It only seems like the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team moved its practices this week from the gym to the infirmary.
A flu bug has been ravaging the Crimson Bears, who open their Region V-Class 4A schedule this weekend against the Sitka Wolves, and Juneau coach George Houston has been shortening practices in an effort to get his team healthy. Juneau hosts Sitka at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with both games broadcast live on KINY, 800-AM.
"Everyone's sick," Juneau guard Curtis Lane said after Wednesday night's practice ended nearly an hour early. "We only had eight people and two coaches today, we may have nine tomorrow. Yesterday we were missing exactly half the tea, including three starters."
"Coach keeps sending people home," Juneau forward Byron Wild said. "It's better they go home and try to get better now, than to keep practicing and have this bug set in where they're sick the rest of the season."
The Crimson Bears (5-4 overall, 0-0 region) are coming off a four-game road trip that saw them lose to Wasilla in Wasilla on Wednesday, then lose to the Warriors again the next night in the opening round of the Alaska Prep Shootout in Anchorage. Juneau ended its four-game losing streak with victories over Skyview and Grace Christian School to take fourth place in the Shootout, but the Crimson Bears weren't too happy with the way they played.
"I wasn't too happy because we had letdowns," said Lane, who missed Saturday's victory over Grace with the flu. "We can't spot teams 10 points like we've been doing. We'd let down, and they'd go on a 10-0 run."
"If we came out and played with intensity, we could be 9-0," Wild said. "We need to focus on playing the whole game without any letdowns."
Sitka (7-1, 2-0) comes to town having just swept Ketchikan in a pair of region games, winning 56-55 on Friday as coach Bob Potrzuski sat out a one-game suspension (from an ejection against West Anchorage two weekends ago when he stepped onto the court to defend one of his players who had been punched by one of the Eagles) and 78-59 on Saturday with Potrzuski back on the bench. Sitka hosts Region V-3A Craig tonight before the Wolves catch the ferry to Juneau.
"We were just real lucky," Potrzuski said. "Ketchikan had lots of opportunities to win that first game. Ketchikan has some really quality athletes, they're big and strong. We were real lucky to come out of that with two victories."
The Wolves aren't the tallest of teams, but they spread the ball well and Potrzuski said his players are unselfish and he likes the team chemistry. Brian Friske led Sitka in scoring both nights against Ketchikan, but Mike Schneeberger, Colin Kambak and Jason Mooney also hit for double figures. Potrzuski said his team has also battled the flu bug, but only one player, sophomore forward Cody Campbell, is going to miss the trip because of a 105-degree temperature.
The Crimson Bears, having won the past eight Region V-4A titles, know they're a marked team when it comes to region games. The intensity level is up for Sitka and Ketchikan whenever they play Juneau.
"Coach didn't want us to watch the tape (from the Sitka-Ketchikan games)," Lane said. "He knows they'll be twice as intense against us and he doesn't want us to get lulled into thinking they'll take it easy."
Lane then pointed to the wall of Juneau's main gym, where two rows of color-coded pennants mark which teams won the region and state/All-Alaska titles dating back to 1949. Juneau's pennants are white with red lettering.
"They look at that, especially the streak of white at the end, and they don't like that at all," Lane said.
"There's not really a lot of pressure right now, but I don't want to be on the team that stops the streak," Wild said.
Potrzuski admitted his team will be up for the games, but Juneau still has the advantage.
"It's intimidating to play up there," Potrzuski said. "But what I like about this team is my guys want to control what we do and let everything else happen the way it happens. Juneau's Juneau, and if we're lucky we'll have to play them five times this year. We know where we sit. We're a school of 450 and they've got 1,600 kids and if we can be competitive we'll be happy."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.