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This weekend is the final leg of the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team's month on the road.
The Crimson Bears head to Anchorage today for Bartlett High School's Sheri Stears Memorial tournament, which features six boys teams and eight girls squads with some games at Clark Middle School. Juneau's three games will be their seventh, eighth and ninth straight on the road this month.
"I can't think of many pro teams that have ever played nine straight games on the road," said Juneau boys coach George Houston, who admitted he worries about the effect of so much travel on his team.
"There'll be a lot of challenges," senior co-captain Larry Cooper said. "But it's a good opportunity to play some good teams."
The Crimson Bears (4-5 overall) open the tournament against the Lathrop Malemutes (4-5) at 4 p.m. today at Bartlett. Today's other boys games feature the Wasilla Warriors against the Deep Valley Christian School Hornets (record not available) of Redwood, Calif. at 7:30 p.m. at Clark, and the host Bartlett Golden Bears (4-7) against the Evergreen Wolverines (2-11) of Seattle at 9:15 p.m.
The boys tournament uses Raylin Rules Bracketing, where the three first-day winners and the loser of the first day's closest game advance to the semifinals while the other two losers drop into a consolation bracket. The semifinal games are bracketed to avoid rematches, and they take place at 5:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bartlett with the consolation game at 4 p.m. The championship game is at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, with the four remaining teams rebracketed to avoid rematches in consolation games at 11:45 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Bartlett.
Juneau is coming off a weekend split in Ketchikan, losing 71-57 on Friday before winning 60-57 on Saturday. The Crimson Bears ended a pair of four-game losing streaks on Saturday (this season and against Ketchikan), so the Juneau players were on a high when they boarded a plane Sunday to return home. But the plane was diverted to Wrangell, the Crimson Bears wound up spending the night on the ferry and didn't arrive home until early Monday morning.
"My concern is they're still relishing their first victory in a close game this season, and they're staying buried in their last game instead of looking forward to the next one," Houston said. "To my recollection, Lathrop came down here and kicked our butts twice last year."
Lathrop spoiled the Crimson Bears' homecoming last year by sweeping the two-game series in Juneau 66-51 and 74-64. The Malemutes, though, were a senior-laden team last season and only current juniors Chuck Quint and John Thies made the trip to Juneau, scoring a combined six points in the two games.
"I remember they had 10 or 12 seniors and when we looked at their roster we didn't recognize anybody," Juneau junior Scott Lesh said.
Lathrop lost twice last weekend, dropping a 53-52 decision to Colony at the buzzer on Friday and falling 57-48 to Wasilla on Saturday. The Malemutes are guided by longtime coach Milo Griffin, whose teams are known for playing scrappy, athletic defense.
"We can't come out timid. We have to come out strong," Lesh said.
Bartlett is led by Kansas-bound point guard Mario Chalmers, who is ranked as one of the top players in the nation on several lists, with support from Damon Ingram, Quentin Jennings and David Williams. The Golden Bears, the 2002 and 2003 Class 4A state champs and last year's state runners-up, have played most of their games in the Lower 48 this season. But they did lose 90-67 to West Anchorage in Tuesday's rematch of last year's state title game, while beating Wasilla 52-51 and East Anchorage 59-57 earlier this month.
Wasilla, which lost to Bartlett in the 2003 state title game, is led by Matt Crane, Luke Schafer, Robbie Champion, Brad Hobbs and Jesse Bean. Evergreen, a Class 3A team from Seattle, is led by Jeremy Bakke and Brian Jenkins. Very little is known about Deep Valley Christian School, which has an enrollment of just 320 students from preschool to the 12th grade, according to the school's Web site.
"We're ready to finish strong up north and show what we can do," Lesh said.
"I hope to play Bartlett in the championship game," Cooper said.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.