Groups pitch in to get girls games on the air
The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball games will be returning to the air this weekend after a group of local media outlets and others banded together to make sure the team's games are carried locally.
This weekend's two games against defending Class 4A state champion Palmer will both have audio feeds carried live on GCI Cable Channel 6, which is the Educational Access Channel run by the Juneau school district. No video will be available for this weekend's games against the Moose - which start at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday - but there is a possibility live video feeds will be added to broadcasts of other Juneau games.
Jennifer Mannix and Peter Mores, who broadcast the Juneau girls games last season for KJNO 630-AM, will handle the play-by-play duties again this year on the Educational Access Channel. KJNO recently dropped its coverage of girls basketball, just before Juneau's season openers at the Lathrop tournament in Fairbanks Dec. 20-22, which prompted the unique coalition to try to find a way to return the games to the air.
KINY 800-AM, on short notice, picked up the three Juneau girls games at the Capital City Classic Dec. 27-30 and it will also broadcast any regional and state tournament games involving the Crimson Bears in March. The remaining 16 varsity games - eight home and eight away - will be broadcast over GCI Channel 6, which is available with the area's basic cable package. Mannix and Mores will handle all home games, while the Alaska Sports Broadcast Network will provide feeds from Juneau's games at Chugiak and at the East Anchorage Thunderbird Classic. Juneau's girls team is expected to be one of the contenders for this year's Class 4A girls state championship.
KTOO 104.3-FM is helping coordinate the coverage, working with the Educational Access Channel, KATH-TV Channel 98, Juneau community schools, Juneau-Douglas High School and the team's Rebound Club. The public radio station, KTOO, got involved with the coalition after hearing that Juneau's season-opening games at the Lathrop tournament in Fairbanks Dec. 20-22 were not broadcast back to Juneau and that coverage for the remaining Crimson Bear games was in jeopardy.
``It's great that a bunch of organizations can come together over the holidays and see a need and fill it,'' said KTOO station manager Bill Legere, who is seeking sponsors to help cover the costs of broadcasting the home and away games. ``The pleasant part of all this is that everybody wants this to happen.''
``We were just looking to solve the situation and get the games back on the air,'' said Mike Sica, who helped coordinate the broadcast coalition. ``There's a little disappointment, but we've got everyone all working together to get the games on the air.''
At the time KJNO dropped its coverage, station manager Steve Rhyner said his sales crew hadn't been able to find enough sponsors to carry the games. He said it costs between $200 and $250 for each broadcast game, and only one sponsor had committed for the entire season.
A disappointed Jim Hamey, the Juneau girls coach, said he's grateful an alternative broadcast method has been found for the rest of his team's games this season.
``The guy (Rhyner) said it's not public radio and he said he'd worked for three weeks and couldn't find any sponsors,'' Hamey said. ``Well, when we turned it over to public radio they found the sponsors. They've got to make expenses, too. We just want to promote the program.''
Joyce Kitka, the supervisor for Juneau's community schools, said she hopes the broadcasts will eventually include live video. The high school video club, which has taped games in the past, may be able to help broadcast the games.
``Whenever you involve so many groups, that's quite a venture,'' Kitka said. ``What excites me more than anything is trying to get the kids involved.''
The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team is still smarting from a 48-36 loss to Palmer in the semifinals of the Class 4A state basketball tournament in Fairbanks last March.
After that game, the Moose went on to win their second state title with an overtime victory over two-time defending state champion Colony while Juneau lost the third-fifth place game to Lathrop.
The Crimson Bears (5-1) will get a chance to atone for that loss to Palmer when they host the Moose for two games this weekend, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Juneau-Douglas High School gym. For many of the Crimson Bears, last year's loss still weighs heavily on their souls, especially since Palmer outscored Juneau 14-2 in the second quarter.
``I thought they kicked our butts,'' Juneau guard Yvonne Harris said after practice Wednesday. ``We weren't mentally ready for that game. I hear they're a good team again this year. I'm excited to play them.''
``They embarrassed us last year,'' said Juneau coach Jim Hamey, who was sporting a new cast on his right wrist after breaking it when he slipped on the ice in his driveway Monday. ``I'm excited to get to play them again. I hope the girls are, too.''
The Moose (3-0) have been idle since winning their own Palmer Elks Showdown on Dec. 16-18, but coach Lyle Busbey said the break has been needed. Four of his 10 varsity players have bad ankles. He said starting guard Diana West won't play this weekend, while guard Kallie Pasquale and forward Tara Hillis are still hobbled.
Still, of the 10 players on Palmer's roster, nine were on the team's state tournament roster last year. Palmer's top scorer from last year, Laura Lee, has graduated, but nearly everybody else is back.
Tami Callison, one of Palmer's few healthy guards, was the most valuable player at the Palmer Elks Showdown and made both the offensive and defensive all-tourney teams. West was on the defensive and forward Katie Williams made the offensive all-tourney team. Guard Kristina Lee didn't make either of the all-tourney teams, but she did lead Palmer in scoring in a 65-31 victory over Homer to open the tournament and was in double-figures when Palmer beat defending Class 3A state champion Valdez 59-41 to clinch the tourney title.
Palmer has the height to make things tough in the paint, with 6foot-2 center Lisa Thomas being backed up by 6-0 Sara Bergeron and the 5-10 duo of Williams and Allison Kendall adding power inside. Plus, the Moose can run with the best of teams.
``Defensively, we're about the same,'' Busbey said. ``But with Lisa Thomas moving into the starting center role she's more of a scoring threat. This year we have more scoring weapons. Last year we went to Laura Lee for a lot of our scoring, but this is probably the best offensive team I've ever had. Seven people can score in double figures.''
Many of the Juneau players expect to see a similar Palmer team to the one that beat them last year.
``They're quick. They press. They run and they have good pressure defense,'' Juneau senior Liz Haas said. ``I think we had a good chance against them last year, we could have won that game. I think we can play with them this year, but it depends on how we handle their pressure. I'm happy we get to play them early in the season.''
``Last year we hadn't heard much about them,'' Juneau junior Courtney Mason said. ``They hadn't played East or Lathrop, they'd only played Colony. This year we're expecting it now. We'll be competitive. Every one of us is playing good team basketball right now.''
Busbey admitted the Moose ``hid last year,'' and he said that was partly by design since he had a younger team and he wanted to build its confidence early in the season. But this year, with a veteran roster, Palmer has a schedule that features many of the state's heaviest hitters in girls basketball. Besides these two games with Juneau, Palmer and Juneau will play each other again in the East Anchorage Thunderbird Classic later this month.
``There's no hiding anymore,'' Busbey said.
Hamey said his biggest worry about Palmer is its pressure defense. Hamey said the Crimson Bears match up well with the Moose, but how Juneau handles Palmer's pressure could decide the game.
``They run a lot of half-court traps and they're really disruptive when we're trying to bring the ball up the court,'' Hamey said.