The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boy’s basketball team saw just how far they needed to improve during the 2012 Alaska Airlines Classic over the weekend.
The answer: A lot and not much.
JDHS took fourth place at the prestigious gathering of high school hoopsters, opening tourney play with a 74-48 loss to Christian Life Academy from Humble, Texas on Thursday, then beat North Carolina power Mt. Zion 66-55 on Friday; and trashing Kodiak 61-35 on Saturday.
“It was a good win for us for sure,” JDHS head coach Robert Casperson said of the Crimson Bears defeat of the Warriors from Durham. “Not to take anything away from the teams we have played up to this point but Mt. Zion is the best team we have played and won. Texas is the best team we have played.”
Mt. Zion fields a varsity team and a national prep team. The prep team attracts players such as current pro Tracy McGrady, the varsity team was at Anchorage.
Against Christian Life on opening day, the Crimson Bears struggled in the final three minutes of the first period but only trailed 22-10 starting the second period and aside from the first two minutes of that period, JDHS played the Texas power even.
“I am proud of our kids,” Casperson said. “They accepted the challenge and went after them.”
Tied at 10 midway through the first period the team from Humble, Texas switched from a man to a zone press and their size and length resulted in some errant JDHS passes. When they did break the press the Crimson Bears missed some layups. The result was a 36-18 halftime disadvantage. JDHS was outscored only 16-11 in the third period and 22-19 in the final stanza.
Tony Yadao led JDHS with 17 points, Austin Shoemaker and Phillip Fenumiai seven apiece, Lance Ibesate, Alec Calloway and Evan Gross four each, Jeffrey Pusich three, and Jackson Lehnhart two. Jonathan Doss scored 20, Josh Johnson added 18 and Myles Robinson 11 for Christian Life. JDHS hit 3-5 at the charity stripe, CLA went 4-10.
“Our guys played through the final nine seconds,” Casperson said. “They just wanted to keep going. I like our competitive nature.”
Mt. Zion had more athletes top to bottom in Friday’s action.
“But our athletes are pretty good,” Casperson said. “They stick their nose in there and get after it.”
The two teams were tied 11-11 starting the second period and the Crimson Bears led at the half 28-24. The teams were even at 42 starting the final stanza.
The Crimson Bears went with five guards midway through the fourth to spread the floor and create one-on-one drives to the rim. Alec Calloway was also on the court and the five went 9-14 from the free throw line in the period.
“Between Lance, Tony, Austin and Phillip, those four guards did most of the ball handling down the stretch,” Casperson said.
The Crimson Bears went with a zone to stop the dunking of Mt. Zion’s Michel-Ofik Nzege, a prep team member.
“Our guys weren’t fazed,” Casperson said. “They consider a dunk just two points. We inbounded the ball and went the other way, fast. I feel very fortunate to have as many options as I do on this team.”
Fenumiai led with 20 points, Yadao 13, Ibesate 12, Calloway and Shoemaker nine apiece, Darien Stanger two, and Gross one. Nzege led the Warriors with 21. JDHS hit 15-19 at the line, Mt. Zion 9-19.
Against Kodiak the Crimson Bears led 15-10 after one period and pressed into a 31-16 halftime advantage. After an even third period JDHS outscored the Bears 12-4 in the fourth.
Calloway led JDHS with 16 points, Fenumiai had 14, Ibesate 13, Yadao seven, Stanger three, Ryan Kelly, Lehnhart, Pusich and Gross two each. Austin Frick led Kodiak with nine points. JDHS hit 6-10 at the line, KHS 8-15.
Tourney scores day 1: Christian Life (TX.)74 JDHS 48, Bartlett 79, Mt. Zion (N.C.) 67, West 84 Delta 35, East Hall (Georgia) 87 Kodiak 65. Day 2: Bartlett 82 CL 73, East Hall 79 West 78, JDHS 66 Mt. Zion 55, Kodiak 69 Delta 47. Day 3: 7th place game Mt. Zion 72 Delta 37, 4th JDHS 61 Kodiak 35, 3rd CL 87 West 63, Championship East Hall 87 Bartlett 74.
“The tournament was a great test for us,” Casperson said. “To see where we are at and identify areas of strength and weakness. There is always something to work on. This has been incredible. It was everything we hoped for and more.”
The Crimson Bears were also able to watch a UAA men’s basketball practice and then watch the Seawolves play Western Washington University. UAA features southeast’s own Kyle Fossman from Haines while Western has Petersburg’s Cameron Severson.
Up next for JDHS is a visit form Chugiak on Jan. 20-21 and Kodiak on Jan. 27-28.