For most of the season, the Juneau-Douglas High School basketball team suffered from one deadly problem -- lapses in concentration that let the other team get a run going.
Usually, like in Friday night's 68-53 victory over the Sitka Wolves, the Crimson Bears have been able to right themselves after their opponent started a run. But there have been times when those runs were enough that Juneau ended up on the losing end of the score.
So Saturday night's game, where Juneau beat Sitka 76-53 to complete a two-game sweep at the JDHS main gym, was like a breath of fresh air for the Crimson Bears. The Crimson Bears finally got through a game without giving up a fatal, or near-fatal, run.
"I think that's the most even game we've played all season," Juneau forward James Severin said. "Even when we weren't scoring, we were still working on defense so they weren't getting anything. Usually on these lapses we go totally cold, but tonight we didn't."
"I think this is our first game without a lapse," Juneau guard Clay Brown said. "We came out kind of flat, but we were able to work through that."
Juneau (7-4 overall, 2-0 in Region V-Class 4A) fell behind 8-2 to open Saturday's game. But the Crimson Bears qucikly turned things around when Ryan Monagle hit a bucket underneath and drew a foul for the three-point play. Sitka made it 10-5, but Juneau closed to 10-8 then Joe Ayers was fouled on a 3-pointer and completed a rare four-point play to put the Crimson Bears on top 12-10. Sitka grabbed one more lead, 14-12, but that was the last lead of the game for the Wolves.
"Tonight's game was played at a much higher level for both teams," Juneau coach George Houston said. "Sitka was really fired up tonight. When we were out warming up, you could see it in the set of their jaw. They wanted it. When I pulled my team off the court about three minutes before the game started I thought we looked a little down. I didn't like our guys' body language and I told them they've got to be ready to play. You only get to play 22 times before the season's done, so you have to make every game count."
Sitka (8-3 overall, 2-2 region) hung tough through the first half, when Juneau took a 41-36 lead into the break. The Wolves stayed within striking distance at the end of the third quarter, when it was 53-45 Juneau, but Juneau's greater depth started to wear on the Wolves.
"It took us awhile to get going, they got on us pretty fast," Juneau guard Curtis Lane said after leading the Crimson Bears with 24 points. "They got pretty tired at the end, though. They were fatigued. We did a lot better tonight. A win is always good."
"They were really fired up," said Severin, who added 13 points. "Our depth is probably the biggest thing we have."
In the first half, Juneau was able to keep up the pace against Sitka by making a lot of 3-pointers. Juneau hit five treys in the first half, while Sitka only nailed one for the entire game. Houston said the 3-pointers were nice to have, but they also troubled him because Juneau wasn't getting much in the paint.
"I thought the threes were like fool's gold in the first half, because they could disappear on you," Houston said. "If we aren't getting anything underneath that can really hurt us. But in the second half we were able to get it going inside. From the mid-third (quarter) on, I thought we had them."
Juneau shot 52 percent for the game (26 for 50 from the field), and also hit for 52 percent for each half (14 for 27 in the first half and 12 for 23 in the second). Sitka shot 41 percent for the game (18 for 44), with the first half at 42 percent (11 for 26) and the second half at 39 percent (seven for 18).
"Hopefully we can develop some consistency now," Houston said. "When we go to Sitka, those games are going to be wars. I was pleased with how we did today."
Besides the 24 points from Lane and the 13 from Severin, Juneau also picked up 12 points from Brown and 11 from Monagle.
Mike Schneeberger scored 13 points before fouling out to lead Sitka, while Greg Blankenship added 12 points and Jason Mooney had nine.
Crimson Bears 68, Wolves 53
Friday's contest was a game of runs, with Juneau going on a 15-0 run to break an 8-8 tie only to have Sitka counter with a 19-2 run to take a 27-23 lead. Juneau closed out the half with a 10-4 run to take a 32-30 lead at the break.
But both teams struggled in the third quarter. Sitka didn't score for the first 6 1/2 minutes of the second half, but Juneau wasn't doing much better as the Crimson Bears only scored nine points during that stretch. That was enough, though, for Juneau to break the game open.
"That was the key right there," Sitka coach Bob Potrzuski said. "We had eight straight turnovers in that stretch."
Jumper: Juneau's James Severin (44) shoots over Sitka's Greg Blankenship (50) as Jon Carlo Malacas of Juneau watches during Friday's game at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gymnasium.
BRIAN WALLACE / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE
"It wasn't just their shooting that went cold, our defense stepped up, too," Juneau guard Joe Ayers said. "I think it definitely starts on the defensive end."
During the third-quarter stretch, both teams were cold in their shooting. But Juneau was able to make a couple of shots while Sitka went ice cold. Juneau, which shot 48 percent for the game (28 of 58), was six for 14 in the third quarter with half of its buckets coming in the final 1:38. Sitka, which shot 43 percent (19 for 44) for the game, was three for 10 in the third quarter with all three shots in the final 1:38.
"We were up and down, it was a story of runs," Juneau forward Jake Miller said. "I think it was us getting the extra run that did it."
"We've got to stop letting down in a quarter," Monagle said. "We played three quarters and if we played four quarters we'd be a lot better than we've been doing. That's where if the team's getting down, we've got to keep going."
Monagle was a big key for Juneau because of the grunt work he did that doesn't show up in the boxscore. Even though he cheats when he says he's 6-foot-2, Monagle has been the team's leading rebounder and he also dishes out a lot of assists and isn't afraid to dive for loose balls.
Lane scored 14 points to lead Juneau on Friday, with Severin adding 11 points and the duo of Brown and Monagle chipping in 10 each.
Brian Friske scored 18 points to lead Sitka and Schneeberger added 10, with Brett Haavig and Colin Kambak scoring eight each for the Wolves.
"We just couldn't get anything to go," Friske said of Sitka's third-quarter lull. "We didn't have our best game. We weren't making the best offensive decisions and we didn't have intensity on defense."
"Juneau beat us," Potrzuski said. "They stopped us on offense and they outrebounded us. I guarantee you we'll play better tomorrow."
Juneau and Sitka will both play Bartlett next week. Bartlett will play at Sitka on Thursday and Friday, then will come to Juneau for a game Saturday at 8 p.m. at the JDHS main gym.
"Bartlett's one of the best teams in the state," Houston said. "They've got some of the best guys on their team."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
CRIMSON BEARS 76, WOLVES 53
Saturday's boys boxscore from Juneau-Douglas High School
SITKA (53) -- Greg Blankenship 4 4-6 12, Brett Haavig 2 2-2 6, Mike Schneeberger 5 3-6 13, Brian Friske 1 1-2 3, Jason Mooney 3 3-4 9, Colin Kambak 1 2-2 4, Karel Uddipa 1 0-0 3, Karl Stedman 0 1-2 1, Elgin Hollins 0 0-0 0, Tristan Hanson 0 0-1 0, Israel Ginn 0 0-0 0, Jay Villanueva 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 16-25 53.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (76) -- Joe Ayers 1 3-4 6, Jon Carlo Malacas 0 0-0 0, Ryan Monagle 5 1-2 11, Julius "Junior" Cumlat 2 2-3 6, Curtis Lane 8 5-6 24, Craig Kitka 0 0-0 0, Sterling Henderson 0 0-0 0, Leon Bus 1 0-0 2, Clay Brown 3 5-7 12, Bryan Hamey 0 0-0 0, Jake Miller 0 0-2 0, James Severin 5 3-4 13, Byron Wild 1 0-0 2. Totals: 26 19-28 76.
SITKA 19 17 9 8 -- 53
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 24 17 12 23 -- 76
3-point goals -- Sitka 1 (Uddipa 1), Juneau-Douglas 5 (Lane 3, Brown 1, Ayers 1). Fouled out -- Sitka 1 (Schneeberger), Juneau-Douglas 0. Technical fouls -- Sitka 1 (coach Bob Potrzuski 1), Juneau-Douglas 0. Total fouls -- Sitka 21, Juneau-Douglas 20.
CRIMSON BEARS 68, WOLVES 53
Friday's boys boxscore from Juneau-Douglas High School
SITKA (53) -- Greg Blankenship 0 3-4 3, Brett Haavig 2 3-6 8, Mike Schneeberger 4 1-2 10, Brian Friske 8 1-2 18, Jason Mooney 2 0-1 4, Colin Kambak 3 2-2 8, Karel Uddipa 0 0-2 0, Karl Stedman 0 0-0 0, Elgin Hollins 0 2-2 2, Tristan Hanson 0 0-0 0, Israel Ginn 0 0-0 0, Jay Villanueva 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 12-21 53.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (68) -- Joe Ayers 2 0-0 5, Jon Carlo Malacas 1 0-0 2, Ryan Monagle 5 0-1 10, Julius "Junior" Cumlat 3 0-0 6, Curtis Lane 4 4-4 14, Craig Kitka 0 0-0 0, Sterling Henderson 0 0-0 0, Leon Bus 0 0-0 0, Clay Brown 5 0-1 10, Bryan Hamey 2 0-0 5, Jake Miller 0 1-2 1, James Severin 4 3-4 11, Byron Wild 2 0-0 4. Totals: 28 8-12 68.
SITKA 8 22 7 16 -- 53
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 19 13 17 19 -- 68
3-point goals -- Sitka 3 (Haavig 1, Schneeberger 1, Friske 1), Juneau-Douglas 4 (Lane 2, Ayers 1, Hamey 1). Fouled out -- Sitka 1 (Haavig), Juneau-Douglas 0. Technical fouls -- None. Total fouls -- Sitka 14, Juneau-Douglas 18.