The Juneau-Douglas High School boys varsity basketball team will be taking this weekend off from competition, but don't expect head coach Steve Potter to roll out the Scrabble board and Chinese checkers.
"We still have a lot of work to do and Ketchikan's right around the corner," Potter said. "If nothing else, the way we want to play requires constant conditioning."
The Crimson Bears (7-2 overall) will kick off their 4A Region V schedule against the Kings, their only in-conference opponent this season, on Jan. 23-24 in Ketchikan.
Until then, Potter and company plan to work on defense and teamwork - two sore spots after surrendering 101 points to West Anchorage last Wednesday and then falling to 3A Grace Christian 63-59 in the opening round of Anchorage's Alaska Prep Shootout a day later.
"We wanted to play both West and Dimond last week. We knew the only way we could play Dimond was in the championship (of the Prep Shootout)," Potter said. "We lost that first game and just felt pretty disappointed after that. We straightened some stuff out in the next two games we won, but we didn't do what we wanted to do up there."
The good news for the Crimson Bears and their fans is that last week's losses came against two of the elite teams in the state. West is 6-2 overall this year, with their only losses coming against a pair of Texas 5A powerhouses from Fort Worth and Plano. Juneau-Douglas simply joined their list of in-state blowout victims that already includes Palmer, Bartlett and Dimond.
Grace Christian is currently sitting at 5-1 overall, with four wins already over 4A competition after also edging past Homer, Soldotna and Eagle River this season.
"Their best player (Leif Karlberg) scored 29 points on us. We knew he was their best player going in and he was as good as advertised," Potter said. "We had him matched up against Cody Grussendorf most of the night and Cody scored 25. I'm still not sure if they couldn't guard each other or if they're both just that talented."
Potter put some of the blame on himself for the team's shaky early games last week, saying his lineups consisted of too many similar players to maintain a balanced attack.
"We either didn't have enough size out there or we didn't have enough guards. That's one of the things we altered for the last two games," he said.
After finishing with a 3-2 record against Ketchikan last season, though, Potter is still letting his players know that it's up to them to play better.
"If we want to win our region and go on, we need to start playing better and playing together," Potter said. "The road to state goes through Ketchikan both literally and figuratively since they're hosting regionals.
"We play them four or five times a year, and the guys really get to know each other. The rivalry has a way of getting built up."
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