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The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team will get a chance to see where it stands in relation to the rest of the state this weekend when the Crimson Bears head north to Anchorage for four games tonight through Saturday.
The third-ranked Crimson Bears will play the Dimond Lynx at 5 p.m. tonight, then it's on to East Anchorage for the three-game East T-Bird Classic on Thursday through Saturday. The Crimson Bears play undefeated Colony at 2 p.m. on Thursday, two-time defending Class 4A state champion and top-ranked East at 8 p.m. on Friday and fifth-ranked Bartlett at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The games will be broadcast on KJNO, AM-630.
"Bartlett is good and Colony is really good, but East certainly has the capability of being one of the best girls teams ever in Alaska," Juneau coach Jim Hamey said. "We're really looking forward to playing them. Plus we've got the opportunity to see them for two games down here, when people will get a chance to see players of East's caliber. We're looking forward to playing people we haven't seen."
The Crimson Bears (6-2 overall) are coming off a weekend where they split a pair of Region V-Class 4A games with two-time defending region champion Ketchikan in Ketchikan, losing the opener 59-39 on Friday and winning the second game 42-33 on Saturday. The first game against Ketchikan was close until the fourth quarter, when the Kings outscored Juneau 17-4. In the second game, Juneau led much of the game and was able to battle through severe foul trouble for the victory.
"After Friday I was disappointed, but I had a talk with my dad and with coach Hamey," said Juneau guard Kendri Cesar, who scored a career-high 21 points in Saturday's victory. "After Saturday's game we were really intense. We were able to get back that mentality."
"Beating Ketchikan made us more confident," Juneau guard Kari Parr said. "We're looking forward to it. We're not really nervous, we're just anxious to play. We're pretty pumped up after Ketchikan. We're ready to play anyone."
Dimond (1-3 overall) will be the biggest unknown for Juneau this weekend, as the Lynx sport a new coach and several new players from the team the Crimson Bears beat in overtime last year. Dimond is led by sophomore guard Zee Zee Young, who scored 17 points Tuesday as Dimond lost 48-47 to Chugiak in a game the Lynx led until the last two minutes. Forward Jen Sandy is another scoring threat for Dimond and she had 12 points against Chugiak.
Colony (4-0) is a perennial state contender, even though the Knights haven't won a state championship in four years. Colony had been idle for nearly a month before beating Palmer 50-39 on Saturday, and the Knights were led by Carly Thaggard's 19 points and 17 from all-state guard Kelly Quinn.
East (7-2) is undefeated in Alaska and Tuesday the Thunderbirds beat West Anchorage 80-8 (yes, that's a single-digit number). Hamey said East has two legitimate NCAA Division I prospects in Natalie Jones, who has already commited to Arizona, and in Tenecia Macon who scored a season-high 32 points Saturday when East beat Alhambra Martinez of California 75-47 on Monday during the MLK Classic at St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. On Saturday, East lost an 88-85 overtime decision to Archbishop Mitty of California, the nation's fifth-ranked team. Besides Jones and Macon, East has other college prospects in seniors Christa Wilson and Janessa Webb.
Bartlett (5-1) beat Service 49-43 on Tuesday to rebound from its first loss of the season, a 67-43 decision to Wasilla on Saturday (Wasilla beat Juneau 45-35 on Dec. 29 to win the title in Juneau's Princess Capital City Classic). The Golden Bears are led by Letricia Castillo, who is coming off a knee injury that kept her out of much of last season, and Nikki Moss, who scored 13 points apiece against Service.
"We excited because we played with some of these people this summer, at least me and Hil (Juneau center Hilary Rehfeld)," Juneau forward Amy Neussl said. "We're looking for a good inside-outside mix on offense and to press on defense. Saturday was all the difference for us. We got our whole confidence back. Our confidence would have been really down if we'd lost."
"Definitely against East we know what to expect," Rehfeld said. "We want to see how we stand up to the teams up there. Saturday's game was probably our best game of the season as far as intensity. We need to get that mentality. A lot of people stepped up for us, which was reassuring, but we had no inside game whatsoever on Saturday."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.