The Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls basketball teams are hosting the Colony Knights tonight and Saturday in the Crimson Bears’ annual homecoming series.
“They are a good team,” JDHS head coach Robert Casperson said. “And they play in a very good conference. They are always in the hunt. I expect them to be a very tough opponent.”
The traditionally tough Knights (2-3) play in the Northern Lights Conference, which includes powers Wasilla, Palmer, Soldotna, Kodiak, Kenai, Homer and Skyview.
The Colony boys have made the state tourney four of the past five years, losing the title game in 2007, and finishing third in 2008. They boast two returning all-conference senior players in 6-foot-2 Blake Hightower and 5-foot-10 guard Antonio Bush, and rally around 6-foot-4 junior guard Hunter Eisenhower.
The Crimson Bears lost a scrimmage against a group of hot shooting perimeter alumni during one Christmas break practice and are working on improving defense to the three-point line. Lance Ibesate, Tony Yadoa and Alec Calloway are currently the top three go-to scorers on JDHS.
“My main concern is if we are going to be able to defend them,” Casperson said of the Knights. “Keep them out of the lane and challenge any shots. Our focus will be on defense, we need to be better than we have been if we want to be successful against Colony.”
The Colony girls have been to the state championships the past three years and lost in the championship game in 2009.
The Knights are led by all state selection Mary Klapperich, a 6-foot junior guard and 5-foot-10 seniors Saige Stefanski and Leroya Simmons.
“The team has worked extremely hard over the last couple of weeks focusing on some items that we need to improve on,” JDHS girls head coach Dee Boster said. “Things that were obvious from the Wasilla trip. Some of that is believing that we can win and having confidence as a team; not just improving on the fundamentals of basketball.”
Boster stated the team is definitely on the road of improvement.
“If we keep attacking the items needed to improve on as we have the last couple of weeks, throughout the season and not only learn from our mistakes but make adjustments where needed, then I believe we will gradually become more confident in our play and therefore successful,” Boster said. “We are looking forward to this weekend with the goal of taking what we have worked on and applying it in a game situation.
“I think the girls have realized that winning is going to take a lot of hard work and won’t be handed to us; this weekend will be a good test on that concept. There’s a lot of basketball left in the season; so we need to take one game at a time and work from there.”
Students at JDHS have decked the halls, the commons, the gymnasium and just about every nook and cranny of the school in spirit decorations.
That alone should be worth the price of a basketball ticket. There will also be homecoming court and king and queen crowning during Saturday’s dance in the high school commons after the boys game.
“It’s homecoming,” Casperson said. “The atmosphere should be great, especially if we can get the fans out in full force. A lot of fanfare goes into this weekend and it is a lot of fun.”
Local radio station KINY 800 AM will broadcast the JDHS boys’ game Friday at 8 p.m. and the Thunder Mountain High School boys’ game Saturday at 8 p.m. The Falcons boys and girls are at Kodiak this weekend.