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The Crimson Bears boys basketball team hasn't lost to a region opponent in three years.
They don't plan on ending that streak anytime soon.
Juneau (6-6) begins its Region V schedule with games 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Sitka. Both games will be broadcast on KINY 800 AM.
The Bears are coming off a roadtrip to Anchorage where they lost two games by handy margins to Chugiak and Service. Juneau rebounded with victories over Class IA Buckland and Homer to end a four-game losing streak. The games in Sitka mark the end of three weeks of road games. Juneau next hosts North Pole Feb. 4-5 and then region opponent Ketchikan Feb. 18-19.
For one Bear player in particular, the games against Sitka go beyond the normal Southeast rivalry. Junior guard Clay Brown transferred to Juneau from Sitka this season, and he said the school is buzzing about his return.
``These are probably the biggest two games of my basketball career,'' Brown said. ``A lot of eyes are going to be on me. I might get booed but oh well. I've got to keep my composure and stay focused on what I'm doing.''
Brown said the school is opening a new gym, and this is its home-opener.
``We're two pretty evenly matched teams,'' Brown said. ``They're quick but I think we're just as fast.''
Brown said the Wolves play a quick-paced game on both offense and defense. They like to put shots up fast, Brown said, and spend as little time as possible on offense.
``We're gonna have to slow the game down and let our fundamentals take over their quicker style of play,'' Brown said.
Sitka (1-1 in region, 4-5 overall) is led by 5-foot-8 senior guards Dylan Mahoskey and Mitch Mork. Both can shoot from outside and are the team's leaders. Senior guard Casey Campbell (6-5) and senior wing Dustin McLeod (6-3) form a seasoned starting lineup.
``They've got a lot of experience,'' Juneau senior Evan Tromble said.
Tromble, the Bears leading scorer, has played everywhere from point guard to power forward, and this weekend may lineup at center. Starting post Rick Carte is still out with an ankle injury, and the team is missing his rebounding ability underneath the net. Tromble said Juneau had big rebounding deficits in the losses to Service and Chugiak.
Juneau has also had trouble against pressure defenses. The Crimson Bears found themselves down early in both losses partly due to turnovers from pressing defenses. Tromble and Brown said coach George Houston hasn't implemented new press breakers, and that the team just needs to execute what it already knows.
``We need to make harder cuts back to the ball,'' Tromble said. ``We just need to match the other team's intensity.''
Sitka plays a zone press, which is not the intense in-your-face pressure of man-to-man presses like East Anchorage or Chugiak, Tromble said.
Still, Tromble and Brown said Sitka will be gunning for Juneau. The Wolves haven't beaten Juneau since an overtime loss at home in 1997.
``They think they can win. They think this is their year,'' Tromble said. ``We think it's our year again.''
``We've got to show them Juneau is still the team to beat,'' Brown said.