Juneau-Douglas High School senior Jeffrey Pusich scored 16 points, four in overtime, and classmate Keith Ainsworth added 10 points, with four in the extra time, as the Crimson Bears turned a careless first half into a 52-44 O.T. win over the Wasilla Warriors on Monday night in the Juneau gym.
“It certainly beats the alternative,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said of the win. “What made a difference for us was that we started moving the ball quicker and our timing got better in the second half and we started playing with more fire and energy.”
Pusich went scoreless in the first half and traveled twice. Ainsworth went scoreless and threw the ball away three times. JDHS committed 10 turnovers in the first half.
The Crimson Bears fell behind nine to zero as Wasilla’s Emillio Carney and Cash McGregor tallied four points apiece. JDHS waited until 3:20 seconds remained in the first quarter to get their first points, a Jackson Lehnhart basket that sparked a 6-2 JDHS run ending the period.
Sophomore Adam Empson ended the run with a soft floater and started the second quarter with another basket as JDHS cut the Warriors lead to 14-8.
An 11-6 run for Wasilla, including deep three’s by Alex Baham and Emillio Carney, closed out the half 25-14 in the Warriors favor.
After senior Gary Speck scored on a reverse lay up to start the third quarter the Warriors ran off three straight baskets, including two straight by Stone Krueger, and looked to be putting the game out of reach at 31-16.
The 6-foot-five Pusich then took matters in his own hands at the 6:09 mark, posting hard on the block and scoring three straight baskets and 10 of the Crimson Bears next 16 points as JDHS held Wasilla scoreless through the end of the third period.
“Jeffrey is going to do as well as the position on the floor he gets when he receives the ball,” Casperson said. “Tonight he really fought for good position and he held his ground and if he gets deep position he has good touch around the basket. If he reads what the defense gives him he has a sweet touch from 15-feet and in and he took what the defense gave him tonight instead of trying to force the issue.”
With 12 seconds remaining Lehnhart stole the next possession for a layup that gave JDHS a 34-31 lead. Ainsworth went 4-4 from the charity strip in the period and senior Aquino Brinson 2-2.
The Crimson Bears’ Speck hit two freethrows to start the fourth period and after McGregor matched that for Wasilla, Ainsworth and Pusich found the net again for a 42-37 lead with 2:50 remaining. Dustin Cook brought the Warriors to within three points and a Crimson Bears turnover gave the ball back to the Warriors Baham who nailed another three to tie the game. Neither team could get a shot off in the last minute of regulation.
Pusich started the overtime with a quick turnaround hook, Ainsworth scored and then fed Speck on a fast break and the Crimson Bears defense stymied the Warriors in the half court as Wasilla missed five straight shots before getting their final points of the game with a minute remaining.
Pusich scored again with 1:12 remaining and Ainsworth hit a free throw before Wasilla scored their only bucket on a Cook power layup.
JDHS hit 11-18 at the charity stripe for the game, Wasilla went 5-7.
Speck added eight game points, Brinson six, Empson and Lehnhart four apiece, Kevin Guimmayen and Bruce Jones two each.
Wasilla’s Carney led the Warriors with nine points, Baham and McGregor eight apiece, Krueger and Cook six each, Cameron Brown five, and Nathan Hanson two.
“It is time to move on and we have to focus on our next opponent,” Casperson said. “This was a great opportunity to play Wasilla and have a tight game with them and learn about winning in overtime. Lathrop this weekend is going to present a major challenge for us too.”
Wasilla will play today at 4:30 p.m. against Thunder Mountain in the Falcons gym.
The Falcons will host Lathrop on Thursday at 7 p.m., and the Crimson Bears will host Lathrop on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.