Throughout most of the season, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team has utilized strong second halves to win games.
Last Saturday, though, the Crimson Bears exploded to a 15-point halftime lead on the way to a 74-53 rout of Service. JDHS (10-2) will try to put together another full 32-minute effort this weekend when it visits Sitka.
"We've talked about being able to play 32 minutes," JDHS coach George Houston said. "(Last Saturday's win) was probably the best game we've played over the course of 32 minutes. That's something we're trying to build on and be a little more consistent."
A key to Juneau-Douglas' recent success has been underneath the glass. When forwards Will Egolf, Clae Baker and Faifo Levale successfully box out and rebound, the Crimson Bears can quickly transition into offense.
Last Saturday, Baker and Egolf combined to snag 31 rebounds. By dominating the boards, especially on the defensive end, the Crimson Bears can impose their will on a team and speed up the tempo.
"It kind of compliments one another," Houston said. "When the big people are as active as they were, it makes it easier for the guys on the perimeter to get the ball offensively. If they double-down and pack things in, we can kick it out and go inside-out."
Scott Lesh proved a beneficiary of the inside-out game last Saturday. The reserve guard scored 20 points against Service, 15 of which came in the second half.
While last Saturday's effort was certainly impressive, what may be more encouraging is how the team has handled itself in pressure situations.
The Bears, winners of their last five games, are 5-1 in games decided by five points or less. They have also won two overtime games this season.
"Close games, they're really nerve-wracking," Baker said. "I think they motivate us more than anything. Winning close games, we look back on them and can come out really strong."
With 10 regular season games remaining, Juneau-Douglas is starting to discover what kind of team it is.
"I like our team so far in terms of our heart and competitiveness," Houston said. "We've played in close games. Through adversity, we've kind of come together. That kind of builds confidence and camaraderie in the team. I like our team so far but we still have to get better."
One of the contributing factors to the Crimson Bears' success this season has been a suffocating defense.
Through 12 games this season, Juneau-Douglas has limited opponents to just 51.7 points per game.
"I think we all know our roles on the team," said Baker, who averages 7.6 points and 8.3 boards. "We're coming together and becoming a stronger team."
Sitka enters this weekend's games after falling twice to fourth-ranked Colony.
The Wolves area a relatively short team, with no player taller than 6-foot-3. Sitka, coached by Andy Lee, is 2-0 in the conference after sweeping Ketchikan earlier this season.
"Andy will have them playing really hard," Houston said. "They're playing at home, they'll have a packed house because we're coming to town. We've got to make sure we do everything we can to get ready to go."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org