A tough road at last month's Capital City Classic left the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team with a lot to work on over the past few weeks, and the Crimson Bears learned their lessons well.
Juneau defeated the Dimond Lynx 67-54 on Friday and 51-40 on Saturday at the JDHS gym to improve its record to 5-3 on the season - and 5-1 against in-state opponents.
In their three Classic losses, the Crimson Bears were plagued with foul trouble and had problems keeping their energy up for a full four quarters. On Friday and Saturday, Juneau showed improved endurance, and no Crimson Bear faced serious foul trouble.
What's more, Juneau was able to capitalize off Dimond's foul problems, scoring 25 points off free throws in both games.
"We're definitely glad to have won two games at home after (losing three at) Capital City Classic," said senior Danielle Larson, who scored a season-high 28 points on Friday and chipped in 11 on Saturday. "It gets our confidence up."
In Friday's game, Juneau followed a similar pattern in each quarter - a quick burst of offense from senior Amy Neussl to kick off the period, followed by a bevy of baskets from Larson.
Neussl hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first minute of the game to give the Crimson Bears a 6-0 lead. After a bucket by Alida Bus, Larson scored 10 points in the period as Juneau built a 16-6 advantage after one quarter. Larson scored nine more points in the second quarter to give Juneau a 32-23 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, both teams played a bit rusty and the Lynx (3-7) clawed back into the game on a 3-pointer by Jennifer Sandy to make it 36-30 with five minutes to play in the quarter. But Neussl responded with a 3-pointer, and the Bears held a 46-35 lead after three.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Lynx went on a 9-2 run to close the gap to six points at 54-48 with four minutes to play. But two straight baskets by Larson - including a three-point play - allowed the Crimson Bears to pull away and secure the win.
Neussl finished with 24 points for Juneau. Zee Zee Young led Dimond with 13 points.
"We had some moments of greatness, but we are still having some letdowns," Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said after Friday's game. "When we are patient, we get wide open shots, we get wide open inside. ...
"They played really well as team, recognizing where (their teammates) are."
On Saturday, the teams played a close - but sloppy - game for much of the first half. Juneau led 13-11 after one quarter, and held an 18-14 advantage midway through the second as Dimond managed to cut down Larson's scoring chances.
"Their defense played tighter and were ready to play," Larson said.
But the Crimson Bears went on a 8-2 run to close the first half and take a 10-point lead, 26-16. In the third, Neussl turned in one of the weekend's highlights when she sank a 3-pointer from the left corner while being fouled by Dimond's Brittany Muscio. Neussl converted the free throw for her first-ever 4-point play in a high school game.
"I just tried to shoot it high enough not to be blocked," she said.
In the fourth quarter, the Crimson Bears went 8-of-9 from the free-throw line to maintain their lead and earn the victory.
Neussl led Juneau with 13 points on Saturday, Larson had 11, junior Alida Bus added nine and junior Letasha McKoy had eight. But the Crimson Bears struggled a bit from the field.
"Offensively, we didn't have the same patience we had last night," Knight said Saturday. "We had a tough time getting the ball inside."
One bright spot - from both games - was Juneau's successful application of their "football" drill, where they advance the ball up the court without dribbling.
"It's a press-break drill that we run quite often in practice," Knight said.
On several occasions, the Bears caught the Lynx off-guard with quick, no-dribble half-court passes that led to easy lay-ups.
Dimond coach Jim Young said turnovers and cold shooting plagued his team.
"We just struggled shooting," he said. "But Juneau played really well - you can't take anything away from them."
Juneau JV winless in Nikiski
The Juneau JV team was winless in Nikiski, where the Crimson Bears played varsity teams in the Nikiski Tip-Off tournament.
On Friday, Annie Withrow scored 16 points as the Kodiak Bears beat the Juneau JV 35-27. Mary Rehfeld led Juneau with 11 points. On Saturday, Jenny Carpenter scored 14 points to lead four Skyview Panthers in double-figure scoring as tourney champion Skyview claimed a 65-21 victory. Rehfeld and Jillian Hahnlen scored six points each to lead the Juneau JV. None of the Juneau players made the all-tournament team, but Rehfeld won the 3-point shooting contest.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CRIMSON BEARS 51, LYNX 40
Saturday's girls boxscore from JDHS
DIMOND (40) - Zee Zee Young 4 0-0 9, Jennifer Sandy 3 1-2 8, Noelani Saena 2 0-0 5, Jessica Houston 0 3-5 3, Chantel Hernandez 1 0-2 2, Halley Jo Sullivan 0 1-2 1, Andrea Stigall 2 2-4 6, Megan O'Connor 3 0-0 6, Felicia Kroll 0 0-2 0, Brittany Muscio 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 7-17 54.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (51) - Kendri Cesar 2 0-3 4, Heather Dillon 0 0-0 0, Amy Neussl 4 3-3 13, Danielle Larson 1 9-12 11, Letasha McKoy 1 6-7 8, Alida Bus 4 1-4 9, Julie Heard 0 4-4 4, Ashley Larson 0 2-3 2. Totals: 12 25-36 54.
DIMOND 11 5 6 18 - 40
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 13 13 13 12 - 51
3-point goals - Dimond 3 (Young 1, Sandy 1, Saena 1), Juneau-Douglas 2 (Neussl 2). Fouled out - Dimond 1 (Hernandez), Juneau-Douglas 0. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Dimond 25, Juneau-Douglas 16.
CRIMSON BEARS 67, LYNX 54
Friday's girls boxscore from JDHS
DIMOND (54) - Zee Zee Young 5 2-3 13, Jennifer Sandy 3 2-2 9, Megan O'Connor 2 1-3 5, Jessica Houston 1 0-0 2, Chantel Hernandez 1 1-1 3, Halley Jo Sullivan 0 0-0 0, Noelani Saena 3 0-2 7, Andrea Stigall 2 1-2 5, Felicia Kroll 2 2-2 6, Brittany Muscio 2 0-0 4. Totals: 21 8-15 54.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (67) - Alida Bus 1 3-4 5, Kendri Cesar 0 2-2 2, Amy Neussl 8 4-4 24, Danielle Larson 10 8-13 28, Letasha McKoy 0 8-14 8, Julie Heard 0 0-1 0, Heather Dillon 0 0-0 0, Ashley Larson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 25-38 67.
DIMOND 6 17 12 19 - 54
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 16 16 14 21 - 67
3-point goals - Dimond 3 (Young, Sandy, Saena), Juneau-Douglas 4 (Neussl 4). Fouled out - Dimond 1 (Hernandez), Juneau-Douglas 0. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Dimond 27, Juneau-Douglas 17.