The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team should be feeling pretty good about themselves as they travel to the Anchorage area to face Chugiak tonight, before playing three difficult games at the Thunderbird Classic Thursday through Saturday at East Anchorage High School.
After cruising to back-to-back wins in Sitka last weekend, the Crimson Bears (7-1 overall, 2-0 Region V-Class 4A) proved they will be a force in the southeast region, and after this weekend fans will know how the Bears stack up against the state's best competition.
"We responded well on the road," Juneau-Douglas girls head coach Jim Hamey said. "We played good defense and good help defense but we didn't execute offensively like I thought we would."
The Bears swept the Wolves 45-31 on Friday and 42-30 on Saturday to make five straight games in which Juneau has held its opponent to under 40 points.
Juneau sophomore Amy Neussl had a great weekend scoring 22 points over the two games including 16 in Saturday's win.
"It's nice to see Amy step up," Hamey said. "She a good offensive player and she proved it on Saturday."
The always consistent Michael Kohan scored 14 for the Bears and junior Hilary Rehfeld added 13 over the two game stretch.
Rehfeld, the team's leading scorer, has seen her scoring average drop from almost 20 points per game to just under 15 in the last three games mainly due getting double-teamed by the opposition.
Rehfeld has overcome the double-teams by finding open teammates like Danielle Larson and Neussl under the basket and stepping up her rebounding game.
"Our posts did a good job of rebounding against Sitka, especially Hilary," Hamey said. "She didn't score as many points as she usually does but she did do a lot more on the boards."
Although the Bears' front court receives a lot of attention, it's their backcourt that holds the team together.
Kari Parr and Courtney Mason have established a formidable one-two punch at the guard positions. Parr has doubled her scoring over the past four games and her glove-like defense has taken pressure off of Mason.
This leaves Mason to do what she does best -- run the team.
"I just can't say enough about the play of our guards," Hamey said. "The Parrs' are really playing well right now."
The Bears will need everyone to be at the top of their game when they play four straight games against Class 4A state qualifiers from last year.
Tip off begins at 7:30 p.m. tonight against Chugiak High School, which beat West Anchorage 43-32 on Tuesday to even its record at 3-3.
The Mustangs, who lost a good portion of last year's squad to graduation, is led by Elyse Hartman who scored 10 against West and are coached by Jon Schroeder who is in his first year as girls coach at Chugiak. Schroeder used to coach Chugiak's boys five years ago.
The Thunderbird Classic begins on Thursday with the Crimson Bears facing Wasilla (4-3) at 2:00 p.m.
Six-foot, four-inch center Brittany Kroon, who is back in the Warriors' lineup after fighting a liver disease, leads a very tall front court that could give Juneau trouble.
Friday's game, beginning at 4:00 p.m., will pit Juneau against a very solid Bartlett team that relies heavily on team defense and depth. The Golden Bears are coming off a 73-42 loss to East Anchorage, but beat Palmer last weekend.
The Golden Bears will be led by sophomore guard Latricia Castillo, senior guard Chantel Fraiser and junior guard Shanis Driver.
"There is a lot of parity in the state right now," Bartlett coach Karine Turner-Wheeler said. "Except for East (Anchorage) you don't know who's going to win when two teams step out on the court. You gotta give East credit, but somebody will eventually knock them off their throne."
East Anchorage will be Juneau's last opponent of the Thunderbird Classic, when the girls meet at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday.
The T-Birds will be looking to avenge last year's loss to the Crimson Bears in the same tournament.
The defending Class 4A state champions have an outstanding squad led by 6-2 senior point guard Azella Perryman, who is averaging 21 points a game this season and has verbally committed to play next year at Stanford University.
Behind Perryman, the T-Birds are led in scoring by junior Tenecia Macon with 18 points and Natalie Jones with 12.5 points a game.
Although Juneau's recent success looks good on paper, Hamey is a bit reserved on how his team will fare against the state's best teams.
"East will be looking to get us back for what we did last year," Hamey said. "It will be interesting to see what we can do against the big schools. We are playing last year's JV squad against returning players from the other schools. We'll have to go around the block a few times before we'll know what we're made of."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at email@example.com.