Relentless Bears roll

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2011

The Crimson Bears girls’ basketball team is making a habit of blowing teams out in the first quarter, and it was another early run that sparked a 61-33 win over Lathrop on Thursday night at Juneau-Douglas High School.

MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE / Juneau Empire
MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE / Juneau Empire

Suffocating defense caused 10 Lathrop first-quarter turnovers and the Bears’ post players once again overwhelmed their opponents as JDHS scored the first 16 points of the game, putting the Malemutes away for good. The visiting team never got within 11 points the rest of the way.

“I feel like we played really well as a team. Everybody contributed,” Senior post Taylor Larson said. “It wasn’t just one person scoring. We played really well together, we passed and just ran the floor.”

Even when the Juneau-Douglas offense didn’t fire on all cylinders, the defense didn’t let the Malemutes get anything easy. The stingy Bears defense held Lathrop to less than 22 percent shooting and forced 35 turnovers just two days after forcing 39 against Thunder Mountain.

“We know defensive pressure creates easy baskets and high-percentage shots for us, but I think our rotations are getting better and the communication’s improving,” Bears coach Lesslie Knight said.

The Bears have a solid offense, but it’s been that pressure defense that’s been a staple for years at Juneau-Douglas High School. That didn’t change on Thursday night as the Crimson Bears outscored the Malemutes in second-chance points 38-6 and outrebounded Lathrop 41-34. Larson, who had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, said the defense’s success starts in the backcourt.

“It’s thanks a lot to our guards,” she said. “They play some up-tight defense at the top and force a lot of turnovers before the team even gets past halfcourt. That always helps.”

Although the Bears are winning via the blowout in recent games, Larson said these contests help bolster the squad’s overall depth.

“It’s helping us to get better as team, especially as we get ready for the next level as we play Anchorage teams in a couple of weeks,” she said.

Knight echoed that sentiment.

“Any of these games where (the bench) can get more experience playing with (the rotation players) is very helpful. It definitely helps for the end of the season, but even more than that for next year,” she said. “A lot of people thought we graduated a lot of players last year and we’re going to graduate a lot this year, but we have some solid underclassmen coming up.

“We expect them to be competitive in the future and these games give them a chance to play under the pressure of a varsity situation.”

Larson’s 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting led the Bears in scoring, while sophomore wing Esra Siddeek was third with 10 points. Senior Sarah Tarver stuffed that stat sheet once again, accounting for 11 points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots and six steals in the win.

Sierra Luke scored 14 to lead the Malemutes.

After scoring only two points in the opening quarter, Lathrop found its footing late in the second. The Malemutes went into half on a 9-3 run, temporarily shifting momentum to their side and cutting the deficit from 17 at one point to 11 at intermission.

But the Bears responded after the half, putting to rest any doubt in the outcome of the game in the third quarter. The defense once again picked up the pressure and forced 12 Lathrop turnovers in the third to regain momentum and push the lead out to 23 points, 44-21, heading to the fourth quarter.

Tarver and Larson sparked the Bears’ early run, combining to score 10 of the team’s first 12 points.

Juneau-Douglas and Lathrop square off again  at 7 p.m. today for the second of the two-game series.

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