The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team outpaced the visiting Chugiak Mustangs 72-59 at home Thursday night.
Junior Adam Empson scored seven of his game-high 24 points and recorded a steal during a 15-5 Crimson Bears run to open the second half and break the game open.
“It was a good team effort,” Empson said. “We didn’t come out as aggressive as we would have liked, but we did better to start the second and put in work.”
Four three-pointers from Juneau-Douglas shooters in the third quarter and seven unanswered points from Junior Jacob Thibodeau early in the fourth quarter helped the Crimson Bears put the game out of reach midway through the final period.
“As always, Adam (Empson) really brought a calming presence and took care of the ball,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “Nathan (Klein) carried us on the glass with his aggressiveness, and Jacob (Thibodeau) had his best game of the year.”
Still, turnovers were frequent occurrences for both teams from the opening tip to the final minutes of the game.
“I’m frustrated with the amount of turnovers we keep having at this point in the year. We’ve got to take better care of the ball,” Casperson said.
Full-court pressure from both teams forced five turnovers in the first couple minutes of play.
Juneau-Douglas shooters got hot from mid-range, prompting Chugiak to move to a 3-2 defensive zone.
A late scoring rally by Chugiak pulled the Mustangs to within two of the Crimson Bears at the end of the first period.
The Crimson Bears extended their lead in the second thanks to fewer turnovers and multiple key Chugiak players, including leading scorer Matt Oldenkamp, getting into early foul trouble.
Alex Hess was a spark off the bench for Chugiak, scoring nine and forcing several Crimson Bear turnovers.
Tighter defense in the paint by the Crimson Bears forced Chugiak into more jump shots, which helped hold the Mustangs to 13 points in the quarter — their lowest output of the night.
The Crimson Bears took a 34-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Juneau-Douglas’ 15-5 run spurred largely by Empson pushed the six-point lead to 16 in the early minutes of the third quarter — a lead that turned out to be insurmountable for the visitors, who will play a two-game series with Thunder Mountain High School Friday and Saturday.
Turnovers continued to be a common trend for both teams throughout the quarter with the Mustangs chipping away at the Crimson Bears’ lead after the home team’s early run.
Hess picked up his third foul halfway through the quarter and Juneau-Douglas carried a 10 point lead into the final period of play.
Oldenkamp fouled out for Chugiak with 2:32 left in the game with the Crimson Bears up 17.
Casperson praised his team after the game for “exceeding everyone’s expectations except their own” thus far in the season.
“We’re absolutely where we want to be at this point in the season given our schedule,” he said.
Behind Empson’s 24 points were: Gunnar Schultz, 11; Thibodeau, 7; Rahul Chhabria, 6; Kaleb Tompkins, 5; Nathan Klein, 4; Kevin Guimmayen, 4; Bryce Swofford, 4; Manase Maake, 3; Dar Hodge-Campos, 3; and Bruce Jones, 1.