ANCHORAGE — It wasn’t easy or pretty, but the Juneau-Douglas boys’ basketball team kept its season alive Friday.
The Crimson Bears overcame a dismal first half and survived a late rally to knock off Kodiak 55-49 in a loser-out game at the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Basketball State Championships at Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena.
JDHS, seeded fourth, advanced to the fourth-place game against Wasilla at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Wells Fargo Arena. No. 8 Kodiak was eliminated.
The victory was the Bears’ first at state since 2009 and helped reduce the sting of a loss against No. 5 North Pole in Thursday’s opening round.
“It feels good. Obviously, we didn’t get one last year,” JDHS coach Steve Potter said of the win. “But we certainly didn’t come out with very much fire or focus. It looked like a loser-out bracket game.”
The game was in doubt until the last minute after Kodiak scored seven unanswered points in the final 30 seconds, nearly erasing an 11-point deficit.
With the score 53-42 and less than a minute to play, Austin Frick hit one of his three 3-pointers to pull Kodiak within eight. He got a steal at midcourt on the ensuing possession and took the ball to the basket, laying it in.
JDHS then threw an inbound pass directly to a Kodiak player, who quickly scored to make it 53-49 inside of 10 seconds to go. A pair of JDHS free throws iced the game.
The win put the Crimson Bears in position to notch their best finish at state since 2006, when the they placed third. JDHS was 0-2 at last year’s tournament and took sixth in 2007, ’08 and ’09.
“It’s an opportunity to improve on that,” Potter said.
For the first 16 minutes, it didn’t look like JDHS had recovered from Thursday’s loss.
Potter said Gozelski, who scored 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting, was the only one who played with urgency in the first quarter.
The senior forward ended the quarter with a bankshot at the buzzer after taking an inbounds pass with 0.8 seconds left, catching the ball in midair and twisting his body for a shot from about 15 feet away.
That gave the Crimson Bears an 8-6 lead after one.
“He kept us going,” Potter said.
The Bears managed just 16 points in an ugly first half, struggling to find a rhythm as Kodiak slowed the pace with long, deliberate possessions.
JDHS was 0-for-7 from 3-point range over the first 16 minutes and shot just 31 percent from the field.
Junior guard Tony Yadao acknowledged it was difficult to regroup following the loss to North Pole on Thursday.
“One of our main goals was to get out of the first round,” he said. “When we didn’t do that, it was hard because fourth place isn’t the best you can do.”