This is it for former Juneau-Douglas High School basketball player Josh Lockhart.
After three trips to the NAIA Division I national tournament with the Biola University Eagles, this is Lockhart's last chance to win the title. Lockhart, a senior point guard for the Eagles, would love to end his college basketball career with his first national title.
``We finished in the top eight last year, and we beat the top seed,'' Lockhart said by phone Tuesday from Biola's campus in La Mirada, Calif. Later that night, Lockhart scored 10 points and dished out three assists as NAIA fourth-ranked Biola claimed a 97-68 Golden State Athletic Conference victory over Hope International.
``This is a pretty unselfish team,'' Lockhart said. ``Of the top eight (players), any one of us can hit for 15-20 points.''
Lockhart has a season-high of 21 points, hit twice this season, and with 10.4 points a game is one of five players averaging at least 10 points a game for the Eagles.
Even though he's led the team in scoring three times this year, Lockhart's job isn't to carry the scoring load. Lockhart, who has the second-most minutes played on the team this season, switches between the point and off guard positions and helps run the offense for the 15-2 Eagles. Some games Lockhart will figure among the team's top scorers, but in other games he'll hardly score any points but will have seven or eight assists.
``I start out at the point, and I'm bringing it (the ball) up (the court) the majority of the time,'' Lockhart said. ``There's a lot of talent on this team. It's gotten a lot more fun for me as I've improved.''
When he was a senior at Juneau, Lockhart chose Biola over the University of Alaska Anchorage, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Western Washington University. As a freshman, the team was low in numbers so Lockhart got to play about 15-20 minutes a game as the backup point guard. He started working his way into occasional starts as a sophomore and junior, and now is the starting point guard.
``I picked Biola because it's a Christian university,'' Lockhart said. ``It's fairly small, but it plays competitive basketball. Of our five starters, three of them played at the (NCAA) Division I level before transferring here. I like the atmosphere, and you don't have to deal with the drinking you have to put up with on a lot of college campuses. Looking back, I wouldn't do anything differently.''
Biola is one of five teams from Southern California ranked among the top 25 teams in this week's NAIA Division I poll, and two others were receiving votes. Biola just moved to No. 4 from No. 5, while The Master's College is No. 6 and Azusa Pacific is No. 7. Westmont is No. 24 and Point Loma Nazarene is No. 25. Of those teams, The Master's College is the only one that isn't a member of the GSAC, and it handed Biola one of its two losses (in overtime) when one of Biola's main players was waiting for his transfer to clear. With the strength of the conference, the Biola players know they have to be ready to play every time out.
``We've got a chance to win our conference,'' Lockhart said. ``Once conference play starts, every team has a chance to win.''
Lockhart, who expects to earn a degree in business accounting in December, was an NAIA academic all-American last year and is in the running for the honor again this season. He and his older brother Toby have discussed starting some kind of a small business in Juneau after Josh graduates, or Josh said he may decide to go through an accelerated masters program in teaching.
If anything, learning how to combine his academic and athletic schedules gave Lockhart a lesson in balancing his time.
``You just have to be very committed, it's almost like a job,'' Lockhart said. ``But it's definitely been the ideal situation for me, as big of a commitment it has been. Our coach (Dave Holmquist) is real honest, he's a guy who's a straight shooter. As big as basketball is here, he makes sure it's not our entire life.''
The basketball find of the season has got to be Nate Strong (Tenakee Springs), a 25year-old sophomore small forward at Montana State University-Billings. Strong, who had never played organized basketball before spending a year at Skagit Valley Community College in Washington, posted the top single-game individual scoring mark in NCAA Division II play this year when he scored 41 points in a 111-82 victory over the University of Alaska Fairbanks Jan. 8. That 41-point effort came two days after Strong scored 37 points in a 113-104 victory over the University of Alaska Anchorage. Strong, who was the Pac West Conference Player of the Week before playing the two Alaska teams and is averaging 20.5 points a game, scored 18 points in a 78-72 loss at Hawaii-Hilo Jan. 11 and added 10 points in a 76-64 victory over Hawaii Pacific Jan. 13. Strong had a five-game stretch where he averaged 34 points a game that ended with the UAF game.
Chris Hamey (Juneau-Douglas), a senior guard for the University of Alaska Anchorage, has become the Seawolves' leading scorer since point guard Ed Kirk was lost for the season with a broken jaw. Hamey moved into 10th place on the all-time UAA scoring list as he tossed in 23 points to lead the Seawolves to an 89-77 come-from-behind victory over Western Washington on Thursday. Hamey led the Seawolves with 24 points in the loss to MSU-Billings, had 17 points as UAA claimed an 89-63 victory over Western New Mexico, scored 20 as UAA lost 81-68 to Hawaii-Hilo, then scored a career high 29 points as UAA lost to Chaminade 80-71. Juneau resident Shaun O'Shea, who went to high school in Virginia, is a walk-on forwardcenter with the Seawolves who will be seeing increased playing time following the academic losses of three UAA big men and an injury to another.
Matt Carle (Hydaburg/Juneau-Douglas), scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists as the University of Alaska Fairbanks upset NCAA Division II No. 25 Central Washington 85-79 Thursday. Carle, a senior guard, scored a team-high 17 points as the Nanooks lost to MSU-Billings and had 17 points as UAF beat Western New Mexico 84-67. Carle is averaging 10.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists a game for the Nanooks.
Mark Lund (Klawock) scored two points as George Washington lost 94-89 to Duquesne. Lund, a senior walk-on guard who is one of the three captains for the Colonials this year, has seen limited action in most of George Washington's games. The Colonials reached the NCAA Division I tournament last year, but are struggling this season with a 6-9 record.
Carlos Boozer Jr. (Juneau-Douglas), a freshman center with No. 5 Duke University, has seen increased production since recovering from a preseason broken foot and has averaged 18.4 points and 7.8 rebounds a game since returning to the starting lineup Dec. 11. Boozer has twice been named the Freshman of the Week in the ACC. He scored 24 points (six in overtime), grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots as Duke tied the record ACC winning streak with its 27th victory on Wednesday, a 92-88 overtime victory over North Carolina State. Boozer, who has season averages of 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists a game, is one of six Duke players averaging at least 10 points and 4.5 rebounds a game.
Meagan Gleason (Juneau-Douglas), a senior guard at Davidson College, scored 15 of her career-high 17 points in the second half but it wasn't enough as the University of North Carolina-Charlotte edged Davidson 71-69 on Jan. 10. Gleason hit five 3-pointers, including one with 22 seconds left that tied the score at 69-69, but she also committed a foul with 10 seconds to go that led to UNC-Charlotte's game-winning free throws. Gleason, who had been averaging 6.2 points a game for the Wildcats, scored 13 points in a 74-71 loss to Furman Jan. 15 to boost her averages to 6.7 points a game overall and 10.3 points in Southern Conference play.
Jaime Stanford (Haines/Mount Edgecumbe), a freshman forward for the NAIA Division II No. 19 Southern Oregon University Raiders, returned to action in a 73-54 victory over No. 20 Albertson College Jan. 15. Stanford, who missed 10 games after her jaw was broken by a stray elbow in practice, didn't score in her four minutes of action, but she did grab a rebound, blocked a shot and made a steal once taking the floor. Before she was hurt, Stanford was averaging 3.2 points and 2.9 rebounds a game.
Caroline Gruening (Juneau-Douglas), a sophomore guard for Santa Clara, came off the bench and scored eight points as the Broncos beat Portland 68-50 in their West Coast Conference opener Jan. 14. Gruening had five points and seven assists as Santa Clara knocked off Gonzaga 98-66 Jan. 15, helping the Broncos improve to 12-3 on the season.
Christina Capacci (Juneau-Douglas), a freshman forward with the Seattle University Red Hawks, is averaging 4.5 points and 2.6 rebounds a game this year. Next week, Capacci will get to play in Alaska as the Red Hawks play at UAF on Jan. 27 and at UAA on Jan. 29. She might also get to see her alma mater play, since Juneau-Douglas will be in Anchorage to play at Chugiak on Wednesday and at the East Anchorage T-Bird Classic Thursday through Saturday.
Rachel Franceschini (Sitka), a senior forward at Fairmont State University in West Virginia, scored three points as Fairmont State lost 65-62 to Glenville State on Jan. 13. Franceschini scored two points Jan. 10 as Fairmont State lost 65-52 to West Virginia Wesleyan.
Kiersten Smith (Juneau-Douglas) is a freshman guard for Whatcom Community College in Washington. No stats or team records were available for the Orcas.
Former Sitka High wrestler Karl Jordan, a sophomore 165-pounder, picked up a pin as the Pacific University Boxers claimed a 42-8 dual meet victory over the Simon Fraser Clansmen Jan. 7, Pacific's first over Simon Fraser since 1997. Jordan's pin clinched the dual-meet victory for the Boxers, who are ranked fourth in the NCAA Division III wrestling poll. Jordan took third place in his weight class in the Central Washington University Invitational on Jan. 15.
In leading her Fresno State Bulldogs to a 167-121 dual-meet victory over San Diego Jan. 15, sophomore sprint freestyler Jesie Lewis (JuneauDouglas) won both the 50-yard freestyle (24.46 seconds) and the 100 free (52.74). On Jan. 12, Lewis won the 100 free in 53.93 as the Bulldogs beat Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and University of California-Irvine. Fresno State has an 8-1 record in dual meets.
Western Illinois University, which features former Petersburg swimmer Ty Westre (a freshman) and former Petersburg coach Jerry Champer, claimed a 159-95 victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay Jan. 14. On Jan. 15, the Leathernecks edged Evansville 120.5-118.5.
Nicholas Polasky (Juneau-Douglas) is a junior for the Saint John's University (Minnesota) swim team. Saint John's, like most of the nation's college swim teams, is just returning to action after a lengthy holiday break.
Indoor track and field
The Western State College indoor track team, which features junior distance runner Jim Shine (Juneau-Douglas), opened its season Jan. 15 at the Air Force Open in Colorado Springs, Colo. Shine, who recently earned all-American honors as he helped the Mountaineers claim the NCAA Division II cross-country running title, will be competing in the 1,500 meters and the 5,000 meters this spring. About 120 miles down the road, at Adams State College, two-time track all-American Carl Blackhurst (a senior from Haines) will be leading the Grizzlies' track team. Blackhurst, who also has three all-American honors in cross country, took third place last year's NCAA Division II outdoor track championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The Juneau Empire's College Corner feature is compiled by sports reporter Charles Bingham and runs about twice monthly, with some sections repeated in the Southeast Empire. Readers can send in tips about college athletes from Southeast Alaska by e-mailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by faxing the information to 1-907-586-3028 (attention sports).