After winning six of its last seven games, the Juneau-Douglas HIgh School girls basketball team faces its toughest test to date this weekend.
The Crimson Bears (7-4) will face Colony at 6 p.m. tonight and Saturday at the JDHS gym. It'll be a matchup of two top-five teams in the latest Alaska Sportswriters Prep Basketball Poll.
"They're big and tall," JDHS sophomore Brittany Fenumiai said. "They like to post up a lot. Compared to us, they have much more size and they're still fast out there. They have some 3-point shooters, but mostly we'll focus on the size difference because they're so much bigger."
Juneau-Douglas received a sneak-peak of the Knights two weeks ago at the Lady T-Bird Classic tournament in Anchorage. The Bears finished third while Colony took first.
What the Crimson Bears saw was a tall, athletic team able to score both inside and out.
"What's tall is their perimeter people," JDHS coach Lesslie Knight said. "One thing they have is a tall post, but that's another issue for defending. With tall perimeter players, we'll play some zone for that reason."
Colony's height and diversity on offense present numerous challenges for JDHS.
Alex Coon can score inside as can Kara Larson. On the perimeter, Maria Bowker can drain the 3-pointer.
Defensively, JDHS must be able to negate Coon's strength inside while be quick enough to guard the perimeter.
"Matchup-wise is where our weakness is, so my guess is a zone against them," Fenumiai said. "We have better communication than at the beginning of the season so we can double-team their posts."
Freshman Sarah Tarver said she wants to see the team playing together and really talking.
Offensively, Knight said the team must find ways to get open against its taller opponent.
"One of the things that will be key for us is executing our screens so we can get wide-open people because with a taller defender it's not easy to get open shots," Knight said. "It'll be critical that we execute our screens. The other focus is blocking out and not just going for rebounds but finding someone and putting a body on them."
Last weekend, the Bears may have put together their best two-game series of the season with wins at Sitka. JDHS won 57-38 on Friday and 52-31 Saturday. Juneau-Douglas made 15 3-point shots in the series.
For a team with five freshman and four sophomores, last weekend could've been a breakthrough.
"Our team just clicked," Fenumiai said. "We were prepared and we clicked. More people drove, shoot and no one was afraid. It was a big step for our team."
For having such a young team, JDHS hasn't looked inexperienced.
The Bears can attack the basket and all nine underclassmen have seen significant minutes.
Continuing to play loosely and confidently should serve them well against an experienced Colony team.
"Truthfully, there is no pressure," Knight said. "Because there's not a lot of pressure on them they're just having fun. You see that when they play."
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.