The prep basketball season is quickly winding down with just four regular season games remaining for each of Juneau’s four high school squads.
The boys and girls Region V tournament is March 7-11 in Juneau.
All but the Thunder Mountain girls basketball team play this weekend. The Thunder Mountain boys and Juneau-Douglas girls play weekend series in Sitka and Ketchikan respectively. The Juneau-Douglas boys play their third consecutive home series when they tipoff against Ketchikan at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The heated Crimson Bears-Kings rivalry will be served up alongside several other festivities: a halftime exhibition by the Special Olympics basketball team (Friday), the annual, “Coaching Boys Into Men” pledge drive (Saturday), and senior night (Saturday).
The Kings swept Juneau-Douglas in Ketchikan three weeks ago: winning 61-56 Friday, and 78-68 Saturday. According the JDHS head coach Robert Casperson, the losses are emblematic of the season as a whole.
“I know our record doesn’t look great, but we haven’t lost our games by a lot of points,” Casperson said at the beginning of Wednesday night’s practice, whose team is 10-8. “We’ve been in every game or come back to be in every game. We have stretches where we have lapses taking care of the ball and that’s been a big focus for us.”
By applying a consistent full-court press, the Ketchikan Kings can make just bringing the ball upcourt a challenge. But doing so successfully can mean the difference between a win and loss.
“Against a team like Ketchikan that likes to press and run, when you can limit their opportunities for easy baskets — from steals or turnovers — that can put a little pressure on them to be even more efficient offensively,” Casperson said.
Juneau’s offense flows through forwards’ Erik Kelly and Bryce Swofford. Through Friday’s seven point win over Lathrop, Kelly averages 15 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The Juneau-Douglas girls team face a familiar foe this weekend in Ketchikan. JDHS squeaked out a 42-41 win over the Kings in the Lady Lynx Prep Shootout fourth place game.Unfortunately I didn’t cover this game. Overall, JDHS was 4-1 in the Anchorage tournament, falling only to eventual tournament champ Chugiak in the second round.
The Thunder Moutain boys face Sitka for the first time this season Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
RECOGNIZING SENIORS: Since first joining the program in 1999, JDHS basketball coach Robert Casperson developed scores of high school athletes. Here, he reflects on the nine graduates who will be leaving the program this year: seven players and two managers.
Hunter Beelitz, guard
“Tough as nails. That kid, he swears he weighs 160 lbs, and its just raw, unadulterated muscle, so he’s not going to pass the eye test when you’re looking at him, but he’s going to give you everything he’s got and he’s going to battle everyday. He’s been a lot of fun to work with.”
Ulyx Bohulano, guard
“Ulyx is probably one of our most gifted athletes with speed and quickness. He can get up and down the floor and leave defenders in his dust. He can run off, 8 to 10 points by himself before you blink, so he’s been pretty exciting for us that way. We’ve had to fit him into the system and he’s accepted some changes to his game to make that work and its been a lot of fun.”
Marshall Shapland-Murray, guard
“Another one of our hardest workers. Marshall is a senior who has come a long way from his freshman year and he’s worked through the C team and JV ranks and he is always battling in practice — a pretty physical kid. He knows his minutes are hard to come by but he makes the most of any minutes he gets.”
Jordan Milligan, guard
“Jordan Milligan — probably one of our strongest kids. He’s had his ups and downs but I know he’s commited to the program and does a lot of the offseason work, whether it be in the weight room or open gyms. For him, stepping into a new role this year, where he didn’t get a lot of playing time as a junior and he’s getting a lot more this year, he’s done a nice job for us.”
Bryce Swofford, forward
“Bryce is probably our most decorated senior in regards to playing time, accolades and acknowledgement statewide. He’s been doing a lot of great things for us, primarily on the defensive end, his offensive consistency has expanded this year, along with his role with that. We needed him to score a little more. He’s always been a defense-first kind of kid though. I’d say a throwback maybe where he loves to dive on the loose balls, he’s willing to take the charges, great team-guy, you got to have those guys.”
Luis Lozada, forward
“We’re disappointed Luis has a broken foot. He’s come so far in such a short amount of time in our program. This is his first year with us. Luis is a kid I’ve known since middle school and just to see the progress he’s made — not just in sports — but more impressively in his personal life and academics. He’s got a great head on his shoulders, he’s been awesome to have around the team. The guys love him, he loves being a part of this. We miss him, but he’s come everyday and had a great attitude even with the broken foot, crutching around, helping us out and keeping the guys positive.”
Alison Ford, manager
“Alison’s new to us. She’s done a great job coming in and working hard and learning our routines and the processes. It didn’t take her long to anticipate the things we would need in practice and make sure everything was happening and keeping us in order. She’s been a great addition this year.”
David Timothy, manager
“David has worked with us for the past two seasons and in that time he has become one of the most valued members of the team. He is deeply loved by his teammates. To say that we have seen him flourish over the past two seasons would be an understatement. David has even started giving pregame and halftime motivational speeches this season. … He says he wants to be a coach some day.”
John Williams, guard
“With John Williams, he’s come to us pretty late in the athletic career of a high school basketball player but I don’t know if anyone spends more time on his game than he does. He stays typically after the JV practice all the way through varsity and does individual work on the side, so he’s a really hard worker and I’m looking forward to him getting out and going to college and doing good things.”