With four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Juneau-Douglas High School senior Phillip Fenumiai made his first competitive steps since a season ending football injury six months ago, and the Crimson Bears made a huge leap back into contention for the Southeast Conference title with a 56-46 win over Ketchikan.
"It felt great to be playing with my teammates," Fenumiai said. "It was fun. My first thoughts were not to turn the ball over when I got in the game. I was a little rusty."
The numbers were not what spoke loudly about Fenumiai's initial appearance; he got his first rebound at 3:20 in the first quarter, his first assist at 3:10, forced a turnover at 2:24 and left the game at 2:26. He got an offensive charge (3 fouls total) in the second quarter, an air ball from three-point land in the third, and threw the ball away once in the fourth. And he scored one point and pulled a couple rebounds.
It was how the Crimson Bears responded.
"Our effort has never been the issue," JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. "It has been the execution. Tonight we executed better, certainly adding Phillip into the mix with his experience, leadership and calming presence, helps everybody. He is a good team guy, he plays for the team first and they know that. The team did not leave Phillip on an island, they didn't expect him to be a savior. That wouldn't be fair to him and that is not fair to all the other hard work the other players have put in all season long. Phillip is not a savior, Phillip is a piece of our team."
Senior Gary Speck put up a monster double-double, tallying 17 points and 15 rebounds; sophomore Adam Empson scored 14 points, including two baskets and five free throws in the fourth quarter with Kayhi threatening; senior Jeffrey Pusich scored seven points, four in the crucial first minutes of play; senior Aquino Brinson scored six points, senior Keith Ainsworth and sophomore Bruce Jones four, sophomore Nathan Klein two and senior Jackson Lehnhart one.
And they did it within the framework of the team.
"We got good minutes out of Jackson (Lehnhart)," Casperson said. "Aquino (Brinson) has been busting his backside all night, Gary (Speck) had every big rebound we needed down the stretch and that was huge for us."
JDHS led 17-8 starting the second quarter and 24-19 at the break.
Alex Pihl and Erwin Malabanan kept Kayhi close in the third quarter with three shots from beyond the arch and the Kings trailed 38-31 starting the final quarter.
Kayhi's Brien Auger scored all six of his game points in the final period but JDHS went 10-13 from the charity stripe down the stretch to secure the win.
"It is fun to watch when we are on," Casperson said. "We have crisp cuts and passes. We have a lot of athleticism and when we execute, as we have shown in the season, we can beat some of the top teams in the state. I have confidence in every one of our players to be out on the floor."
JDHS improves to 7-14 overall and 2-3 in the Southeast Conference; Kayhi is 2-5 in the SE Conference. The two team play again tonight at 8 p.m. Senior Appreciation will be held for the Crimson Bears basketball team, cheerleaders, dance team and pep band at 7:50 p.m.