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The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team is sporting a new look, thanks to the return of some familiar faces.
The Crimson Bears - who head north today on the season's first road trip - have gained some added size and strength in the middle with the addition of juniors Kate Potter and Jordan Johnston.
Potter has been with the team all along, but was out of town last month when Juneau won the Capital City Classic title. Johnston, who was on last year's varsity squad, originally opted out of basketball this season but later - with the support of the team - decided to come back.
"It's huge inside," Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said. "It gives us more depth. We're two players deeper, players who have practiced with us for two years now who have varsity experience."
Potter will be with the Bears as they play at Wasilla tonight, then head to East Anchorage High School for the Lady T-Bird Classic. At that tourney, Juneau faces Lathrop on Thursday, plays a doubleheader against West Anchorage and East Anchorage on Friday, and wraps up the trip against Colony on Saturday.
Johnston will not be making the trip - she needs to get a few more practices in before playing - but Knight said she will fill a key role when she gets into games.
"We're looking to her to help back up Tasha (McKoy) in the post and to have a true four (power forward)," Knight said.
The Crimson Bears (3-0) are coming off a successful Capital City Classic, where they won the tourney title for the first time since 1999.
"We came off the Classic feeling really good, but we've had some scrimmages since the Classic and have discovered some things we need to work on," Knight said.
One of the key areas in which the Bears hope to improve is their performance against teams with a height advantage.
Juneau will be playing with a squad of just eight or nine players at the T-Bird Classic, since the junior varsity squad will be traveling to their own tournament after the Wasilla game.
Wasilla (4-2) was state runner-up last season, and finished second in the 2002 Capital City Classic. The Warriors beat Juneau 56-44 in their 2002 Classic meeting, and guard Chandice Cronk - who poured in 30 points against Juneau - returns as a senior leader for this year's Wasilla squad.
This season, the Warriors have lost to defending state champion Chugiak in a rematch of last year's state title game; routed Palmer and West Valley; and gone 2-1 at a Florida tournament.
Lathrop (5-0) is led by star senior guard Kari Reabold, who scored 28 points in last Saturday's 77-30 rout of cross-Fairbanks rival Monroe Catholic. Reabold scored 33 points earlier this season against an Oregon team at a tournament in San Diego.
Juneau last played Lathrop in December 2002, when the Crimson Bears rallied to beat the Malemutes 54-49.
West Anchorage (3-2) beat Class 3A Houston 56-48 last Saturday, and have also beaten Skyview and Class 3A Grace Christian this season. The Eagles' losses came to Dimond and Class 3A Barrow. Juneau did not play West Anchorage last season.
East Anchorage sports a 3-7 record, but all of their losses came Down South in some very competitive early-season tournaments. In their first Alaska game last week, the Thunderbirds demolished Service 81-29 behind 32 points from junior Aiesha Ailey-Brown and 30 from senior Whitney McCauley. McCauley has signed a letter of intent to play at Division I Rice University next fall.
Last season, the Crimson Bears had East Anchorage cornered for three quarters in the final game of the T-Bird Classic before East's Ashley Mickens, who has since graduated, keyed a fourth-quarter rally for a 64-56 Thunderbird win.
Colony, 2-2 going into Tuesday night's game against Palmer, is led by senior guard Siena Locke and senior forward Kristina Klapperich. The Knights went 1-2 at a California tournament before returning to beat Bartlett 53-36 last weekend behind 21 points from Klapperich.
Juneau beat Colony 48-39 and 60-49 on consecutive nights at last year's T-Bird Classic
Juneau JV heading to Kotzebue
The Juneau junior varsity girls will travel with the varsity to Wasilla, but then the two squads split up.
While the varsity plays in Anchorage, the JV will travel all the way to Kotzebue for the Husky Shootout tournament on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The Kotzebue girls are coached by Jake Stoops, a 1992 JDHS graduate who is in his third season coaching the Huskies.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.