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With a shrinking roster due to injury, the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team will face a stiff test this weekend as it travels to undefeated Ketchikan for two games.
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The Crimson Bears (8-3, 2-0 Southeast) are down to seven regular varsity players after losing freshman guard Mahlet Tingley to a leg injury last weekend.
JDHS coach Lesslie Knight said Tingley will be out two to four weeks. The team has already lost freshman Brittany Fenumiai to a season-ending knee injury.
"We obviously need everyone to step up, that's our theme for the year," Knight said. "We need the varsity kids on the court to step up and contribute to score. We need the junior varsity players we bring up to step up their game."
Ketchikan (9-0, 0-0) should head into this weekend's tilts with plenty of confidence. The Kings are ranked third in Class 4A in the Alaska Sportswriters Prep Basketball Poll and second according to the Winner Percentage Index, which measures wins and strength of schedule.
JDHS is ranked fourth in the sportswriters poll.
Led by first-year coach Melissa Johnson, Ketchikan defeated West Valley, Lathrop and North Pole last weekend in Fairbanks. Forward Crystal Reno scored 23 points in a 58-43 win over the Wolfpack last Thursday. The Kings went on to beat the Patriots 57-43 Friday and the Malemutes 74-41 Saturday.
"They have good experience," Knight said of the Kings. "They've got a new point guard (Laci Effenberger), a freshman who's played a lot. They still have several returning players. ... We're expecting an intense game."
Effenberger was named MVP of Ketchikan's Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic and hit the game-winning 3-pointer to beat Gig Harbor, Wash., on Dec. 30. The Kings also boast veteran players such as Karin Voetberg, Tara Hoffman, senior K.J. Lorenzo and Crystal Blair.
JDHS girls basketball
Who: No. 4 Juneau-Douglas (8-3, 2-0) vs. No. 3 Ketchikan (9-0, 0-0).
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Ketchikan High School.
What's at stake? A series sweep by either team would translate into a two-game conference lead.
While Juneau-Douglas may not have tremendous depth, its seven varsity players are all battle-tested and accustomed to big-time competition. JDHS has already played the state's two top-ranked teams, Wasilla and Chugiak.
"The nice thing for us is we're coming off the Anchorage trip so we've seen some tough competition," Knight said. "We had to play under pressure against Wasilla, East and Chugiak. I think we're pretty prepared."
JDHS fell to the Warriors and Mustangs last week in Anchorage but defeated East Anchorage and South Anchorage during the road trip.
Led by two-time state player of the year Talisa Rhea, the Crimson Bears will need contributions from its entire lineup to be successful this weekend.
Sophomore point guard Kayla Harrison has increased her scoring in recent weeks while forwards Veronica Lietz, Hannah Buck and Corey Mulder have been consistent contributors throughout the season.
Post players Andrea Doerflinger and Nicole Fenumiai may have the most responsibility. In addition to scoring, they must defend and control the defensive glass. Their ability to deny second-chance shots by the Kings could make the difference between winning and losing.
"We always need our posts," Knight said. "The posts get the other posts in foul trouble. We need them to get to the basket."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.