Practice was over for the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team, but senior Liz Haas stood at the free throw line taking shot after shot Wednesday night.
Haas made about 20 in a row, before missing a couple and finishing with a lay-up as she scooted out the door. That extra post-practice practice followed a session where coach Jim Hamey kept telling the Crimson Bears they needed to improve if they want to compete with the state's best teams.
The Crimson Bears will open their Region V-Class 4A schedule this weekend when they host the Sitka Wolves at 6:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the JDHS gym. Even though Juneau already has a 75-37 non-conference victory over Sitka from Juneau's Capital City Classic two weeks ago, many of the Crimson Bears expect to see a different Wolves team when they take the floor this weekend.
``We haven't seen them at full force yet,'' said Juneau senior Tanya Nizich, who leads the Crimson Bears with 14.6 points, 3.3 assists and 3.8 steals a game. ``We'll have to look and see how they come out and play. It could be different.''
``It looked to me like their new coach (first-year Sitka coach Rich Krupa) was doing a good job with them,'' Hamey said. ``I expect them to be improved. We caught them on a day where we were shooting and moving the ball well.''
When Juneau and Sitka played two weeks ago, Sitka was able to hang with Juneau through the end of the first quarter, trailing by one point 13-12. But, using turnovers created by its halfcourt trap defense, Nizich and Michael Kohan led a 21-7 second-quarter run that started Juneau on the way to a rout.
Nizich led four Crimson Bear players in double-figure scoring that game with 16 points, while Kohan had 14 points off the bench, Erin Mesdag scored 12 and Haas added 10 for Juneau (6-2 overall). Breanne Erickson was Sitka's only double-digit scorer with 14 points, followed by Sidney Wyman with six points.
But the Wolves (5-3) will have a changed lineup when they return to Juneau. Sitka hasn't played since losing to Lathrop in the final round of the Capital City Classic Dec. 29, after playing eight games in 15 days.
For one thing, Krupa switched three starters to different positions after that game - Wyman moved to point guard, Christine Grun moved to power forward and Tricia Young moved into a wing position - and now they've had two weeks to learn their new roles. Jennie Phillips, who was battling a bad back, is healthy now. And the Wolves have now added Petersburg transfer Kerri Curtiss to their lineup. Curtiss, who was a Region V-Class 3A all-tournament selection last year, will most likely come off the bench for now, but she's a forward who can handle the ball against Juneau's trap, Krupa said.
``We're hoping for a lot different outcome,'' Krupa said. ``We expect Juneau to be just as tough, if not tougher. But we've had some practices and hopefully we'll be improved. We had some mental fatigue. We had a good little break. We're still putting our system in. We're doing a lot of learning. We went back to a lot of basics, we're going to do the stuff that works.''
Juneau's defense gave Sitka fits the last time the two teams played, especially since the Wolves were alternating a pair of younger point guards at the time. Once Sitka gets the ball up the court, Krupa figures he's got the people to match up inside with Juneau.
``We went back to a lot of fundamental drills,'' Krupa said. ``Juneau has a good man-to-man defense, but they tend to halfcourt trap you rather than fullcourt press. If we get the ball over halfcourt, we'll be OK. When we played Juneau, we'd been averaging 50 shots a game. But we only took 30 against Juneau. We need to take more shots.''
Juneau is coming off a two-game split with defending state champion Palmer last weekend, a weekend that saw the Crimson Bears struggle with its shooting. Hamey said he hopes his team shoots more like it did in the Sitka game than in the Palmer series.
``I think we're capable of being a good shooting ball club,'' Hamey said. ``We've not been patient, but we're working on that. I do expect them (the Wolves) to be a lot better this time. They're still learning a system.''
ALASKA STATE BASKETBALL POLL
Here is the Alaska Media High School Basketball Poll for the week ending Jan. 8, as compiled by Dean Lichterman of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Schools are listed with their records (rna means record not available) as of Jan. 8 and total points in the poll. First-place votes are in parentheses.
Class 3A-4A boys
1. Dimond (2)8-1 74
2. East Anchorage (6)8-2 71
3. Bartlett7-2 61
4. Lathrop6-3 54
5. Colony5-3 41
6. tie, Anchorage Christian3-1 33
6. tie, Juneau-Douglas4-2 33
8. Wasilla2-2 16
9. Chugiak3-2 15
10. North Pole3-1 13
Also receiving votes: Barrow, 4-1, 12; Valdez, 3-2, 10; Delta Junction, 3-1, 5; Palmer, 2-3, 2; Soldotna, 6-1, 1.
Class 1A-2A boys
1. Minto (1)3-0 21
2. Anderson (1)3-2 17
3. Cook Inlet Academy (2)4-2 16
4. Tri-Valley (2)1-0 14
5. Seldovia3-0 11
Also receiving votes: Sand Point, rna, 10; Yakutat (2), 1-2, 10; Shishmaref, 2-0, 6; Northway, 2-1, 6; Angoon, rna, 5; Buckland, 0-2, 3; Kake, rna, 2.
Class 3A-4A girls
1. Lathrop (3)6-1 70
2. Palmer (2)4-1 64
3. East Anchorage (3)4-2 62
4. Colony3-5 47
5. Juneau-Douglas4-2 46
6. Grace Christian5-1 27
7. Wasilla3-1 24
8. Ketchikan8-1 22
9. Bartlett5-1 20
10. Anchorage Christian4-2 14
Also receiving votes: Eielson, 5-1, 12; Sitka, 5-3, 12; Valdez, rna, 10; Monroe Catholic, 4-2, 8; Kenai Central, 3-1, 2.
Class 1A-2A girls
1. Ninilchik (1)1-0 29
2. Anderson (3)3-1 25
3. Yakutat (2)3-0 17
4. Matanuska Christian4-1 13
5. Klawock (2)rna 10
Also receiving votes: Tri-Valley, 1-0, 8; Minto, 2-1, 7; Northway, 2-1, 4; Tok, 2-1, 4; Seldovia, 3-0, 2; Savoonga, 2-0, 1.