The Peninsula College undersized forward posted hard, turned, took a pass from an undersized guard and made history for the Pirates.
It is a shot that has been etched into every Juneau-Douglas basketball fan’s memory as far back as the two tiny tots laced up their shoes in HoopTime action.
A hook shot from the left block that comes on a quick turn and arches over a taller opponent, kisses off the glass, and nestles into the net as soft as butter on a summer plate.
It was only fitting that Peninsula sophomore Taylor Larson’s record-breaking shot came from the pass of long-time Juneau teammate Karli Brakes. And that pass was a record breaker also.
“The left hand hook,” Larson said. “It is basically all I got. It is my go-to move.”
Larson’s 41-point effort and Brakes’ 15-assists were individual records for the Peninsula College Pirates and put the duo over the season and career record mark as well.
“Taylor shot a remarkable 18-21 from the field, which is insane, I don’t know who does that,” Peninsula coach Alison Crumb said. “And Karli, go figure, I wonder who she was passing the ball too.”
Larson broke the school’s all-time career scoring record of 794 points, the season record (470), game record (her own 35) and still have three regular season games and the Northwest Athletic Association Of Community Colleges playoffs.
Brakes broke the school’s game (her own 14), season (152), and career (254) assists marks and will be passing the ball in the tourney as well. Together, the two own 10 records at Peninsula.
“I thought it was pretty awesome that we could do it in the same night,” Brakes said. “We both broke all-time records so it is just amazing. We are just owning that record book I guess. It is definitely easy to be playing with her, we have done it since sixth grade.”
Larson said the record from the left block with the help of Brakes was special.
“I almost cried when the coach told me how many points I had,” Larson said. “It was an amazing feeling and it was crazy because Karli and I had talked about it earlier. It was a one-of-a-kind feeling. Probably 28 points came from Karli.”
The duo grew up in Juneau, their families know each other and they are close friends on and off the court.
“We have fun just about any where together,” Brakes said. “We just have some great chemistry going on and I love her to death. It is just real great.”
The duo is undersized at their positions, but they have played big when together their whole lives.
They led JDHS to a high school state championship in 2010 as juniors and were runner-up their senior year; they won an AAU 7th grad regional tournament in Reno Nevada under coaches Will and Becky White; they started on the same team in HoopTime, DZ Middle School (B as 6th graders, A in 7th and 8th), played four varsity JDHS seasons, Alaska Lady Hoops AAU spring/summer/fall Elite basketball travel team, and roomed together last season.
“This has been life changing here,” Larson said. “Our college doesn’t have dorms so you have to learn responsibility quickly. I have been lucky to have Karli here and we have had friends visit and our coach has been supportive with everything we do.”
Coach Crumb played on the same Peninsula College team as Larson’s sister Danielle.
“She is easy to relate too,” Larson said. “We can talk about things more comfortably. She reminds me of our high school coach Lesslie Knight, just younger.”
The record setting 87-73 win over the Everett College Trojans on Wednesday also, virtually, guaranteed a playoff spot in the NWACCS for Peninsula (7-4, 12-9). The top four teams in their conference advance to the March 2-5 tourney. Skagit Valley, Whatcom and Bellevue are tied in first with 9-2 marks.
The Pirates are hoping to win out and move up to the third or second seed. They played Olympic last night; play at Shoreline on Feb. 20 and host Bellevue on Feb. 23.
Larson has caught a pass or two from other teammates... and worked a few follow up rebounds into shots... and spun on the baseline to score... and drilled a soft jumper from the key.
Brakes has passed to other teammates on the bounce, run or tip, hounds opposing offensive players, and is about to own every steals record at the college as well.
Not only are the two putting the college on the map, but also they are part of an Alaskan connection that is making colleges across the nation sit up and take notice.
Ten of the 13 players on the roster are from the 50th state. Current JDHS center Gabi Fenumiai has accepted an offer to play at Peninsula and is expected to sign a letter of intent.
“They are taking over my life,” Peninsula coach Alison Crumb said. “I started five Alaska freshmen last year and they all came back and started this year as well.”
Larson was Freshman Of The Year for the NWACC North Division last year and First Team All Conference Selection. She is currently averaging 19.48 points, 6.5 rebounds, and roughly one assist and one steal per game.
Brakes was First Team All Defense for the North Division and second choice for Defensive Player Of The Year. This is her second year as a captain and she is currently averaging 4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 3.5 steals per game.
Four of the five starters are being actively recruited by Post University, a four-year school in Connecticut.
“There is that option of four of the five starters going back east,” Brakes said. “But we are both pretty uncertain right now which way we want to travel. I am definitely looking for somewhere to go. I love the game and I would like to at least play two more years of it. Alaska basketball has been very underexposed.”
Larson said her size isn’t ideal.
“I am not sure I could play DI and if I did I might not get a lot of playing time,” Larson said. “I would take a DII opportunity where I could play over a DI because I am not the type of player that likes to sit on the bench. Yes I would be supportive but it is not something I am used too. I want to find a school that has playing time to offer and is talented, because I am also not a fan of losing. I think I am a vocal supportive person to my teammates, I am really loud as a person.”
The two other starters being considered with Larson and Brakes back east are Jasmine Yarde (West Valley) and Jesse Eliis (Skagway).
Yarde (15 PT, 6 RB per game) is a triple threat guard that can shoot the three, attack the basket, and score anywhere on the floor, as well as being an athletic defender.
Ellis (11 pts per game) brought a southeast and state title with her to college and does everything; rebounds, assists, scores and is the smartest player on the team, she can read things that are happening moves ahead of the play.
Haines graduate Abby Jones is the fifth starter and is being actively recruited elsewhere. Jones (11 PT) is also the team’s leading rebounder and has physically improved by lifting weights that coaches state she is the most in shape person on the team and is “a beast, a truck that has packed on 15 pounds of muscle.” Jones is a great off-post for Larson; either will score if overlooked for the other.
Coach Crumb stated Brakes strong points are being so quick.
“She is so incredible and fun to watch,” Crumb said. “She is just so scrappy. She is annoying to play against. She doesn’t go away and is lightening fast. She is so short her eyes are at ball level and frustrates opponents.”
Crumb stated that Larson is consistent.
“She never has a bad game,” Crumb said. “She doesn’t have a bad attitude. She is just as hard as nails; you know exactly what you are going to get from her day in and day out, in practice or in a game. You never have to worry about her. She plays through injuries and being sick, and most of the time you can never tell. She is a dream to coach.”
Other Alaskans include:
Crimson Bears’ teammate Olivia Henderson (Juneau-Douglas) is also on the roster after not playing last season. Henderson is the backup point guard and is credited with being a season changer, allowing Brakes to rest while not missing a beat on the floor. Henderson can shoot, is a facilitator and a great defender.
Pherrari Brumbaugh (Wasilla) is a good defender who does not make mistakes when coming off the bench and will guard the best offensive player on the floor.
Brandi Hale (Mt. Edgecumbe/Hooper Bay) is the best teammate in the world, works hard, is a great person, great student, shows up every day on time, never complains and has never had a bad attitude or been disciplined for one thing.
“I don’t suspect I ever will,” Crumb said. “Which is so great for a coach.”
Leisl Brown (Wasilla) and Abbie Koenig (Tikigaq) are medical red shirts this season.
Non-Alaskans are Jonica Durbin (Klahowya), Alison Knowles (Port Angeles) and Cassandra Rowland (West Wendover).
The NWAACC playoffs are at Tri Cities in Eastern Washington March 2-5.
There are 34 teams in the NWAACC (over 350 players) and Brakes is leading with an average of 6.4 assists per game and is ranked ninth in total steals with 63. In the North Division Brakes leads in total assists, assists per game, total steals and steals per game.
Larson is ranked sixth in the NWAACC in scoring with over 410 points and an average of just over 20 points per game.
“That hook shot is super difficult for her size but she is so crafty at being able to get that perfect amount of position that creates just enough space to get it off and it has such a high arch on it,” Crumb said. “She shoots it over people who are 6-foot-3. It is really incredible. Taylor is really doing a lot more things consistently well now. She works hard to get position early, even before Karli gets the ball. And Karli has gotten so much stronger physically; she has been in the weight room. Karli has really done well facilitating all our different offensive weapons, which has allowed Taylor to get more open. She is tough now and is just coming into her own as a leader. Both of them have come in here and really grown into being leaders. That is the best thing I think they have accomplished, really keeping this team together and making it their own.”