News Archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each time the Wolves drew close JDHS responded.

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

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

Jones scored between the two tallies for the Crimson Bears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday November 26, 2012
Alaska High School Basketball Begins Today!
     November 26th is the official start date for Alaska High School Basketball. Check back often for updates to the website. Keep an eye out for rosters and stats (once games begin) to track all your favorite Crimson Bears.

Thursday October 25, 2012
JD Grads Playing College Basketball
     College basketball is just beginning and you can follow former Crimson Bears as they continue their playing career in the collegiate ranks. Copy and paste the links for each team's website in a new web browser to track these young men as they compete at the next level:

Will Egolf (JDHS 2006) is entering his senior year at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.

Dom Brinson (JDHS 2008) is entering his senior year at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Taylor Swofford (JDHS 2012) is entering his freshman year at Oak Hills Christian College in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Tony Yadao (JDHS 2012) is entering his freshman year at Lower Columbia Community College in Longview, Washington.

Alec Calloway (JDHS 2012) is entering his freshman year at Edmonds Community College in Edmonds, Washington.

Wednesday October 24, 2012
AWARE thanks the community and the Crimson Bears- Saralyn Tabachnick, Executive Director AWARE, Inc.
     The 3rd Annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes walk and run was another beautiful success! AWARE, Inc. and the Juneau Violence Prevention Coalition would like to thank the many community members who took part in the 1 mile walk and 5k run to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault in Juneau. We would like to thank our community partner for this event, Southeast Alaska Board of Realtors, who continually demonstrates their commitment to build stronger communities. Thank you to our planning committee: Mimi Rothchild, Errol Champion and Jim Preston for their tireless work to plan this event, and to our generous Southeast Road Runners race organizer, Paul DeSloover, who donated his time to ensure an enjoyable event for everyone. We would like to thank our many volunteers, without whom this event would not have been the success it was: Ela Wehrmann; Sarah Schaefer; Catherine E. Sayre; Debbie White; Mike Race; Mandi Johnson; Steve Rothchild; Erika Rothchild; Lindsey Doctorman; Bill Doctorman; Bethany A. Woods; John Bennett; Julie Moe; Ati Nasiah; Kim Lucas; Emily Wolf; and the enthusiastic and helpful youth and staff from Juneau Youth Services.

Thank you, also, to many local businesses for their generous contributions: Costco; Heritage Coffee Company; The Rookery; Pavitt’s Health and Fitness; Nugget Alaskan Outfitter; and The Alaska Club.

We are grateful to the many high school athletes and coaches who came to show their support for this cause: JDHS Boys Basketball Team with coaches Robert Casperson and Greg Huebschen; TMHS Boys Basketball Team with coaches Robert Ridgeway and John Blasco; JDHS Cross Country Team with coaches Merry Ellefsen and Tristan Knutson-Lombardo; and the TMHS Cross Country Team with coach Scott May.

Over 100 people walked or ran to show their solidarity with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Lastly, I'd like to thank Mark Calvert, AWARE's Community Engagement Advocate for championing this event for October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and working with many community partners who choose to be part of the solution! We are grateful to be a part of such a caring community. Thank you, Juneau

Saralyn Tabachnick, Executive Director


Monday October 15, 2012
Men must become extra tough to stop violence against women - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Alaska ranks in the top five in the nation for domestic and sexual violence.

Even if it were in the top 50, that still would be too high.

On Saturday, community members came out to reinforce the travesty of that statistic with participation in Walk a Mile In Her Shoes one-mile walk and 5K run, an annual event hosted by AWARE (Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies), Juneau Violence Prevention Coalition and Southeast Alaska Board of Realtors.

“Walk a Mile In Her Shoes is an international march to end gender violence,” AWARE Community Engagement Advocate Mark Calvert said. “It takes place in conjunction with the Juneau White Ribbon Pledge Drive. We have gathered over 1,000 White Ribbon Pledges from Juneau men and boys to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.”

Saturday event participants discovered it is extra tough to walk in high heels, but that uncomfortable feeling pales before the degrading and wicked acts of abuse.

“I am in so much pain I can’t think,” Matt Armstrong, a social worker for Juneau Youth Services, said, “I just want to support women and put an end to domestic violence. This is a great cause and it needs to happen. I hope I am a role model to the young men in this city and encourage them to be successful adults and good community advocates.”

Armstrong finished the walk with Juneau-Douglas High School junior Vlad Altman who wore xtraTufs.

Dzantik’i Heeni sixth grader Eli Douglas, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes after a commute into Douglas, wore shoes that would bring ridicule if donned among his Wolverine classmates.

“I wanted to support the cause,” Douglas said as he hobbled along the walking route. “And I wanted to help raise money for the cause. I think this is a powerful thing we are doing today.”

Young men were in abundance as local high school sports teams, including the Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas basketball teams and the JDHS cross country team, either ran the 5K portion for the cause or slipped hairy toes into uncomfortable high heels to walk the mile.

“Our guys need to be aware of domestic violence and the issues surrounding it,” JDHS boys basketball coach Robert Casperson said. “Mark (Calvert) and I have been talking about doing the Coaching Boys Into Men and we discussed this as an opportunity to get our guys out into the community and support those efforts.”

Casperson said he has admired the work TMHS coach John Blasco has done in the Coaching Boys Into Men program. That sentiment was echoed by Calvert.

“John and his team have done incredible work,” Calvert said. “They have really raised awareness of gender violence and have gotten other boys and men in Juneau motivated. Look at this turnout today and it is very special to see men and boys in Juneau actually getting involved in ending gender violence and promoting gender equality.”

Along with Casperson, JDHS cross country coaches Tristan Knutson-Lombardo and Merry Ellefsen have now partnered with Coaching Boys Into Men.

JDHS cross-country freshmen Harrison Bibb and Duncan Smith finished the walk arm-in-arm supporting each other — literally — as well as women. Junior teammate Malik Brown and sophomore Riley Moser actually ran in borrowed high heels.

“It is super fun,” Moser said in anguish. “And we want to show that JDHS contributes and we are against women being hurt.”

Added Brown, “I feel like this is the least we can do for women. This hurt walking in these high heels but the whole time I was thinking that I can do this to stop domestic violence, it is worth it.”

Opting to wear flats instead of high heels in the walk, Earl Champion and Jim Preston, President and President-Elect of the Southeast Board of Realtors, finished in grand stride.

“It is a good, worthy cause,” Preston said. “We support this so here we are.”

Southeast Board of Realtors member Mimi Rothchild stated that realtors’ jobs are to help create healthy communities and this event is a starting point.

“People can come together and educate from very young ages,” Rothchild said. “Realtors aren’t just about selling houses, we are about strong communities. If we are going to stop violence against women we are going to need to start young and educate young men and boys to show that even if this is not what they see in their home, we are respecting women of all ages.”

In 2011 the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA) conducted a statewide survey to determine how many women have been victimized. This information was formulated into snapshots of each community (

For Juneau alone the results are staggering.

Walk a Mile In Her Shoes sends message throughout community

Out of every 100 adult women residing in the City and Borough of Juneau, 47 have experienced intimate partner violence; 35 have experienced sexual violence; and 55 have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both.

The national rate is 25 percent. Juneau’s local rate shows this has become an epidemic in the Capital City.

601 adult Juneau women were called at random for this study. The survey excluded non-English speaking women, women without phone access, and women not living in a residence (i.e., homeless women).

“At the heart of why we are working so hard to bring men into this movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault is that we believe most men are good and do not perpetrate violence,” Calvert said. “These are the men we are mobilizing. It is not enough for men to say, ‘I’m not going to commit violence against women.’ Men have to speak up when other men perpetrate violence and display sexist behavior that objectifies women and girls. When we say nothing and do nothing we are saying ‘It is just fine to be violent against women and girls.’ We are making great strides in Juneau, and today was a beautiful example of that.”

Sisters Eda and Eva Meyer, too young to understand what Saturday’s walk was about, observed multiple runners wearing costume wings run past them.

“Look,” Eda exclaimed. “Angels.”

(Editors note: Sponsorship and help for Saturday’s Walk A Mile In Her Shoes included SE Road Runners, Costco, Heritage, The Rookery, Alaska Club, Pavitt’s, and Nugget Alaskan Outfitter).

Monday September 17, 2012
Boy's Schedule Released
     Click on the "Varsity Schedule" tab under the "Varsity Team" pull down menu above to see where and when the boys will be in action this season. They have a very competitive schedule this year that includes 11 home games for you to attend and show your support the young men in red and black.

Saturday September 15, 2012
Crimson Bear Community Service
     Returning members of the JDHS Crimson Bears boys basketball team joined Juneau Parks & Rec in promoting healthy life choices at the annual "Day of Play". Over 100 kids from all over the city came to Floyd Dryden to shoot hoops with the varsity candidates.

Monday September 10, 2012
Alaska High School Basketball
     The first official day of the 2012-2013 season is Monday, November 26th. Players are working out across the state in preparation for what stands to be an exciting year. See you at the gym!

Saturday August 18, 2012
Basketball Camp a Success!
     While the masses were trolling the waters surrounding Juneau during the 66th annual Golden North Salmon Derby, 40+ school-aged youth were engaged in the development of their fundamental basketball skills at the Juneau Fast Break Basketball Camp. This camp was held August 10-12, open to all those entering 2nd -12th grades, and supported by the Juneau-Douglas High School Boys basketball team and their booster organization, the Fast Break Club. Through the dedicated work of an entirely volunteer staff, campers worked hard and had fun while improving their shooting, dribbling, rebounding, and defensive fundamentals. The JDHS boys basketball staff ran the camp and was supported expertly by local players, alumni, and coaches.

Camp director and JDHS boys basketball head coach, Robert Casperson, would like to thank the following for their efforts helping Juneau’s future have a safe and enjoyable learning experience: George Houston, Akeem Micheli, Steve Houlihan, Greg Huebschen, Kevin Casperson, Dee Booster, Gilbert Mendoza, Jim Carson, Bob Saviers, Mike Foster, Emily Johnson, Lance Ibesate, Eric Gross, Brittany Fenumiai, Taylor Larson, Alex Fagerstrom, Bruce Jones, Marissa Brakes, Kaitlin Fagerstrom, Manase Maake, Kevin Guimmayen, Keith Ainsworth, Gunnar Shultz, Adam Empson, John Yadao, and Esra Siddeek. Also invaluable to the success of the weekend were Misha Culver and Corby Abel. They employed their outstanding organizational abilities by running the registration process, compiling player skills-test scores, and making the final preparations for the closing ceremony.

The JDHS boys basketball staff looks forward to building on his year’s experience and plans to bring you the Juneau Fast Break Basketball Camp again next summer!

Sunday July 22, 2012
Juneau Fast Break Basketball Camp - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     The opportunity to improve your skills has returned to Juneau after a summer hiatus

The Juneau-Douglas High School Boys Basketball team and the Fast Break Club are sponsoring the Juneau Fast Break Basketball Camp, August 10-12. The camp is for boys and girls entering 2nd through 12th grades in the 2012-13 school year; 2nd through 6th grades attend the morning sessions and 7th through 12th grades attend the afternoon sessions. Friday’s sessions are: morning 8-11 a.m., afternoon noon-3 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday sessions are: morning 9 a.m.-noon, afternoon 2-5 p.m.

The camp is held at the JDHS gymnasium. Cost is $75 per player.

The weekend will be filled with fundamental instruction focused on improving individual skills through drill work and competition. Players will be grouped by age and appropriate level. Current and former high school and college coaches and players will provide personalized instruction in a positive learning environment to promote skill development and confidence. The gym will be open 30 minutes prior to the start of each session and close shortly after the end of each session.

For more information call 321-2595 or email

Thursday April 12, 2012
Crimson Bears' hoopster Yadao playing in state all-star game - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Juneau-Douglas High School senior Tony Yadao can’t seem to hang the sneakers up for the season as accolades keep sending the whippet-fast guard around the country.

Yadao will be competing in the Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches Second Annual Senior All-Star Basketball games tonight at Soldotna High School and Saturday at Anchorage’s Grace Christian High School.

Players, 24 boys and 24 girls, are chosen by coaches throughout the state in recognition for senior, and high school, basketball careers that have been impressive. JDHS’ Lance Ibesate also was selected but is currently into his baseball season and cannot attend.

“It is pretty cool and special that we had two kids from our team selected to represent Juneau,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “It is a great nod to those two because they have worked so hard, since they were in the fourth grade they have been playing and focused.”

The selection truly represents the top players in the state as the process involves all four school-size classifications.

The selection for Yadao comes on the heels of his recent trip with 11 other Alaskan players coached by Dimond’s Jim Young on an Alaskan Exposure swing through some of the 36 colleges in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges. Yadao received several offers for play as did Crimson Bears’ teammate Alec Calloway.

Yadao also received some attention from the University of Alaska Anchorage during the state basketball tournament and his performance there has resulted in scouts looking forward to his play this weekend.

Calloway has an offer from Edmond’s CC (Wash). Ibesate has had numerous contacts including the College of the Redwoods (Calif.), the same school that gave former JDHS guard Dom Brinson his chance and resulted in a scholarship at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Senior Taylor Swofford also has been contacted by Minnesota’s Oak Hill Christian College.

“He’s a hard worker and has learned a lot,” Casperson said of Swofford. “He has come a long way in his three short years in the game.”

Senior Evan Gross will attend Brown University but is deferring for a year to join his brother in Europe. Jesse Miller will be attending UAA to run cross-country. Ryan Kelly is pursuing baseball colleges and Darien Stanger is looking for soccer action on the pitch.

Joining Yadao on the AABC senior all-star team is Haines’ Tyler Swinton. Swinton, also receiving UAA attention, is coming off an impressive display in the Lion’s Club Gold Medal Basketball Tournament where he nearly led the Haines Merchants to the “B” bracket championship.

“I am really happy for Tony and am glad I can go up and support him,” Casperson, who will be a chaperone said. “It is an old cliché but this really is a feather in his cap. It is something that Juneau, Crimson Bears fans and all basketball fans should be happy for him. And for Lance getting that recognition also. To be recognized as one of the top 24 seniors in the state is pretty nice.”

The boy’s team will also include Dimond’s Colter Lasher and Luke Adams, Bartlett’s Treshawn King-Dunbar and Trenton Anthony; Wasilla’s Braydon Kuiper, Connor Devine and Dylan Ferro; Monroe’s John Michaels and LaDarius Milton; Barrow’s Colin Long and Edward Benson; and Houston’s Scott Kramer and Phillip Pease. Also selected to play are Evan Withrow, Soldotna; Chris Parker, Eagle River; Farimang Touray, Service; Colton Anderson, Nikiski; Jared Straight, Palmer; Bo Reilly, Kenai; Jared Miller, Dillingham; Nathan Hadley, Buckland; and Chance Hunter, Scammon Bay.

The boys will be coached by 4A Coach of the Year Rob Galosich from Dimond, 3A Coach of the Year Chuck Boerger from Grace Christian, Soldotna’s Matt Johnson, and 1A Coach of the Year Wayne Morgan from Aniak.

Southeast also received recognition on the girl’s side with Craig’s Melissa Castle (UAA bound), Yakutat’s Tina Esbenshade, and Haines’ Hannah Wing and Amey Messerschmidt being selected. The girl’s team includes Wasilla’s Alyssa Hutchins and Pherriar Brumbaugh; and Point Hope’s Abbie Koenig and Caroline Long. Also playing are Savanna James, Houston; Jenna Buchanan, Galena; Brianna Kirk, Noatak; Saige Stefanski, Colony; Kandice Carroll, Ft. Yukon; Morgan Wensley, Kenai; Wedney Paleo, East; Cheryl Nidoy, West; Kristin Smeaton, Dillingham; Dessirrea Kenworth, Kotzebue; Caitlin Auble, Valdez; Meg Berry, Seward; Kira Polk, Bethal; Kasara Brandenburg, Palmer; Echo Winfrey, Hutchinson; Sierra Pedersen, Su Valley.

The girls will be coached by 4A Coach of the Year Steve Caciari from West Valley, 3A Coach of the Year Levi Duca from Dillingham, 2A Point Hope State Champion Ramona Rock, and state qualifier Soldotna’s Doug Blossom.

This year’s senior all-star games’ sponsors include: ASRC, Conoco Phillips, Larson’s Chiropractic, National Guard, Kimmel Athletic, Nike Team, YMCA and ASAP Printing. The travel expense for each athlete must be self-provided.

Sunday March 18, 2012
Crimson Bears beat Kardinals in tourney finale - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     JDHS boys defeat Kenai 51-38 in fourth/sixth-place game


The word bounced down the locker room corridors beneath the University of Alaska Anchorage basketball court after the Juneau-Douglas boys basketball team defeated Kenai 51-38 in the 4A state basketball championship’s fourth/sixth-place game on Saturday.

“Together,” JDHS senior guard Austin Shoemaker said as the players filed out of the gymnasium. “We played together. It was all about playing together. Getting each other shots. It was never about the individual.”

That theme was apparent as senior guard Tony Yadao scored 13 of the Crimson Bears first 15 points with no one-on-one sets.

“Together,” Yadao said outside the locker room. “We are all together. This is the first year that we have had such good team chemistry. We all bought into coach Robert Casperson’s system and that paid off for us. We knew this was our last game and gave it our all, and there are no regrets afterward.”

Yadao scored on an opening layup, off a screen, a steal, and all out of the offensive sets as the Crimson Bears opened a 15-10 first quarter advantage.

Shoemaker opened the second period with a put back and Alec Calloway scored two baskets in a row, the last on a no-look pass from Shoemaker, as JDHS pushed to a 21-12 advantage.

“Hard work, dedication and toughness,” senior guard Lance Ibesate said. “And together we achieved that.”

When Kenai hit two buckets to make a run Ibesate drained a deep three, Yadao fed Calloway underneath and Fenumiai followed a shot inside as JDHS slowly widened their lead to 29-20 at the half.

“A great year as we became a great family,” senior wing Alec Calloway said. “We became close friends. These guys are my family from now on.”

When Kenai made a surge in the third quarter it was senior center Evan Gross who challenged the Kardinals at the rim, blocking two shots in a row, part of his game-high six rejections. Gross sacrificed his scoring this season to be a defensive hub, pick setter and rebounder for the team.

“It was a great season and a good finish after four years,” Gross said. “It was nice to finish with a win, we haven’t done that in a while. This is a great group of kids and it has been really fun playing with them. We had a mindset, and it was coach Casperson’s philosophy, to stick together and I think we did that.”

The past three trips to state resulted in a final game loss. The 2012 Crimson Bears were not about to let that happen.

Leading 43-33 starting the final period the Crimson Bears gave coach Casperson his last grey hair of the season by letting Kenai get within eight points.

“They kind of got caught up in a frantic pace for a while,” Casperson said. “We took a time out and discussed that when the clock is running that is our friend, and when we have the ball the other team can’t score and we were going to work for lay ups and free throws the rest of the way.”

“When we have that much senior experience on the floor and waiting to come in off the bench you have guys that understand what we are talking about,” Casperson continued. “As a first year head coach I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to work with. They were very dedicated in the off-season and in their desire to improve. They are very positive individuals and very willing to do what we asked and had no complaints. They got after it and always encouraged each other. The senior class and the school can be very proud of their season. They set a high standard for the underclassmen to look up to.”

Then, together, the team flowed down court. Fenumiai followed a missed shot to score, Ibesate hit a free throw, Shoemaker hit two free throws Fenumiai hit another free throw and senior Ryan Kelly put a soft lay in off the glass.

“We worked hard and accomplished a lot to get fourth at state,” Kelly said. “We wanted more but this is a high seed overall.”

Yadao led the Crimson Bears with 16 points, Fenumiai and Ibesate nine apiece, Calloway eight, Shoemaker six, Kelly two and Gross one. Ibesate dished out a game-high six assists and Shoemaker pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. JDHS outrebounded Kenai 36-25. The Crimson Bears hit 12-21 at the charity stripe, Kenai 10-16. Colton Hayes scored 16 points for the Kardinals, AJ Hull added 14, Bo Reilly four, Garrett Berg and Shane Spalding two apiece.

JDHS junior Jackson Lehnhart summed up his season as a lot of fun.

“The seniors were definitely with us all,” Lehnhart said. “It was together. You didn’t see the separation between classes that there can be, they were friends more than they were seniors.”

Saturday March 17, 2012
JDHS 4A State Tournament Awards - Juneau Empire
     â€¢ Tony Yadao: All Tourney Boys

• JDHS girl's team: Sportsmanship Trophy

• Marissa Brakes and Esra Siddeek: All Tourney Girls

• Gabi Fenumiai, Ari Gross, Ryan Kelly and Evan Gross: Good Sport Team members

• Haley Klemmentson and Rina Soriano: All Tourney Cheer Team

Friday March 16, 2012
JDHS boys beat Lathrop at state tourney - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Crimson Bears victory advanced them to 4th-place game Saturday

ANCHORAGE — Alec Calloway scored the first basket of Juneau-Douglas High School’s second breakfast game of the 4A Boys state basketball championships and the Crimson Bears never looked back in a 55-42 win over Fairbanks’ Lathrop High School on Friday morning.

“We just wanted to live to play another game,” Calloway said. “If we lose we are done for the season. I just wanted to play hard and crash the boards hard.”

Calloway rebounded on Lathrop’s next missed shot, sent an outlet pass to Lance Ibesate who hit Austin Shoemaker for an easy layup. Evan Gross scored on the next possession caused by a Calloway block and Tony Yadao followed that with a deep 3. The only starter not scoring in the first period was Ibesate, who dished out three assists in the stanza and the Crimson Bears were up 16-8 to start the second period.

Calloway scored 12 of his 14 points and seven of his team high 11 rebounds in the first half.

Ibesate scored two quick layups to start the second period and Ryan Kelly, Jeffrey Pusich and Phillip Fenumiai capped off a substitution run that left the Malemutes (11-13) panting for a second wind and looking at a 30-17 deficit.

“I think we had our moments,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “Sadly, all the 8 a.m. practices and that game yesterday paid off for us. We had a decent start and were pretty active. If you take care of the ball and get good shots at the rim you will be in any ball game, and if you make those shots you put distance between yourself and your opponents. Lathrop is quick and they have fast hands. Their zone threw us off but we were able be patient. I am so proud of our guys for rallying today. It showed some leadership. We have a lot of seniors and they wanted to make sure they keep playing, so I am glad they worked hard today and played together.”

JDHS (21-6) didn’t let up in the second half as Shoemaker had two steals and Yadao hit three jumpers in a row as the Crimson Bears went on a 9-3 run to start the third period. JDHS led 46-29 starting the final period.

Yadao would finish with 14 points, 11 in the second half, and Ibesate added 11 with game high six assists and six rebounds. Gross added six points and three rebounds, Fenumiai three points and three boards, Kelly, Jackson Lehnhart and Shoemaker two each, and Jeffrey Pusich one. Shoemaker also pulled down five rebounds. JDHS had 15 turnovers in the contest and 27 between the first two games of the tourney.

The Crimson Bears hit 12-of-22 shots at the charity stripe, the Malemutes 8-of-11. Tremon Washington and Ryan Graham-Taylor led Lathrop with 10 points apiece.

“Juneau did a good job today,” Lathrop coach Milo Griffin said. “We have faced them five times in a row in this tournament and never beaten them. They always push the ball up the floor and a very disciplined team. They are going to give us 110 percent effort.”

The Crimson Bears will play Kenai at 2 p.m. Saturday in the fourth game at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“We won’t change anything we do,” Casperson said. “We will just watch their game, find out their tendencies and go from there. Our team wanted to do the best they could, and that was a win today and hopefully a win tomorrow.”

Thursday March 15, 2012
Service slips past JDHS in tourney opener - Juneau Empire by Klas Stolpe
     Hours before many capital city residents had downed their first cups of coffee, the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears’ boys basketball team had already put in a morning of hard work in the first game of the 4A state championships against the Service Cougars.

In, arguably, the most difficult game of tournament play the Crimson Bears and Cougars showed just how even their WPI rankings were in a 47-46 eye opener that dropped JDHS into consolation play and Service into the semifinals.

“We just wanted to win,” JDHS guard Lance Ibesate said. “We practiced all week at 6 a.m., we put in the hard work. It just went the other way. They are a very good team and good luck to them in the tourney.”

The Cougars used a barren beginning by the Crimson Bears in the fourth quarter to go on a 6-0 run and turn a 32-31 deficit into a 40-32 lead.

“We hit some dry spells,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “And Service was able to take advantage of those.”

Ibesate and Tony Yadao hit back-to-back deep 3s to bring JDHS back within two and Austin Shoemaker tied the game on a shot under the hoop with 2:54 remaining to play, but Service’s Adam Klie hit two free throws to give the Cougars the lead again and Fairmang Touray nailed a 3 to swing the momentum again.

Evan Gross picked up his third foul with one minute remaining, but the Cougars couldn’t convert and Austin Shoemaker drove the baseline and was fouled, converting both free throws to narrow the deficit to two at 45-43.

A pair of Service free throws by Fairmang put the Crimson Bears down four with 20 seconds remaining. Yadao found nothing but net with a triple to put the game at 47-46 with 16.8 seconds remaining, but the Crimson Bears got caught in a defensive rotation and couldn’t find a foul to stop the action until 2.8 seconds remaining.

A key rebound by Shoemaker gave JDHS a desperation shot by player-of-the-game selection Yadao from half court. The ball caromed off the backboard and the rim as the buzzer sounded.

“We all knew that this was the game that we wanted,” Yadao said. “It was one of our goals to get past the first round. Service is a tough team and we prepared well. Both teams competed but at the end of the day one team has to lose.”

It was a tough loss for the Crimson Bears, as they seemed to have control of the tight ball game throughout the first three quarters of play.

Alec Calloway scored on a put back to open play and had two key rebounds and Shoemaker hit a short jumper for a 4-0 lead just one minute into play.

Service would go on a 6-0 run to take the lead and JDHS responded with a Yadao score and free throw and two Ibesate charity stripers to regain the edge on the scoreboard.

JDHS lead 13-8 to start the second period and opened up the largest lead of the game at 19-11 as Yadao found two easy paths to the basket and Darien Stanger made two free throws. The Cougars closed the period with a 7-2 run to pull within four at the break, 21-17.

“No one tried to be a hero,” Casperson said. “They played like they have all season, as a team, and they trusted one another to get the job done. Our whole focus was attacking the rim and looking for layups and I think we did that.”

JDHS would score 16 points off of turnovers and Service 12 on Crimson Bears’ miscues. The teams both hit more than 70 percent from the charity stripe with JDHS going 12-for-17 and Service 8-for-11. Rebounds were 28-25 in favor of the Cougars and scoring off the bench showed Service with an 11-9 advantage. JDHS was 40 percent from beyond the arc. Service hit 30 percent of its treys.

“We put a lot of pressure on their defense,” Casperson said. “And they put a lot of pressure on ours.”

Service went to a full-court press to open second-half play and pulled within a point before Yadao and Shoemaker notched free throws and Yadao buried another three-pointer for a 25-21 advantage. Gross and Ibesate had back-to-back blocks to keep the Crimson Bears rolling until Service’s Klie nailed a shot and a free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play that pulled the Cougars within one point starting the final period at 32-31.

The game featured five lead changes and five ties with Service taking the lead with a triple, opening the final period and JDHS tying the score for the last time at 2:54.

Ibesate was honored with a third team All-State selection by the Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches just prior to the state tournament.

“It feels good definitely and is a great honor,” Ibesate said. “But we are not in this for individual awards, we want that team award. We have to keep our heads up and not be devastated by this loss. We have to keep working. It is not over yet.”

Yadao led the Crimson Bears with 18 points and pulled three rebounds, Ibesate added eight points and four assists, Shoemaker had seven points and two rebounds, Phillip Fenumiai scored five points and grabbed a team-high six boards, Calloway added four points with four rips, and Stanger two points.

Klie led Service with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, Touray and Marquis Robinson scored 10 apiece, Darren Muller seven, Aukusitino four, Ihro Raguindin and AJ Collins two apiece.

“My hat’s off to them (Service), but I tell you what, I am really proud of our guys,” Casperson said. “We didn’t do anything wrong. I think we played a pretty good high school basketball game. I think our guys executed all the things that I asked them to and that we had prepared for and sometimes when you do that you can still come up short. I am disappointed for our guys but certainly not in them. They played hard and just came up short today.”

The Crimson Bears now face the loser of the 5 p.m. matchup between No. 1 seed Wasilla and eighth-seeded Lathrop. It is another early breakfast game, scheduled for an 8 a.m. tip. Another game the Crimson Bears have prepared to serve up some high intensity play in.

“You still can’t take away all the success we have had this year,” Yadao said. “We still have a chance to end our season with a win and that is what we are looking forward to doing. We all look up to each other and believe in each other. It is not just one person on this team; we need everyone and that is the key that has held us together this season. And coach Casperson has held us to that.”

In the locker room after the loss the Crimson Bears regrouped.

“I told them it was just time for us to change our goal,” Casperson said. “Our goal was to come up here and work to win a state championship. It didn’t happen. Sometimes in life your goal’s need to change when the situation and the circumstances change. That is what we are going to do. We are going to change our focus and prepare for our next opponent.”

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.