The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears girls basketball team will look to improve on last week's performance in the Capital City Classic when they face the Dimond Lynx at 7 p.m. tonight in the main gymnasium at Juneau-Douglas High School.
The Crimson Bears finished the Classic with a 2-1 record by beating West Valley and Kentlake (Wash.) high schools, then dropping their final game, 61-54, to a strong Gig Harbor (Wash.) team.
"I actually thought some of our girls would do better," girls head coach Jim Hamey said of his team's performance. "We had no trouble getting shots but we gave up a lot more (points) then we were used to."
Things will not be any easier tonight when the Crimson Bears face Dimond.
The Lynx qualified for last year's Class 4A state tournament and will bring a lot experience to the court, featuring senior guards Julia Fleming and Heidi Kessler as well as six-footer Tina Fakasiieiki.
"Their coach has established a program she feels pretty confident with," Hamey said of Dimond. "They made the state tourney last year and a lot of those players are back this year."
Tonight's game will be Dimond's season opener, with Dimond games also scheduled in Sitka for Friday and Saturday nights.
The Crimson Bears faced a possible setback early this week when arguably their two best players were sidelined from practice with illnesses.
Standout point guard Courtney Mason and leading rebounder Michael Kohan missed at least two practices this week, but were back on the court Wednesday and will be in tonight's lineup.
"A lot of girls are not feeling well," Hamey said. "We'll just have to wait and see, these things happen all the time."
In order for Juneau to compete with Dimond the Crimson Bears will have to step up their rebounding game, which was a glaring weakness in the Capital City Classic.
With a smaller-than-average lineup, strength on the boards can be a make or break situation for the Crimson Bears.
A lot of the pressure falls on junior Hilary Rehfeld and sophomore Amy Neussl.
Listed at slightly over six-feet-tall, Rehfeld is Juneau's tallest player and is naturally looked at as one of the team's top rebounders, as well Neussl who is 5-11.
"We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds to both Kentlake and Gig Harbor and neither are exceptional rebounding teams," Hamey said. "I was also disappointed in our full-court defense -- we gave up a lot of out-of-position baskets."
Hamey will try to improve his team's rebounding by having the defense help out more on the post and will also try to take some pressure off of his team by playing more half-court defense.
"We were able to score reasonably well," Hamey said, "but we struggled on defense. We need to work more on blocking out."
Most of the freshman on the roster will not be seen on the bench tonight. Hamey planned to send the junior varsity off to Skagway for a small schools tournament this weekend and a chance for some much needed playing experience.
One underclassman who may not make the Skagway trip is Kendri Cesar.
The fleet-footed freshman guard impressed coach Hamey with last week's performance and will possibly stay behind to give a spark off the bench when Mason needs a rest.
"Kendri played very well this weekend," Hamey said of his young point guard, "But I would like her to get three games of experience in Skagway rather than one game here."
Hamey also expressed his satisfaction of having the opportunity to play a team like Dimond at home this year.
"It's good playing a new team other than Ketchikan and Sitka since we play them all the time," Hamey said. "We expect to have a pretty good game."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org