For three quarters Saturday night, the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team had the state's dominant program on its heels.
But the bottom fell out in the fourth quarter for the Crimson Bears, as the three-time defending state champion East Anchorage Thunderbirds staged a late rally - keyed by star senior Ashley Mickens - for a 64-56 victory at the T-Bird Classic in Anchorage.
"They just had an incredible run at the end - it was Mickens all the way," Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said. "We just couldn't stop her. She had two people on her and she still scored."
Juneau entered the fourth quarter with a three-point lead, but tourney MVP Mickens scored 15 of her 27 points in the final period as East - the winner of 63 straight in-state games - outscored Juneau 21-10 in the quarter.
Saturday's loss gave Juneau a 2-1 record at the T-Bird tourney and a 2-2 record for their Anchorage swing. The girls lost to Chugiak on Wednesday, 51-49, then beat Colony on successive nights - 49-38 on Thursday and 60-49 on Friday.
The Crimson Bears (7-5) came out strong to start the game as senior Amy Neussl scored 13 points - including the first of her three 3-pointers in the game - to give Juneau a 20-12 lead after one quarter.
East (7-4) made up the deficit in the second and the two teams went into halftime tied at 30-all.
"I think East was totally blown away by the fact that we were in control of the game," Knight said. "They were off their game in the first half. Mickens had to sit a bit with three fouls (and) our girls did an incredible job."
Juneau jumped ahead by three after the third quarter, aided by senior Danielle Larson's eight points and junior Heather Dillon's 3-pointer in the period. Then Mickens took control of the game and the Thunderbirds surged ahead.
Neussl led Juneau with 25 points, while Larson added 11. Mickens' effort for East was supported by Aiesha Ailey-Brown's 16 points.
Knight said the Thunderbirds did a good job of cutting off Juneau's plays into posts Larson and junior Letasha McKoy. Juneau had 20 turnovers to East's 13, and Knight said most of those came while the Crimson Bears were trying to pass inside.
Larson said the team is disappointed about the loss, but there are many positives to take away from the game.
"We just had a huge letdown in the fourth quarter," she said. "We definitely know they are beatable - it's not something that is out of reach. We're looking forward to playing them again."
Juneau won the T-Bird Classic girls team sportsmanship award, and the Crimson Bears placed four players on the all-tourney team: Neussl, Larson, McKoy and junior Kendri Cesar. Neussl won the free-throw competition.
The Crimson Bears' next games are at home against Ketchikan for homecoming on Feb. 7-8.
Crimson Bears 60, Knights 49
The Crimson Bears played a complete game from start to finish on Friday night, as they defeated the Colony Knights for a second straight night, 60-49.
Larson led all scorers with 19 points, while Cesar chipped in 14 and Neussl added 11 for Juneau. Kristina Klapperich led Colony with 12 points.
After starting slow against Colony on Thursday, Knight said the Crimson Bears got off to a strong start in Friday's game.
"We came out much more ready to play," she said.
Juneau lead 18-16 after the first quarter and 31-22 at the half. The lead was extended in the second half, allowing Knight to play the entire bench.
"Everybody got into the game and got several minutes," she said. "It was nice to, at times, have a lead that was comfortable (enough so) that we could play everybody."
Juneau had several notable highlights on offense. The Crimson Bears shot more than 80 percent from the free-throw line, and Cesar hit a 3-pointer for the second straight night.
"I started out with shooting in one of the (tournament) contests, and that kind of warmed me up and made me feel better about shooting from out there," Cesar said.
Knight said the team accomplished what it wanted to in the game.
"A couple of our goals for the game were to keep them under 50 (and) for us to break 50," she said. "Done deal - we won the game."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THUNDERBIRDS 64, CRIMSON BEARS 56
Saturday's girls boxscore from East Anchorage High School
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (56) - Alida Bus 3 1-2 7, Julie Heard 0 0-0 0, Kendri Cesar 0 0-0 0, Heather Dillon 1 0-0 3, Amy Neussl 7 8-9 25, Danielle Larson 3 5-6 11, Letasha McKoy 3 4-8 10, Ashley Larson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 18-25 56.
EAST ANCHORAGE (64) - Ashley Smith 0 0-0 0, Aiesha Ailey-Brown 6 2-3 16, MaryAnn Hoke 1 0-0 2, Whitney McCauley 2 2-2 6, Katelyn Stearns 0 0-0 0, Ashley Mickens 10 7-12 27, Maggie Burgess 3 7-13 13. Totals: 22 18-30 64
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 20 10 16 10 - 56
EAST ANCHORAGE 12 18 13 21 - 64
3-point goals - Juneau-Douglas 4 (Neussl 3, Dillon 1), East Anchorage 2 (Ailey-Brown 2). Fouled out - East Anchorage (McCauley). Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Juneau-Douglas 24, East Anchorage 17.
CRIMSON BEARS 60, KNIGHTS 49
Friday's girls boxscore from East Anchorage High School
COLONY (49) - Teresa Hill 1 0-0 2, Kelsey Johnson 0 0-0 0, Siena Locke 3 1-3 9, Malorie Eggers 7 0-0 14, Margaret Morris 2 0-0 4, Kristina Klapperich 5 2-2 12, Jessica Dault 1 6-8 8. Totals: 19 9-13 49.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (60) - Alida Bus 2 2-4 6, Julie Heard 1 0-1 2, Kendri Cesar 4 5-5 14, Bianca Carpeneti 0 0-0 0, Heather Dillon 1 0-0 2, Mary Rehfeld 0 0-0 0, Amy Neussl 4 0-0 11, Danielle Larson 6 7-8 19, Letasha McKoy 1 0-0 2, Ashley Larson 0 4-4 4. Totals: 19 18-22 60.
COLONY 16 6 15 12 - 49
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 18 13 19 10 - 60
3-point goals - Colony 2 (Locke 2), Juneau-Douglas 4 (Neussl 3, Cesar 1). Fouled out - Colony 2 (Eggers, Hill), Juneau-Douglas 0. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Colony 20, Juneau-Douglas 11.