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.”