braves buried a three at the 5:06 mark to go up two, but seconds later Tony Yadao gave the home team his own triple from deep for the lead again.

Tied at 41, the Braves Jaylin Prince hit a three to take the lead for good. With 1:07 remaining, JDHS’ Ryan Kelly stole the ball and was fouled, sinking a free throw to get the Crimson Bears moving. Yadao stole the next possession and JDHS got three shots at tying the score but failed to convert and Mt. Edgecumbe put the ball in Green’s hands in the final seconds.

The usually terrifying Crimson Bears full court press was not affective against the patient passing Braves and JDHS fell back to zone or man throughout the night.

“We didn’t get much out of it in the first half so we didn’t use it a whole lot,” Casperson said. “When it came down to the end, it end it was too little to late in terms of our effort and our execution of our pressure.”

JDHS led 13-7 at the end of the first quarter and 26-22 at the half. Dominique Hall hit seven of his team-high 17 points in the second period to keep the Braves on course and buried three from beyond the arch in the contest.

Austin Shoemaker hit two deep shots in the second quarter as well for six of his eight team points to keep JDHS on the move.

Calloway led the Crimson Bears with 10 points, Shoemaker had eight, Gross four, Yadao, Jackson Lehnhart, Fenumiai, and Darien Stanger three each, Ibesate, Kelly, Jeffrey Pusich and Gary Speck two each.

Hall led the Braves with 17 points, Jaylin Prince added 13, Green 11, Cody Sherman four and Leo Ford two. JDHS hit 2-5 at the charity stripe, Mt. Edgecumbe went 14-21.

The Mt. Edgecumbe team was on its way to play Haines on Friday and Saturday.

“Juneau is a very good team,” Young said. “Anytime we can play a good team and have success it really helps our mindset. It is a great learning experience for our kids. We tell them to go into every game with that mindset. We like to play three games in a row, it is the best preparation for the region tournament.”

The Braves have now beaten JDHS twice in a row, accomplishing the first win in last season’s Region V Crossover Championship game.

Sunday February 12, 2012
Crimson Bears boys are 'Kings' of the hardwood - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     JDHS tops Ketchikan 65-38 and 60-43

The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boy’s basketball team has bought into the team theme. That age-old adage that team is first, last, and all-powerful.

“We are all starting to get into the team concept this year,” JDHS captain Tony Yadao said. “I think we all realize that none of us has to do it all on our own. Together it is easier to get team shots and good percentage shots. The senior leadership is definitely a big part, all ten of us actually, all play a big part in that, we can all be leaders in that way.”

On Friday night the Ketchikan Kings watched as the Crimson Bears got scoring from 10 different players in a 65-38 JDHS win that wasn’t as close as the lopsided score suggested.

“We came out pretty focused,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “I thought that was the best we moved the ball and looked for each other. We worked to get guys open. We looked in the open court and made the pass when it was appropriate. That was fun for me to watch, I have been waiting to see that come out of our guys. I know it is in there, I see it in practice and in the individual work they do. It is nice for them to have the chance to display it and a nice crowd here tonight to see it.”

Tony Yadao buried the first jumper of the evening at 7:50 of the first period, taking just eight seconds to retrieve the tip, dribble inside the arch and calmly lift into a straight swish.

Austin Shoemaker kept the ball alive on the next possession, getting two rebounds on his own shot, only to have teammate Alec Calloway tip in what would have been a third rebound. Calloway would end the night with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Shoemaker would score a team-high 16 points.

What is incredible is that those two players probably touched the ball the least when on the floor. Effort has become the Crimson Bears priority.

Yadao would bury another jumper, Lance Ibesate a deep three and Gary Speck scored and was fouled to cap off the 14-6 first period lead.

Ketchikan’s Kyle Day got open looks in the second quarter when the Crimson Bears went to a trapping defense. A pair of three’s from deep outside the arch for the Kings sharpshooter and the JDHS defense went back to straight man.

“He is a good shooter and they work hard to get him open,” Casperson said. “He comes off screens. It was a concern in the first half.”

Yet Day’s points didn’t come until after the Crimson Bears had gotten blocks from Gross, a Phillip Fenumiai steal and score, and a tip by Yadao. Calloway tipped in two more shots and Ibesate double pumped and dished a pass to Speck who scored at the buzzer for a 33-16 advantage. The Crimson Bears had closed out the half with a 19-point second period.

“The guys are working hard and they believe in their teammates,” Casperson said. “Somebody else can step in and they are encouraged by their teammates. They get in and work just as hard defensively as the last guy.”

Defensively, the Crimson Bears never let Ketchikan put in a run of more than three points in the second half, winding their lead to 47-27 after three quarters and scoring 18 points in the final stanza. Ibesate added nine points for JDHS, Yadao eight, Speck seven, Fenumiai five, Ryan Kelly, Jesse Miller, Darien Stanger, and Taylor Swofford two each. Ketchikan’s Day had a game-high 21 points, Travis Taylor added 11, Omar Mendoza five and Brien Auger one. JDHS hit 4-10 at the free throw line, Ketchikan went 3-10.

On Saturday Ketchikan struck first but the Crimson Bears went on an 8-0 run that forced a Kings time out. A Kyle Day reverse layup and free throw gave the Kings momentum and a 15-13 first quarter lead in a back-forth-court race.

JDHS went on another 8-0 spurt in the opening minute of the second period and Yadao applied defensive pressure on Days explosive offense to carry the Crimson Bears into the break up 30-21. JDHS couldn’t put the Kings away in the second half. Up by 20 points in the third period the Kings battled back to 46-33 starting the final stanza. Day then hit a three and three free throws to close the Kings within seven points, 48-41 in the fourth, but Yadao and Ibesate spread the floor. The duo scored 10 points in the stanza and dished passes inside to Speck and Calloway to seal the game 60-43.

Yadao scored a game-high 24 points, Ibesate added 14, Shoemaker eight, Fenumiai, Calloway, and Speck four each, and Gross two.

Ketchikan’s Day had 21 points, Taylor added eight, Dulay five, Lervick four, Seludo three, and Auger two. JDHS hit 22-29 from the line, the Kings went 10-17.

“I was really proud of the way we responded,” Casperson said. “Ketchikan is a tough team and battled back to cut our lead in half, and our guys responded. We break our huddles with “together,” and it seems that is starting to mean more to them now. They are encouraging each other more and we our working to get ‘our’ shots not trying to get ‘me’ a shot.”

The Crimson Bears face Mt. Edgecumbe on Thursday. The Braves beat JDHS in the Region V tournament last season.

Sunday February 05, 2012
Rough road trip for Crimson Bears boys hoopsters - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Wasilla Warriors, the third-ranked team in the state, bested the Juneau-Douglas High School boys cagers for the second night in a row on Friday, 57-37. The Crimson Bears reversed their fortunes with a 51-40 win over the fifth-ranked Palmer Moose on Saturday.

Again the Warriors’ Division 1 prospect Connor Devine swatted a dozen shots as the Crimson Bears drought from outside made them more susceptible to bringing the rock to the rim.

“We had lots of good looks,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “It was one of those nights, and one of those series, where things just wouldn’t fall through for us.”

After trailing by just three at the half, 21-18, the Crimson Bears were outscored 36-19 in the second half.

Using dribble penetration and pulling up for jumpers in the lane, the Crimson Bears found a lid on the basket. They also found Devine in the paint. The Wasilla mainstay scored 13 points but had another game high in rebounds and blocked shots.

“We could certainly beat their guards off the dribble and curling around screens,” Casperson said. “We got good looks but just didn’t knock them down.”

The Crimson Bears used a full court defense to stay even in the first half. The Warriors pressured on the perimeter and used Devine’s presence in the paint to take more chances defensively. JDHS experimented with a five guard line up, going with Lance Ibesate, Tony Yadao, Austin Shoemaker, Alec Calloway and Phillip Fenumiai. Calloway got the challenge of defending Devine and, according to coaches, the first ever block out foul for clearing space on the Warriors center.

“I was proud of him for that,” Casperson said. “It was a good block out.”

Austin Shoemaker led the Crimson Bears with 11 points, Lance Ibesate added eight, Alex Calloway six, Tony Yadao and Aquino Brinson three apiece, Jackson Lehnhart, Gary Speck, and Bruce Jones two each.

JDHS hit 3-8 at the charity stripe, Wasilla went 14-18. Devine and Braydon Kuiper had 13 apiece for the Warriors, and Dane Kuiper added 11.

“We never quit,” Casperson said. “Our guys kept battling and working. We just missed a lot of shots. We have to tip our hat to them, we just got beat.”

On Saturday the Crimson Bears outscored Palmer 18-6 in the fourth quarter to beat the Moose 51-44.

“It was nice to see we could win on the road,” Casperson said. “It was a great way to end the road trip.”

The Moose had quarter leads of 7-6, 18-16, and 34-33 before the Crimson Bears picked up their defensive pressure.

Yadao was credited by coaches for defending the Moose’s Connor Looney, who had scored 40 points in his last game.

The Crimson Bears overall team defensive pressure in the fourth quarter wore the home court off the Moose and many of Palmer’s shots were short, according to coaches.

Ibesate and Yadao led with 12 points apiece, Calloway nine, Fenumiai six each, Ryan Kelly and Jeffrey Pusich four apiece and Gary Speck and Austin Shoemaker two each.

JDHS hit 10-11 at the charity stripe while Palmer went 7-16. James Neisbit led the Moose with 11 points.

The Crimson Bears began the road trip with a 67-60 loss to the Service Cougars and a 64-44 loss on Thursday to the Warriors.

“We are learning,” Casperson said. “That which does not kill us will make us stronger.”

Friday February 03, 2012
Bears drop game to Warriors - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Crimson Bears’ boys basketball team ran into a tall and talented Wasilla Warriors team on Thursday and were beaten 64-44.

“It wasn’t a 20-point game,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “We trailed by eight going into the fourth quarter. We will make some adjustments and come back tomorrow. That is the beauty of playing an opponent twice in a row.”

Wasilla got a triple-double from Connor Devine. Devine scored 19 points, 19 rebounds and 11 blocks. Lance Ibesate led JDHS with 16 points, Tony Yadao had nine, Phillip Fenumiai six, Jackson Lehnhart three, Ryan Kelly, Evan Gross, Jeffrey Pusich, Alec Calloway, and Austin Shoemaker two each. JDHS hit 9-13 from the line, Wasilla went 8-13.

Thursday February 02, 2012
JDHS boys fall to Service 67-60 - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Juneau-Douglas High School played a basketball game at Service on Wednesday night, unfortunately for the Crimson Bears their opponents were in a free-throw shooting contest.

The Cougars were awarded a fat 38 trips to the charity stripe where they sank 24. The Crimson Bears went to the line 19 times and made 12. Service picked up their fourth foul of the second half with just a minute remaining in the game. In the first half the Cougars committed 15.

JDHS lost the hoops contest 67-60 after leading at the half 36-30.

“I told our guys that you just have to play through it,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “We had our chances to win the game. We missed some layups down the stretch and had some looks at jumpers. They put some pressure on us and we did not execute our press break.”

Phillip Fenumiai led the Crimson Bears with 17 points, Lance Ibesate, Austin Shoemaker and Alec Calloway had 10 each, Tony Yadao seven, Aquino Brinson and Gary Speck two each, Jeffrey Pusich and Evan Gross one each.

Service led 15-13 after one quarter.

JDHS plays at Wasilla tonight and tomorrow, and finishes with a Saturday game at Palmer.

“The whole point of this trip is too identify where we are at,” Casperson said. “And to get better from here on out. This would be a wasted experience if we didn’t learn from it. Win lose or draw. If we make corrections night-to-night to get better, that is exactly what I am looking for.”

Sunday January 29, 2012
Crimson Bears' boys sweep Kodiak - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Crimson Bears are undefeated against Alaska teams

The Juneau-Douglas High School boy’s basketball team improved their season record to 12-1 over the weekend with a series sweep of visiting Kodiak. The wins mean the Crimson Bears have yet to lose to an Alaska team this season.

“That is a pretty nice compliment to our guys,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “We have had some quality wins this year.”

The Crimson Bears speed was put to the test against Kodiak in a down-to-the-wire 59-56 thriller on Friday and a 61-50 win on Saturday.

It appeared the JDHS guard play would be too much for an undersized Kodiak squad on Friday night as Evan Gross scored inside just 10 seconds into the game on a Lance Ibesate assist.

Tony Yadao then tipped a pass in the Crimson Bears press and Alec Calloway tipped in a missed shot for two more.

Kodiak adjusted their press offense by giving guards Jemuel Medina and Josh Obas the dribbling green light and they broke the defensive barrier to feed Austin Frick for two quick scores.

The game became a back and forth affair with JDHS’ Ryan Kelly scoring to end the first period with a 9-8 advantage. Neither team could push the lead past three points and the game was tied 29-29 at the half.

Yadao Calloway collected six of his team-high 19 points in the third period as JDHS held a 45-42 advantage going into the final stanza.

Kodiak’s Tony Will scored all eight of his points in the final period to keep the Bears in the game but bench play from Austin Shoemaker and Gary Speck gave the Crimson Bears a boarding advantage down the stretch.

Ibesate added 11 points for the Crimson Bears, Speck eight, Shoemaker seven, Yadao six, Kelly, Jackson Lehnhart, Phillip Fenumiai and Gross two apiece. Calloway also pulled down nine rebounds.

Kodiak got a game-high 22 points from Jesse Swearingin, Medina added nine, Josh Obas and Elijah Hiner six apiece, Frick four and Josh Bezona one.

Kodiak hit 12-13 form the charity stripe while the Crimson Bears were 11-26 and missed two technical free throws in the final seconds.

After making defensive adjustments throughout the course of Saturday’s game the Crimson Bears stuck with a full court press that took Kodiak out of rhythm.

At one point in the first half JDHS was down by seven and press resulted in a run of three straight scores to close the gap.

“We ended up picking up the tempo a little bit and shot better from the free throw line,” Casperson said. “We had too. They are one of the better high school free-throw shooting teams I have ever seen. They like to beat you off the dribble in the half court, we took that away with our press.”

Kodiak hit 14-16 at the charity stripe on the night while JDHS went 19-26.

With the score tied at 12-12 starting the second period Kodiak outscored the Crimson Bears 12-3 heading into the half.

That was when the Crimson Bears went away from zones and implemented the straight full court pressure. JDHS outscored Kodiak 16-7 in the third period and 30-21 in the final stanza. Crucial to the runs were the board work of Calloway, Shoemaker and Gross. Gross added eight blocked shots to his seven rebounds.

“What Evan doesn’t do offensively for us, he more than makes up for on the defensive end,” Casperson said. “He is the anchor for our defense on that back line. We came out with intensity. We had guys that came off the bench too that really gave us a lift. Gary Speck played huge for us.”

Ibesate led the Crimson Bears with 17 points, Yadao added eight, Shoemaker seven, Aquino Brinson, Fenumiai, and Speck six apiece, Calloway five, Kelly two and Jesse Miller one.

Kodiak was led by Swearingin with 20, Medina added eight Frick and Obas six, Will and Hiner four, and Garcia two.

The Crimson Bears travel north to play at Service on Wednesday, Wasilla Thursday and Friday, and at Palmer on Saturday. JDHS’ lone loss this season has been to Christian Life from Texas.

Friday January 27, 2012
JD boys welcome Kodiak - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Hooptime teams to play at JDHS halftime

The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears will have some running around to do over the weekend. The Kodiak Bears feature some tough backcourt matchups, even though JDHS beat Kodiak by 20 earlier in the season at the Alaska Airlines Classic.

A feature of Friday’s game will be a halftime exhibition match by Hooptime third and fourth graders.

Many of the JDHS and TMHS roster are former youth Hooptime players, such as: Tony Yadao, Lance Ibesate, Darien Stanger, Ryan Kelly, Jesse Miller, Ty Grussendorf, and Matt Seymour to name a few.

“Hooptime is a program I believe in,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “Their players and coaches have an open invite to come to watch our practices any time.”

JDHS plays Kodiak at 7 p.m.

Sunday January 22, 2012
Crimson Bears' Calloway cools Chugiak comeback - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     JDHS sweeps series 48-45 and 55-39

Juneau-Douglas High School senior Alec Calloway scored eight of his game-high 17 points in the final three minutes of Friday night’s 48-45 Crimson Bears win over visiting Chugiak, shutting down a late rally that saw the Mustangs fight back from a 26-9 halftime deficit.

“He is very active,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “And we need that to spread. We need more guys to buy into that, it is just pure hustle plays and they make a big difference down the stretch. Our effort was there for the most part but our execution wasn’t the best. If we weren’t getting layups we struggled to score and fortunately Calloway hit some jumpers in the fourth quarter and he got active without the ball.”

Calloway put in a rebound follow minutes into the first quarter to compliment the guard duo of Lance Ibesate and Tony Yadao and JDHS was off to the races.

While the Mustangs only trailed 11-7 starting the second period, the Crimson Bears had yet to pick up their defensive pressure.

Baskets by Ryan Kelly and Jeffrey Pusich opening the second stanza set the Crimson Bears into a press mentality and Chugiak was held to just two points for the remainder of the half.

Casperson cleared the bench in the third period and Taylor Swofford snatched the biggest rebound of the night, picking a missed Mustang shot off the rim and threw an outlet pass to a streaking Ibesate. Swofford then blocked a shot and challenged a second attempt as the aggressive Chugiak team starting firing farther out side the lane.

Chugiak’s Ryan Harris hit four of his five trey’s in the third period as the Mustangs closed to within seven at 35-28.

“We can’t just let a team’s shooter see the basket for free like that,” Casperson commented.

After a Kelly free throw to open the fourth quarter, Chugiak’s Marquiz Spearman tipped in a shot to bring the Mustangs within six, 36-30.

Twice Chugiak pulled to within one point as the Crimson Bears pulled the ball out in a spread, but missed a shot. Leading by one 40-39, Calloway began his late game heroics with three short jumpers and a blocked shot, and Ibesate kissed in a fast break lay up.

Chugiak’s Skyler Fullmer hit a trey at the buzzer to end the scoring in a losing effort.

Ibesate added 12 points for the Crimson Bears, Yadao seven, Kelly and Jackson Lehnhart three each, Pusich, Darien Stanger, and Evan Gross two apiece.

Harris led Chugiak with 15 points, Steven Puterbaugh and Fullmer eight apiece, Matt Oldenkamp five, Spearman four, Kenny Peques three, and Wade Snell two.

JDHS hit 10-15 at the charity stripe, Chugiak went 7-13.

Yadao led the Crimson Bears with 20 points on Saturday night, burying three straight baskets in the first period and three straight triples in the second as JDHS opened a 31-16 halftime advantage.

JDHS scored in double figures in each period while the Mustangs tallied 17 points in the final stanza after the game’s outcome was set.

The Crimson Bears were up 45-22 starting the final period.

Ibesate, Lehnhart and Austin Shoemaker added six points each, Pusich and Calloway four, Aquino Brinson and Phillip Fenumiai three apiece, Gary Speck two and Gross one.

Skyler Fullmer led the Mustangs with nine points, Puterbaugh and Harris six apiece, Spearman five, Roger Jorgensen four, Snell three, Plumb and Oldenkamp two each, and P. Fullmer one.

JDHS went 17-28 from the line, Chugiak hit just 12-32.

The JDHS JV lost to Hydaburg’s varsity 49-46 on Friday.

Brinson led with 19 points, Nathan Klein eight, Bruce Jones seven, Monico Yadao, Adam Empson and Kevin Guimmayen four each. Francis McKinley led Hydaburg with 20, Anthony Edenshaw added 17, Donald Edenshaw nine, Andrew Kashaverof two and Tyrel Edenshaw one.

Friday January 20, 2012
JDHS cagers get to ride the Mustangs next - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boys’ basketball team will host the Chugiak Mustangs tonight and Saturday.

“We are looking forward to Chugiak’s arrival,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “It has been a long time since they have been to the Capital City, if ever, and we appreciate that we have this opportunity to play an Anchorage school at home. I am hopeful that we will be able to include more Anchorage schools on our schedule next season, too. Playing in Juneau is a unique opportunity for anyone.”

The Juneau basketball fan base alone, both at JDHS and TMHS, makes the trip worth it for the Anchorage schools. Northern schools traditionally don’t play in front of 800-plus fans that enjoy and appreciate quality basketball, except when the state tournament is at the Sullivan Arena.

“It is a luxury that we cannot take for granted,” Casperson stated.

The Crimson Bears are coming off an impressive tournament at the Alaska Airlines Classic, hosted by West Anchorage, where in two wins and one loss they played their best basketball against the toughest competition to date.

JDHS gave up a season high 74 points to Texas’ Christian Life Center in the tourney opening loss, then turned around and limited North Carolina’s Mt. Zion to 55 in a win and forcing Kodiak into 25 turnovers and allowing just 35 points in another victory.

Chugiak recently lost to Palmer by 20 points and beat West Valley by one before playing Thunder Mountain on Thursday. The Mustangs feature a 6-foot-7 post and some quickness.

“I believe that Chugiak will provide a strong test for us coming off a successful weekend at the Alaska Airlines Classic,” Casperson said. “Our team is making strides in the right direction. We have had a laser-like focus on defense in practice this season and it is starting to pay off. We need to keep moving forward in this direction and continue to improve this weekend.”

Unfortunately, the most recent media poll shows that voters had their head’s in the sand and dropped the Crimson Bears from the top 5.

The Juneau JV will play the Hydaburg boys’ varsity at 5 p.m. today before the Crimson Bears battle the Mustangs at 7 p.m.

On Saturday the Juneau boy’s C team will take on the JDHS girls varsity at 5 p.m., again as a preliminary to the boys varsity and Chugiak at 7 p.m.

The JDHS boys’ basketball team and JDHS administrative staff have invited representatives from Cancer Connection, including Ruth Johnson and Alex Viteri, who will be donating their time, to make themselves available in the lobby to raise the awareness of men's prostate and testicular cancer.

While women’s issues are important it has been shown that men are often not as proactive as women when it comes to their health. As with many types of cancer, early detection is essential in the successful treatment and possible cure in these diseases.

Men are encouraged to stop by the tables in the JDHS lobby and obtain information, brochures and ask questions. Men often intend to have their health checked but often don’t so women are asked to help encourage sons, husbands, fathers or grandfathers to become aware of the risks and benefits of early testing and detection for prostate and testicular cancer.

Sunday January 15, 2012
JDHS boys fare well on national stage - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Crimson Bears open eyes and have eyes opened by competition

The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boy’s basketball team saw just how far they needed to improve during the 2012 Alaska Airlines Classic over the weekend.

The answer: A lot and not much.

JDHS took fourth place at the prestigious gathering of high school hoopsters, opening tourney play with a 74-48 loss to Christian Life Academy from Humble, Texas on Thursday, then beat North Carolina power Mt. Zion 66-55 on Friday; and trashing Kodiak 61-35 on Saturday.

“It was a good win for us for sure,” JDHS head coach Robert Casperson said of the Crimson Bears defeat of the Warriors from Durham. “Not to take anything away from the teams we have played up to this point but Mt. Zion is the best team we have played and won. Texas is the best team we have played.”

Mt. Zion fields a varsity team and a national prep team. The prep team attracts players such as current pro Tracy McGrady, the varsity team was at Anchorage.

Against Christian Life on opening day, the Crimson Bears struggled in the final three minutes of the first period but only trailed 22-10 starting the second period and aside from the first two minutes of that period, JDHS played the Texas power even.

“I am proud of our kids,” Casperson said. “They accepted the challenge and went after them.”

Tied at 10 midway through the first period the team from Humble, Texas switched from a man to a zone press and their size and length resulted in some errant JDHS passes. When they did break the press the Crimson Bears missed some layups. The result was a 36-18 halftime disadvantage. JDHS was outscored only 16-11 in the third period and 22-19 in the final stanza.

Tony Yadao led JDHS with 17 points, Austin Shoemaker and Phillip Fenumiai seven apiece, Lance Ibesate, Alec Calloway and Evan Gross four each, Jeffrey Pusich three, and Jackson Lehnhart two. Jonathan Doss scored 20, Josh Johnson added 18 and Myles Robinson 11 for Christian Life. JDHS hit 3-5 at the charity stripe, CLA went 4-10.

“Our guys played through the final nine seconds,” Casperson said. “They just wanted to keep going. I like our competitive nature.”

Mt. Zion had more athletes top to bottom in Friday’s action.

“But our athletes are pretty good,” Casperson said. “They stick their nose in there and get after it.”

The two teams were tied 11-11 starting the second period and the Crimson Bears led at the half 28-24. The teams were even at 42 starting the final stanza.

The Crimson Bears went with five guards midway through the fourth to spread the floor and create one-on-one drives to the rim. Alec Calloway was also on the court and the five went 13-14 from the free throw line in the period.

“Between Lance, Tony, Austin and Phillip, those four guards did most of the ball handling down the stretch,” Casperson said. The Crimson Bears went with a zone to stop the dunking of Mt. Zion’s Michel-Ofik Nzege, a prep team member.

“Our guys weren’t fazed,” Casperson said. “They consider a dunk just two points. We inbounded the ball and went the other way, fast. I feel very fortunate to have as many options as I do on this team.”

Fenumiai led with 20 points, Yadao 13, Ibesate 12, Calloway and Shoemaker nine apiece, Darien Stanger two, and Gross one. Nzege led the Warriors with 21. JDHS hit 15-19 at the line, Mt. Zion 9-19.

Against Kodiak the Crimson Bears led 15-10 after one period and pressed into a 31-16 halftime advantage. After an even third period JDHS outscored the Bears 12-4 in the fourth.

Calloway led JDHS with 16 points, Fenumiai had 14, Ibesate 13, Yadao seven, Stanger three, Ryan Kelly, Lehnhart, Pusich and Gross two each. Austin Frick led Kodiak with nine points. JDHS hit 6-10 at the line, KHS 8-15.

Tourney scores day 1: Christian Life (TX.)74 JDHS 48, Bartlett 79, Mt. Zion (N.C.) 67, West 84 Delta 35, East Hall (Georgia) 87 Kodiak 65. Day 2: Bartlett 82 CL 73, East Hall 79 West 78, JDHS 66 Mt. Zion 55, Kodiak 69 Delta 47. Day 3: 7th place game Mt. Zion 72 Delta 37, 4th JDHS 61 Kodiak 35, 3rd CL 87 West 63, Championship East Hall 87 Bartlett 74.

“The tournament was a great test for us,” Casperson said. “To see where we are at and identify areas of strength and weakness. There is always something to work on. This has been incredible. It was everything we hoped for and more.”

The Crimson Bears were also able to watch a UAA men’s basketball practice and then watch the Seawolves play Western Washington University. UAA features southeast’s own Kyle Fossman from Haines while Western has Petersburg’s Cameron Severson.

Up next for JDHS is a visit form Chugiak on Jan. 20-21 and Kodiak on Jan. 27-28.

Wednesday January 11, 2012
Crimson Bears opponent flees, another fills in - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Juneau Douglas Crimson Bears boys are ranked first in the Southeast Conference and fourth in the state. Their next opponent was ranked 14th. In the nation, as in, the United States of America, as in, anywhere someone can put up a hoop and toss the rock through it.

“It would have been a fun time,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said of the Crimson Bears’ original first round match up in the 8th annual Alaska Airlines Classic 2012 Basketball Tournament at West Anchorage High School. “We were looking forward to it. We still are. The field is phenomenal.”

On Thursday the Crimson Bears were scheduled to play Arlington County Day from Jacksonville, Florida, the 14th best high school basketball team in Obama’s world according to major sports ranking organizations such as Five Star Basketball, ESPN, and Max Preps, among others. Their ranking has been noted as far down as 37th in the nation.

The ACD Apaches feature two players 6-foot-8 and inch their way down to the smallest at 6-foot-2. They have six Division I scholarship athletes ready to receive a free education due to their ability to play the game of basketball better than most junior college athletes and many top college prospects.

Unfortunately, according to tournament director C. David Williamson, the West High School athletic director, ACD pulled out of the tournament on Monday.

Williamson said they received an email message from head coach Rex Morgan stating, “due to unforeseen circumstances” his team would be unable to participate.

Williamson said they spent hours trying to contact ACD. They finally reached the school’s principal who said he was unaware of the basketball teams plans and stated, “They operate their affairs separately, and independently, from the rest of the schools activities.”

The ACD athletic director is also the coach. The assistant principal refused to interrupt the team’s practice to inquire about the canceled trip to Alaska.

“Of course we are disappointed about them pulling out,” Casperson said. “We will play anybody anytime.”

In fact, the replacement team for the tournament just happens to be the defending champions from last year. They just happen to be ranked in the top 10 of the second biggest state. They just happen to have a top 50 national caliber roster.

“We made one phone call,” Williamson said. “And Christian Life from Texas were delighted to return to the tournament. I have to give kudos to them, and major kudos to the very fine people at Alaska Airlines who worked closely with the administration at West to make all of the ticket changes in an expedient manner. We are indebted to them.”

The Crimson Bears now face the Cougars from Christian Life Center in Humble, Texas. They feature 6-foot-9 power forward Joe Burton. Burton has been getting mail from prospective colleges seeking his skills. Burton is just a sophomore. The team returns six players who traveled to Alaska last year. One is 6-foot-10 center Mike Lewis, another is 6-foot-2 deadeye Josh Gray, and another is 5-foot-9 captain P J Hardwick. All have major colleges ringing their doorbells.

Anybody anytime.

“We obviously have to pay attention to any opponents abilities and tendencies,” Casperson said. “But this is just a great opportunity to see some high-caliber competition and see how we stack up. See what we need to work on and move forward.”

If the Crimson Bears get past Cougars, there is the small task of a possible meeting with another team that used that same motto when contacting Williamson, the Mt. Zion Christian Academy Warriors from Durham, North Carolina.

Or JDHS may move on to play the East Hall Vikings from Gainesville, Georgia, or the defending Alaska state champion Bartlett Golden Bears or state runner-up West Thunderbirds, the tournament host.

Mt. Zion is noted for NBA alumni Tracy McGrady, Brandon Rush, Marquis Daniels and Amare’e Stoudemire and feature 6-foot-11 Tobe Okafor this season. Year in and year out they play one of the most difficult schedules in the nation.

East Hall is noted for winning the past three Georgia state titles in their division, one of the most competitive in the state, and travel to multiple prestigious tournaments each year. They have multiple players being recruited by division one colleges in both basketball and football. Two of last seasons graduates are playing at Georgia and Georgia Tech.

Bartlett and West reload each season with some of the Anchorage area’s best talent and have strong senior guards this season. Kodiak and Delta Junction are also at the tourney. It is expected that West’s entire student body, over 2,000 students, will be watching their first game against Delta.

“I think it is going to be a good experience for the team,” JDHS senior Alec Calloway said. “And for everyone individually. I am excited to get on the court with some of these teams. We just want to show that we can play against teams we have never seen before and play hard and come out with W’s. We just get in the right mindset to play, get ready to play, and think we are going to win the game from the very beginning.”

The tournament teams will also be treated to an Alaska Heritage class at West, visit museums and get to experience the outdoors, temperature and weather permitting.

East Hall coach Joe Dix stated that 11 of his players have never flown before and only one member of the coaching staff has. The trip is over 3,400 miles, a bit longer than previous years where the longest trip for game time was just a 50-minute flight away. An additional 40 fans are traveling with the team because it is “The trip of a lifetime.”

“It will be more than just a basketball tournament,” Dix said on Tuesday. “And the kids are excited to go. It is a once in a lifetime experience. Most of the players have never been far from this rural area. I think one of my coaches took a cruise to Alaska once. We are looking forward to the cultural experience and how it will help us develop as a basketball team.”

Dix stated they don’t see much snow.

“We have a dusting and everything shuts down,” Dix said. “You guys still wear shorts. We have talked daily about the trip with the kids and we still know we will not be prepared for the weather. We are hoping we have the right gear for that climate. We don’t want to be indoors the whole time, but man, the weather channel is scary right now showing all that snow in Cordova. We are reassuring the kids that Anchorage is 150 miles away from there. The talk of the town here is about our team going up to Alaska.”

The appeal of a match up between Alaska preps and ‘down south’ preps has dated back to when East High School’s 6-foot-3 guard Trajan Langdon led his Thunderbirds to a near upset of the nation’s top team at the time, Oak Hill Academy, from Mouth of Wilson Virginia, and their 6-foot-four superstar Jeff McInnis.

Langdon went on to play at Duke University, McInnis to the University of North Carolina. Langdon went on to play professionally for the Cleveland Cavaliers then on to win championships or honors with Italian League club Benetton Treviso, Turkish League club Efes Pilsen, and Russian League clubs Dynamo Moscow and CSKA Moscow; McInnis went on to play for the Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte Bobcats, in Greece and in the CBA.

Even JDHS coach Casperson played in a tourney field with Science Hill from Johnson City, TN, and St. Raymond’s from Bronx, NY.

“It is a one in a lifetime opportunity,” Casperson said. “Our guys may never experience this again. We just hope to play as hard as we can and execute the things we have been working on in practice at a high enough level to come away with a few wins. I can’t imagine our group of guys will back down from anybody. From what I have seen in practice so far, I would expect this team to play as hard if they were up 20 as if they were down 20. That is just how our practices have gone. They just enjoy playing and getting after it.”

Said Williamson, “We started the tradition with Juneau a few years ago and are very pleased to continue it as part of the tournament. I have a gut feeling that Juneau is going to do very well this year with a strong chance to contend for the title. I wish the Bears the best of luck.”

Play begins Thursday as West opens against Delta at 12:45 p.m., Juneau plays Christian Life at 2:30, Bartlett faces Mt. Zion at 6 p.m., and Kodiak plays East Hall at 7:30 p.m.

The JDHS girls play West Valley tonight at JDHS gym, while the TMHS boys and girls await the Thunder Dome tourney to begin at TMHS Thursday.

Monday January 09, 2012
JDHS boys get all medieval on Knights - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Crimson Bears win battles in homecoming hoops war

From the opening tip to the sound of the final buzzer an army of swarming Juneau Douglas High School boys basketball players pressured visiting Colony into two non-conference losses on homecoming weekend, sweeping the Knights 75-69 on Friday and 67-54 on Saturday.

“Definitely everybody played hard,” JDHS head coach Robert Casperson said after Friday’s win. “It was the culmination of a big week at school for these kids with all the activities going on during the week. It was a great crowd with great fan support.”

That support showed with five minutes remaining in the third quarter as the Crimson Bears, trailing 38-35, went on a 21-5 run to end the period.

Senior guard Lance Ibesate started the onslaught with a break-a-way layup, then turned around to draw Colony’s Nathan Umbarger into his third foul and hit two free throws for a lead the Crimson Bears never relinquished.

Ibesate’s backcourt classmate Tony Yadao hit a free throw, Ibesate drew Umbarger’s fourth foul to hit two more free throws, and Alec Calloway scored on a put back and again on an Austin Shoemaker steal for a 46-40 lead at the 2:49 mark.

Shoemaker stole the next possession from Colony and hit a streaking Ibesate to make it 48-40 and the duo repeated the same scenario 15 seconds later for a 10-point advantage.

Ibesate created his own larceny on the next Colony possession and fed Calloway for two, Evan Gross notched two free throws and Ibesate finished the period with a breaking layup on an assist from Phillip Fenumiai for a 56-43 lead.

Ibesate scored 12 of his team high 20 points in the run.

“The crowd got excited,” Casperson said. “It seemed to fuel our guys. A lot of guys came in and did some nice things for us. That is a nice luxury to have as a coach.”

After Friday’s game, Casperson said the Crimson Bears would have to defend better if they wanted to repeat the win.

JDHS allowed Colony’s leading scorer, Hunter Eisenhower, to connect for a game high 22 points and the Knights’ guards Tim Smith and Jared Turner added 11 and 10 respectively.

Colony’s guards combined for five connections from beyond the arch to keep the Knights in a close first half game. JDHS trailed after the first quarter 16-13

The second period saw solid efforts off the Crimson Bears bench as six different players scored including reserves Ryan Kelly and Fenumiai from deep and Jeffrey Pusich inside. In addition the JDHS rotation allowed Austin Shoemaker to spell hard-working Darien Stanger and Taylor Swofford to grab two of the game’s most emphatic rebounds in his brief stint on the floor.

Ibesate scored on a lay in with two seconds remaining but Colony’s Eisenhower took the inbounds pass and threw a length of the court three-pointer to put the Knights on top at the break 30-29.

The Knights were forced to turnover their entire line up as well due to JDHS’ full court man pressure.

Yadao especially made life unbearable for the opposing backcourt as he chested dribblers for 84-feet. The result carried over to the second wave of defenders who could pick off errant passes or double team.

“I really enjoyed Tony’s defense,” Casperson said. “I thought he put a lot of effort on the defensive side of the ball and that is going to pay off for us. We have three or four guys who can put that kind of pressure on. We just have to commit to doing it and build the trust that our teammates are behind us if we get beat.”

Calloway netted 16 points for the Crimson Bears, Yadao and Fenumiai 10 points apiece, Gross had nine points, Stanger and Kelly three points, Pusich and Shoemaker two apiece. Calloway and Gross, who were selected to the 2010 State Tournament Good Sport Team, showed they had more meanness now as seniors, each totaling nine rebounds in the game.

JDHS hit just 17-35 from the charity stripe while Colony connected on 15-22.

Saturday’s first half was the calm before the storm for the Knights.

The Crimson Bears chose not to implement their full court man press, but instead rotated through the entire roster in a patient offense.

Each Crimson Bears jersey wearer had an opportunity to score.

Notched at 13-13 after one period of play, both teams ran patient sets for a 28-27 Colony first half lead.

As the third quarter began, so did the Crimson Bears press, the fan enthusiasm, the student body yell section, the pep band and half of downtown Juneau.

“We ratcheted up our defense,” Casperson said. “We started pressing and trapping like we normally like to do.”

Yadao and Ibesate prevented each ballhandler from getting farther than five feet during a dribble.

Help defense from Calloway, Fenumiai, Stanger and Shoemaker filled the gaps.

Strong boards from Gross, Jeffrey Pusich and Jesse Miller stopped any second shot attempts.

When the third period ended the Crimson Bears had a 52-39 advantage.

Calloway led the Crimson Bears with 12 points, Shoemaker added 10, Ibesate and Yadao nine each, Fenumiai eight, Pusich six, Stanger three, Jackson Lehnhart, Aquino Brinson, Gary Speck, Gross and Miller two each.

JDHS hit 11-18 from the charity stripe, Colony was 19-23.

Hunter Eisenhower led the Knights with 14 points, 10 of which came from the free throw line as he was unable to get clean, open looks at the basket under the JDHS pressure.

“Everybody contributed in the time they got,” Casperson said. “I told our guys they are not on the team because they look good in travel gear, they are on the varsity because they can play. I was very pleased with our effort this weakend.”

Casperson stated that Calloway had an outstanding defensive weekend.

“As talented as some of our defenders are, like Tony and Lance, he is right in there every night having to guard one of the toughest scorers on the other team,” Casperson said. “He is stepping up to that challenge and it is pretty fun to watch. All of our guys are beginning to take it upon themselves to demand more of each other.”

Casperson also acknowledged the crowd.

“I know I have been preaching to the choir, but, man the crowd great,” Casperson said. “And I think they got to see some great basketball this weekend. I am really proud of our guys. To see the progress we are making from the first four weeks, I think we are heading in the right direction. I appreciate the fans that came out to see that because our guys are fun to watch, and I think the fans are finding that out.”

Friday January 06, 2012
JDHS to court Knights in homecoming series - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     KINY to broadcast JDHS boys Friday and TMHS boys Saturday.

The Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls basketball teams are hosting the Colony Knights tonight and Saturday in the Crimson Bears’ annual homecoming series.

“They are a good team,” JDHS head coach Robert Casperson said. “And they play in a very good conference. They are always in the hunt. I expect them to be a very tough opponent.”

The traditionally tough Knights (2-3) play in the Northern Lights Conference, which includes powers Wasilla, Palmer, Soldotna, Kodiak, Kenai, Homer and Skyview.

The Colony boys have made the state tourney four of the past five years, losing the title game in 2007, and finishing third in 2008. They boast two returning all-conference senior players in 6-foot-2 Blake Hightower and 5-foot-10 guard Antonio Bush, and rally around 6-foot-4 junior guard Hunter Eisenhower.

The Crimson Bears lost a scrimmage against a group of hot shooting perimeter alumni during one Christmas break practice and are working on improving defense to the three-point line. Lance Ibesate, Tony Yadoa and Alec Calloway are currently the top three go-to scorers on JDHS.

“My main concern is if we are going to be able to defend them,” Casperson said of the Knights. “Keep them out of the lane and challenge any shots. Our focus will be on defense, we need to be better than we have been if we want to be successful against Colony.”

The Colony girls have been to the state championships the past three years and lost in the championship game in 2009.

The Knights are led by all state selection Mary Klapperich, a 6-foot junior guard and 5-foot-10 seniors Saige Stefanski and Leroya Simmons.

“The team has worked extremely hard over the last couple of weeks focusing on some items that we need to improve on,” JDHS girls head coach Dee Boster said. “Things that were obvious from the Wasilla trip. Some of that is believing that we can win and having confidence as a team; not just improving on the fundamentals of basketball.”

Boster stated the team is definitely on the road of improvement.

“If we keep attacking the items needed to improve on as we have the last couple of weeks, throughout the season and not only learn from our mistakes but make adjustments where needed, then I believe we will gradually become more confident in our play and therefore successful,” Boster said. “We are looking forward to this weekend with the goal of taking what we have worked on and applying it in a game situation.

“I think the girls have realized that winning is going to take a lot of hard work and won’t be handed to us; this weekend will be a good test on that concept. There’s a lot of basketball left in the season; so we need to take one game at a time and work from there.”

Students at JDHS have decked the halls, the commons, the gymnasium and just about every nook and cranny of the school in spirit decorations.

That alone should be worth the price of a basketball ticket. There will also be homecoming court and king and queen crowning during Saturday’s dance in the high school commons after the boys game.

“It’s homecoming,” Casperson said. “The atmosphere should be great, especially if we can get the fans out in full force. A lot of fanfare goes into this weekend and it is a lot of fun.”

Local radio station KINY 800 AM will broadcast the JDHS boys’ game Friday at 8 p.m.

Friday December 23, 2011
JDHS JV Repeats as Champion!
     The boys JV team did it again. They conquered all at the Thunder Mountain Southeast Holiday Hoops Tournament. This is the second year of the tournament and the second time that the Juneau-Douglas JV team has emerged victorious.

After at tight 38-33 win against Hydaburg in pool play, JD JV faced the Thunder Mountain JV team in the semi final of bracketed play. The Bears beat their crosstown foes handily 40-20, and moved into the championship game. There the Crimson Bears faced the Glacier Bears from Haines and won going away, 40-26, to claim the tournament championship.

Sunday December 18, 2011
Juneau-Douglas boys run over Thunder Mountain - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Crimson Bears win 63-40 on Friday and 56-45 Saturday

A rebound laden Juneau-Douglas High School boys’ basketball team proved to be too big of an obstacle for the cross-town rival Thunder Mountain High School to overcome this weekend.

The Crimson Bears had a bevy of second shots in the first period of Friday’s 63-40 win over the Falcons.

“We have to find a way to run our defense effectively and box out so they don’t get second shots,” TMHS head coach John Blasco said after Friday’s loss. “They are pretty big inside.”

The wear and tear of battling inside took an early toll on the Falcons as Juneau’s 6-foot-7 Evan Gross, although not making every put back, was active on the glass and opened up the key for his teammates.

Alec Calloway prospered most from attacking the glass, leading the Crimson Bears with 18 points in the game.

The Falcons started in a man-to-man defense in the first quarter, switching to zone midway as rebounding became a factor.

“It was just a different look,” Blasco said. “Something we were trying in the game plan. It had its effectiveness but it can still be improved.”

The Falcons battled inside to stay close 12-10 after one period of play and went into halftime trailing just 23-14.

“The jitters generally play a part in terms of adrenaline,” Blasco said. “It is the first time putting on the uniforms, first time playing in front of the home crowd, it is JDHS. There are a lot of things to put into it but those things all went away after halftime. It is just a matter of getting into a comfortable offense and getting the right looks to score.”

An 18-10 third quarter scoring advantage gave the Crimson Bears the 41-24 cushion that allowed them to coast into the final period of play.

“When they started pulling away in the second quarter we got on our heels,” Blasco said. “Their defense pushed us further from the perimeter than we wanted to be, and we played on our heels at times and had a hard time getting into the flow of the offense. We probably shot a pretty low percentage.”

Tony Yadao added 16 points for the Crimson Bears, Austin Shoemaker 10, Gross seven, Taylor Swofford four, Lance Ibesate and Darien Stranger three apiece and Jesse Miller two.

Sam Jahn 10, Matt Seymour eight, Ben Jahn seven, Avery Stewart six, Travis Johnson four, Allen Shaw and Ty Grussendorf two apiece, and Coltin Lanz one.

JDHS hit 19-25 from the charity stripe and TMHS was 10-17.

“Thunder Mountain is a tough matchup for us,” JDHS head coach Robert Casperson said. “They play extremely hard. I expect more games like this weekend when we play them down the road.”

On Saturday night it was the Crimson Bears turn to defend their home court and the Falcons were worthy adversaries once again, taking a 19-17 halftime lead.

Gross’ third foul at the start of the third quarter should have meant an advantage to the Falcons but JDHS’ Yadao and Ibesate began to spread the floor on offense and distribute the ball for open jumpers or slashing layins.

“We have a lot of guys that are waiting for the opportunity to step up and support their teammates,” Casperson said. “And that is exactly what happened this weekend.”

Gross drew his fourth foul before the period ended and Gary Speck provided quality relief inside.

After a put back inside by TMHS’ Sam Jahn, the Crimson Bears duo of Ibesate and Yadao scored and assisted on three straight possessions and JDHS led going into the final period 35-32.

Calloway and Yadao pushed the lead to 39-32 at quarter’s start and the tempo on defense was increased to full court.

The Falcons would draw to within four at the 6:08 mark on a Ben Jahn three pointer but a key shot by Calloway on the next possession and a Stanger trey kept the momentum with the Crimson Bears for the win.

“It’s a work in progress for us,” JDHS head coach Robert Casperson said. “I wasn’t surprised by tonight at all, in regards to how hard they played and how tight it was all the way. In all honesty I was more surprised with the margin of victory Friday.”

Ibesate led JDHS with 15 points, Yadao had 10, Speck seven, Stanger six, Gross five, Calloway four, Shoemaker three, Ryan Kelly, Jesse Miller and Aquino Brinson two each.

The Falcons’ Ben Jahn led with 15 points, Seymour and Travis Johnson eight apiece, S. Jahn had four, Vili Tupou and Stewart three each, Lanz and Grussendorf two apiece.

Thunder Mountain hit 9-18 at the charity stripe while Juneau-Douglas was 14-21.

The Falcons missed guards Josh Tupou and Keith Ainsworth, both out with injuries and awaiting clearance to play.

“Our game plan is effective,” Blasco said. “We just have to make some adjustments to it and utilize the guys we have in the game and continue to be aggressive. The good news is there is room for us to improve and we can get better.”

The JDHS Junior varsity won on Saturday 53-47 behind 23 points from Brinson. Trent Uddipa scored 13 for the TMHS JV.

Thursday December 15, 2011
Crimson Bears tradition, Falcons exuberance - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The Thunder Mountain High School basketball programs went 0-8 last season against their cross-town rivals from Juneau-Douglas, but their opponent’s graduations and their own maturity seem to play into evening out the competition level this season.

The Juneau-Douglas High School teams are not overlooking their up and coming neighbors, but are buying into two new coaches with old philosophies of basketball wisdom.

The Falcons will host both the girls and boys teams on Friday and the Crimson Bears will return the favor on Saturday.

“Fans will see a brand new squad in a way,” Falcons head coach Tanya Nizich said. “The same faces but, overall, everybody has really come together over the last few years and fans will see some really hard workers out there and a competitive game.”

The TMHS girls graduated Janie White and lost Mellissa Fisher to Mt. Edgecumbe, but return an entire roster of competitors.

Shale Kibby, Kinsey Marshall, Makayla Pierce, Ashley Young, Jonelle Staveland and Ashley Young have the height needed to compete with a traditionally physical JDHS roster. Staveland can also move to the wing, where she led the team in three-pointers last season.

“We have been working hard and running a lot so hopefully we won’t get too tired our first set of games,” “I think this first set of games are very important. They set the stage as how we have been practicing and if we need to make any changes. It gives us a preview on what needs to be done for the rest of the season. Hopefully we have covered all our bases and we can make a strong opening weekend.”

Eyerus Tingley, Shayla Reeves, Kylie Ibias, Michaela Demmert and Sarah Morris will be perimeter threats.

“As a ball club I definitely notice that everybody seems a little bit more mature in the sense that we are a little bit more court smart,” Nizich said. “Most of the girls have been together since freshmen and we finally have the chemistry down, we know where we are on the court.”

The JDHS girls graduated a talented arsenal that included Hannah Swofford, Taylor Larson, Maria Weyhrauch, Sara Tarver, Nani Ostrom, Olivia Henderson and Karli Brakes. Coach Leslie Knight stepped down, but in her footprints is a disciple that came into the JD system in 2003.

“I think our strength is our speed,” JDHS girl’s head coach Dee Boster said. “Hopefully that will make up for our loss of size in the key. We will have to work harder on rebounding and blocking out inside.”

The Crimson Bears return Esra Sideek, Marissa Brakes, Nicole George and Kaitlin Fagerstrom, players who all found time last year; and Ari Gross, Gabi Fenumiai and Kayla Balovich are expected to fill the front line.

“Marissa will be our leader, on and off the court,” Boster said. “I don’t expect her sister, I expect Marissa. She makes very good decisions on the court.”

Fagerstrom is a raw sophomore who only lacks confidence; all the other skills are in the Crimson Bears’ uniform.

Sideek will be the first option on offense, and the first person the defense keys on, so Fagerstrom, Gross, Fenumiai, lightning guard T Jae Garcia and senior Sierra Tagaban will be vital.

Replacing the speed, off-guard, and forward components will also come from Tori Gogg, Kymberlee Kelly, Rachelle Roldan, Amberli Fitka and Rolonda Scaife.

“We don’t want to change the program,” Boster said. “It has been successful for a long time. We are a really young team. I am a little nervous, a little excited. There are big shoes to fill, the expectations of keeping that success alive.”

Boster said she expects her kids to wear the Crimson Bears uniform with pride.

“The girls work hard in practice and are excited to be here,” Boster said. “Their expectations, and ours, are high.” The Falcons’ boy’s graduation of John Correa, Josh Jones and Jimmy Mota will not affect their athleticism on the court of nine returning players.

“The first series for us is going to be much like Juneau’s first game last weekend,” TMHS head coach John Blasco said. “It will probably be a little sloppy at first until we settle down from the adrenalin of the first game and of playing our cross-town conference rival. We have had three good weeks of practice and I am excited to see how we perform in these games and how we react to facing a very tough opponent.”

Third year players Ty Grussendorf as a shooting wing with range and Sam Jahn in the pivot are impact players. Junior Keith Ainsworth, a varsity player since his freshman year, is the team leader. Travis Johnson is a hustler on the court and the Tupou brothers, Josh and Vili, are a competitive point guard combo.

Throw in Matt Seymour and Ben Jahn, who saw significant minutes as freshmen, and Avery Stewart and Coltin Lanz who know the program, plus football quarterback Camden Thomas with athletic leadership qualities, and the Falcons will hunt bear. Mike Uddipa will see back up point guard duties and Allen Shaw is a defensive workhorse off the bench.

“We got to see them play against Ketchikan and we know that they have a lot of strong players,” Blasco said. “We know we will have our hands full Friday. We haven’t beaten them yet but that is definitely on our minds. They have a strong senior class and size in side. They will be tough. I think fans will see, as they have the past two years, our group of young guys that are not going to quit until the buzzer goes off. We will play hard every possession and play an up-tempo kind of game. They are an exciting group for sure.”

The Crimson Bears’ boys graduated Ryan Baldwin, Nino Crisostomo, Travis Godfrey, Colin Gozelski, Eddie Hurtte, and De’Andre King but seem hardly affected. They too lost a retiring legend in Steve Potter, but JDHS filled the hole with a 12-year assistant.

“I think it is going to be a fun season,” JDHS head coach Robert Casperson said. “It will be a little bit more of a traditional look, a little more high school size and a rededication to doing the work.”

Lance Ibesate and Tony Yadao are two of the state’s top guards and have quality postman Evan Gross to work around, plus big men bench play from Jeffrey Pusich, Taylor Swofford, Bruce Jones and Gary Speck.

“We are very excited,” Ibesate said. “New coach, new system, it’s going to be fun. I am just going to try and be tough this year, be pesky and in people’s grills playing good defense. I just want us to learn from every game.”

Added Yadao, “We are looking to have good chemistry this year. As seniors we have to lead by example and bring our strengths to help make the team do better.”

Alec Calloway and Darien Stanger were starters at Ketchikan last weekend but Ryan Kelly, Jesse Miller, Austin Shoemaker and Aquino Brinson found time on the court. Calloway can go inside or outside and, being left handed, makes it hard on defenders. Phillip Fenumiai is still involved in all-star football practices each weekend in Anchorage, but when he joins the team he will be a starter at basically any position. Jackson Lehnhart is recovering from an ankle injury.

“A lot of guys did more off-season work than before,” Casperson said. “We talk about what it means to be a Crimson Bear and the responsibility that comes with it. When we passed out the uniforms you could see that light in their eyes, they are excited.”

Sunday December 11, 2011
Crimson Bears devour Ketchikan's Kings by Klas Stolpe and Richard Larson
     JDHS sweeps season opening hoops series 69-55 and 75-60

Trailing by one point entering the fourth quarter of the first game in the 2011-12 season on Friday night, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team needed to make a statement that they were still going to be the class of the southeastern conference.

A barrage of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter triggered a 20-4 Crimson Bears run that turned a tense game into a big 69-55 win over Ketchikan on Friday at the Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.

“Definitely it was great to hit some shots,” JDHS head coach Robert Casperson said. “But we put some pressure on their defense that created those shots with dribble penetration. Lance (Ibesate) was able to get into the paint quite a bit.”

With the score tied 43-43 early in the fourth, Ibesate penetrated multiple times and was either fouled, made a layup or kicked out to teammates for open jump shots.

JDHS’ Austin Shoemaker, playing in his first varsity game, drained an open look from outside to start the run. Ibesate added his own triple, and Tony Yadao drained two more clean looks from outside to finish off the scoring streak by the Crimson Bears senior guards. Juneau scored 20 points in four minutes to break the game open.

“We started to get guys open. We started taking higher percentage shots,” Yadao said. “We worked the ball around more and were getting open.”

Ketchikan coach Eric Stockhausen said the focus of the Kings was to stop penetration and then close out on the outside shooters.

JDHS coach Robert Casperson stated point guard Ibesate was instrumental in the comeback and the attitude of the Crimson Bears was always up beat.

“Our guys are buying in to playing the type of basketball that the community will enjoy watching,” Casperson said. “We had instances where guys were taking charges.

Six-foot-seven, 220 pound Evan Gross keyed the momentum swing late in the third quarter by taking a charge in the lane.

“All four of his teammates ran over to pick him up,” Casperson said. “All four. It was awesome. The game was still tough and back and forth at the time.”

Casperson also mentioned the Crimson Bears’ unselfishness, especially on the receiving end of assists.

“We have been working a lot in practice on thanking the passer,” Casperson said. “And the screener. When Tony buried that three in the fourth quarter on a kick out from Lance you could here him yelling and complimenting Lance for that pass. That is stuff that is important if we are going to continue to build and do the things we want to do this year. To see that in the first game is encouraging.”

Continued Casperson, “Ketchikan is a tough place to play. It certainly is a big win. It’s the opener, but I don’t want to downplay it too much, because these are conference games.”

Added Yadao, “Most of us have been playing together since fifth grade and I think that will help us a lot this year.”

Despite numerous turnovers, foul trouble, and horrendous shooting from the foul line, the Kings kept battling back from deficits in the first three quarters. The Kings took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter on Fred Seludo’s 3-point basket, but then were overwhelmed by Juneau’s outside shooting in the fourth.

Juneau-Douglas had four players in double figures, led by Ibesate, who scored 20 points. Yadao added 16, Alex Calloway 13, and Shoemaker 11. Gross added four points, Jeffrey Pusich and Gary Speck two each, and Darien Stanger one.

Kyle Day led the Kings with 18 points, sparking several key runs in the first three quarters with strong drives to the basket. Day’s outside shooting wasn’t falling, however, and like most of his teammates, he struggled from the free-throw line. Ketchikan guard Mark Dulay tallied 13 points.

Juneau hit just 19 of 30 at the charity stripe, while Ketchikan was a dismal 7-19.

Despite six turnovers and seven fouls in the first four minutes of the game, Kayhi held a 7-4 lead before Juneau went on an 11-3 run to end the quarter. Yadao scored six points in less than a minute to key the run.

Ketchikan battled back to jump in front 18-17 in the second quarter on a layup by Auger, but again Juneau responded with an 8-2 run to go up by five. The Crimson Bears held a 28-23 advantage at the break.

The Crimson Bears looked like they might pull away early in the third quarter, claiming a 35-28 advantage after a three-point play by Shoemaker, but once again Ketchikan responded. The Kings finished the quarter on an 11-3 run, taking a 39-38 lead on a 3-pointer by Fred Seludo after a flawlessly executed offensive series.

“It’s a Stockhausen-coached team,” Casperson said. “You know they are going to come back on you, that they are never going to give up. That’s how he coaches them.”

The game was tied 43-43 with 6:14 left to play after Day hit a floater on a good drive down the lane, but Juneau-Douglas took over from there.

“I would imagine after the first-game nerves are out of the way, the teams will settle in a little more and it will be a little cleaner brand of basketball,” Casperson said.

Bruce Jones led the JDHS JV with 13 points in a tough 71-49 loss to Ketchikan JV on Friday and Adam Empson added 12. The Ketchikan junior varsity used a 13-1 run at the end of the second quarter to take a 38-25 halftime lead, then pushed the advantage to as much as 25 points in the second half. Empson also scored 13 points as the JDHS C team lost to the Ketchikan C 51-49.

“It is still pretty early in the season,” Casperson said. “We are still figuring things out. And when I say ‘we’ that is myself included in terms of rotation and which groups and combinations play best together. We were able to put runs together and Ketchikan responded right back with their own. In order to create separation on someone we have to have consistency defensively during those runs. I think more so down the stretch we were making the shots and getting the stops.”

On Saturday the Crimson Bears took Casperson to heart and made all the right defensive choices, taking a lead in the first quarter and stretching it into a 75-60 win. Juneau-Douglas took control with a 13-0 first quarter run, then kept the Kings at bay the rest of the game. The Kings led 8-6 early, but then Juneau-Douglas went on a 13-0 run to take command. Juneau-Douglas led 28-14 at the end of the first quarter and Kayhi never got closer than seven points the rest of the night.

Juneau-Douglas seniors guards Lance Ibesate, Tony Yadao and Austin Shoemaker combined for 40 points, and senior forward Alex Calloway added 11 points, as the experienced Crimson Bears had the upper hand in both games. Juneau-Douglas used a 20-4 fourth-quarter run to win 69-55 on Friday.

Ibesate lead JDHS with 21 points, Yadao had 13, Alec Calloway 11 and Gary Speck eight.

“He did everything he needed to do to help us win tonight,” Casperson said of Ibesate. “As a team, the things we have worked on in practice are being executed on the court...and the things we haven’t worked on we handled very well.”

Kayhi played Juneau-Douglas relatively evenly after the first quarter, but it wasn’t enough for the Kings to seriously climb back into the game. The Kings scored the first five points of the second half, and had a chance to cut the lead to four points, but a 3-point attempt from Day went in-and-out. Following the 3-point miss, the Crimson Bears went on a 12-2 run to push a 48-41 lead up to 60-43.

The Kings never gave up, and the crowd cheered them on each time they got the score under 10 points, but the veteran Crimson Bears didn’t allow Kayhi to put together any long rallies.

“They’ve got two all-state guards that have started for three years for them, and it showed,” Stockhausen said. “Besides Kyle, all of our guards just got done playing their second varsity game.”

Ibesate and Yadao have had starting roles or major playing minutes since they were sophomores.

“A lot will start with our guards,” Casperson said. “Lance and Tony have a considerable amount of basketball knowledge. They know how to control situations.Once we got that early lead it was important to keep it. We know what the Ketchikan guys can do. They keep coming at you, they are not going to quit.”

Juneau-Douglas hit three 3-point baskets in its first-quarter explosion, but also did a better job of rebounding the ball and scoring on offensive putbacks. Yadao drained a 3-point basket from the right corner 40 seconds into the game, a sign of what was to come from the Crimson Bears.

“We definitely made a few more shots today than we did yesterday,” Casperson said. “But so did Ketchikan. It was a cleaner game, which I was expecting, but that spurt we had in the beginning I wasn’t really expecting.”

In the first quarter, it looked like the Kings might get run out of their own gym. Kayhi regained its composure, but showed it still has some growing to do to get to where Juneau-Douglas is right now.

Shoemaker scored only six points for the Crimson Bears, but is an explosive presence off the bench for a JDHS team with three quick, talented guards and a deep rotation of solid big men.

“We are definitely blessed to have the quickness at guard that we do,” Casperson said. “Then we have a guy like Austin coming off the bench. He is a very dynamic player as a sixth man. He wants to lead the team in rebounding and I think he did that tonight. Alec also rebounded very well. I can see that rebounding and the players coming off the bench are going to be key for us this season.”

“We’ve got three strong teams in Southeast. Thunder Mountain is going to be tough, too,” Ibesate said. “I think the (Southeast) teams will surprise some people this year.”

Friday December 09, 2011
Scouting - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Coach Robert Casperson says the JDHS boys, who play in Ketchikan tonight and Saturday, played the Kings 7 times last year for an overall record of 5-2. The Crimson Bears beat them at the Dimond Prep Shootout (1-0); Twice at home for conference wins (3-0, 2-0 conf); Lost to them two times down in KTN (3-2, 2-2 conf).

JDHS got the #1 seed going into the Region V Tournament on a coin flip or blind draw from a hat or something after multiple tie-breakers were employed.

JDHS was then 2-0 against them in the Reg. V Tournament (5-2 overall).

Our JV’s were 4-0 against Ktn. last year and a lot of those players have moved into varsity roles for both teams.

Thursday December 08, 2011
H.S. Hoops - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Nothing struck such excitement, and fear, in my youth along the panhandle in Alaska as the opening of the high school basketball season.

As elementary age lads carrying physical education class red rubber balls larger than our torsos we were drawn to the extreme squeaks and squeals of old converse high tops on freshly polished floors, the sound of which would escape out through cracked gymnasium doors and windows as the high school boys practiced.

In middle school we wrapped double scarves around our necks and walked through snow drifts to one of the only outside courts, shoveled it off, and played until our toes felt like thumbs; and then crammed along the side lines of the high school gym to watch our local Vikings team against a variety of behemoths and wizards and shape-shifters that left our mouths agape.

When it was finally our turn, when the first whiskers of adolescence and pimply maturity was upon us, we knew what had to be done and why.

We had to practice; at all times, at all hours, and in all weather. Why? Because in my day… well basketballs were still round, but the league was all one smorgasbord of hoops. Small schools played large schools, and more often than naught, the competitions were even and fierce and came down to the final minutes.

And the largest school was Juneau.

With Juneau, we knew what would come. We saw it when we traveled as ‘middlers’ to Floyd Dryden and Dzantik’I Heeni.

We knew the Crimson Bears would be physical inside and fast outside, that they would have a man inside your uniform on defense as soon as the referee put the ball into the center jump circle.

That center jump begins again on Friday in Ketchikan. If you could see me now you would notice the horned Vikings helmet is pushed forward on my head, my converse are double knotted, and my inseams have been let out a notch or two over the years.

But the excitement and fear is still there.

The Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain teams are part of a new fangled triangle of schools seeking an automatic bid to the state basketball tournament in Anchorage. To do that they have to win the region tournament or amass the newly implemented Alaska Scholastic Activities Association’s WPI schedule.

The WPI, or Winning Percentage Index, is decided by a team’s win-loss record against 4A teams and their opponent’s win-loss record. If you balance your checkbook as bad as I do, this is roughly what can happen:

Beating a team with a bad record can hurt your ranking; Losing to a team with a good record leaves you safe on the surface; and beating a team with a good record helps you move to the top of the heap.

Now, the champions of the Southeast, and the Mid Alaska, and the top two teams in the Cook Inlet and Northern Lights automatically qualify for state. The remaining two berths, which had previously gone to third place teams in the CI and NL, are awarded to the two teams with the top WPI’s that don’t automatically qualify.

The Crimson Bears have been snatching regional titles left and right, boys and girls, since James Naismith dreamed up this kooky game in 1891 (FYI, he was Canadien and is also credited with inventing the first football helmet).

The Falcons are just on the verge of making a point as to where the round ball rolls best.

JDHS travels to West Anchorage, Service, Wasilla and Palmer; and hosts Chugiak, Kodiak and Mt. Edgecumbe. Don’t giggle, the MTE Braves pulled a number on “us” during the regional championships crossover game last season, remember? The Braves are considered a power. They may not factor into the WPI but they still pack some OMG.

The Falcons travel to Anchorage Christian and Kodiak and host Palmer, West Valley and West. Yes, ACS is a 3A school (but refer to OMG above).

The JDHS boys are the team that I feared growing up. Tony Yadao and Lance Ibesate will be in your shorts 24-7. A week from any game you play against the Crimson Bears it will still feel like 10 games. Yadao can shoot as well, and at 5-foot-11 he can post if needed on smaller guards. And here is just a giggle: they could start 6-foot-9 Taylor Swofford, 6-foot-7 Evan Gross (both over 230 pounds),6-foot-5 Bruce Jones, 6-foot-4 Alec Calloway, and 6-foot-3 Phillip Fenumiai. And have four more 6-foot-somethings ready and waiting. By the way, Jones is a freshman. It has been a while sine a freshman has made the adjustment to varsity ball.

New head coach Robert Casperson has brother Kevin, Steve Houlihan, Greg Huebschen and Akeem Micheli to assist.

Oh, and did I say fast? Like in your shorts? Just wanted to make sure you were listening Thunder Mountain.

The Falcons meanwhile, are no slouches. Think football, minus the helmet and pads and there you go. Coach John Blasco has Camden Thomas, Josh and Vili Tupou, and Sam and Ben Jahn looking pretty darn smooth off the grass and on the hard wood. Keith Ainsworth, Ty Grussendorf and Matt Seymour are three of the streakiest shooters on the planet and will present an interesting matchup in southeast.

The girls are another matter. JDHS graduated what should have been the second straight state championship team. Their final game at Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena last year was just a total miscue. It happens.

This season new coach Dee Boster features Nicole George and Sierra Tagaban as the only graduates to be, and George brings the competiveness of lots of time spent watching what to do right. Junior Esra Siddeek is possibly one of the top shooters in the state and classmate Marissa Brakes brings breakneck speed and leadership. Surprises loom as the season progresses and two to keep an eye on are rapidly improving sophomore post Ari Gross and lighting quick T Jae Garcia.

The Falcons’ girls are also young, but heavy on experience. Shale Kibby and Kinsey Marshall are the lone seniors; Jonelle Staveland, Eyerus Tingley, Shayla Reeves and Kylie Ibias are juniors with plenty of game time; Michaela Demmert and Makayla Pierce are impact players; and Ashley Young and Sarah Morris are freshman that have made the cut. Coaches Tanya Nizich, Arnold Ibias and Danielle Larson are at the helm.

The JDHS boys are in Ketchikan this weekend. On Dec. 16 the Falcons host the Crimson Bears in a double header boys and girls games, then travel down Glacier Highway to the JD gym on Dec. 17. If you can’t wait until then, check out the middle school madness beginning today at Floyd Dryden and Dzantik’i Heeni; or check out the junior varsity and ‘c’ team games at JD beginning tommorrow.

Don’t forget your calculators though. There is something to find exciting about each of our four teams. It may be size, speed, hustle, ball control, or just the colors blue and silver and red and black.

What matters is when the color maroon comes to town. Then I can wear my black/blue/silver/red armbands high enough to cover my old PHS Vikings tattoo…and I can start to figure out the WPI index, because only one of my two teams gets the automatic bid.