Before Thursday afternoon's game with the defending Class 4A girls basketball state champion Palmer Moose, Juneau-Douglas High School senior Tanya Nizich went out and made 13 3-pointers to take a commanding lead in that skills competition at the East Anchorage Thunderbird Classic. During halftime of Juneau's game with Palmer, Juneau senior Erin Mesdag made 18 of 20 free-throw attempts in another skills competition.
But it was a different shooting story for the Crimson Bears during their game, one that had to have the Juneau players wondering who dropped the lid on top of the basket as Palmer claimed a 47-29 victory in the first game of the T-Bird Classic. The Crimson Bears only scored seven points in the first half, trailing 23-7 at the break, and Juneau had just 13 points entering the fourth quarter.
``We just came out ice cold. You would have thought we would've shot a lot better, the way we did in those two skills contests,'' said Juneau assistant coach Jer Hamey, who said his father, head coach Jim Hamey, felt ill but still held an unscheduled practice after the game.
``They were, especially Tanya, ice cold,'' said Palmer coach Lyle Busbey, whose team was No. 1 in the poll a week ago but fell to No. 4 this week after a loss to current No. 3 Wasilla. ``We got a few turnovers and they were flat. Our defense matched up well, and Anya Carlson-Van Dort was not a factor inside. We got Tanya and Yvonne (Harris) to pick up their third fouls in the first half, and they both picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter.''
Juneau will play tournament host East Anchorage, the state's top-ranked team in this week's poll, at 8 p.m. tonight. East used a 30-2 run in the third quarter to claim an 83-31 victory over unranked Bartlett. Juneau, ranked No. 5 this week, plays Bartlett at 2 p.m. Saturday. Audio feeds from both games can be heard in Juneau over the Education Access Channel, GCI Cable Channel 6.
The Crimson Bears (9-3 overall this season) actually took the lead early in the game, grabbing 3-0 and 5-3 advantages midway through the first quarter. But then the Juneau players began missing shots and Palmer (9-2) went on a 16-0 run that extended until late in the second quarter. It was a 20-2 run from the middle of the first quarter to halftime, with Palmer's Tami Callison scoring 12 of her game-high 21 points in the first half and Kallie Pasquale adding eight of her 12 points after hitting two first-half 3-pointers.
``We harassed them the whole time,'' Busbey said. ``They must not have scored until there was a minute-and-a-half left in the second quarter.''
Juneau was coming off a night when all its shots seemed to fall, as the Crimson Bears hit eight 3-pointers in a 59-44 victory over Chugiak. Palmer, which is in the middle of a stretch where it plays six games in nine days, was coming off a 61-55 loss to Wasilla on Tuesday. Busbey said his team had a spirited team meeting Wednesday, and he could see where the Crimson Bears might have been flat since they followed a night game with an afternoon one.
Palmer's victory Thursday gives the Moose a 2-1 lead in the season series with Juneau, with the Crimson Bears winning 35-25 on Jan. 7 and losing 47-44 Jan. 8 (both games in Juneau). If Juneau's going to square the series, it will have to be in the state tournament March 23-25 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Nizich led Juneau with 10 points Thursday, while Carlson-Van Dort had six and Courtney Mason scored five off the bench. Hamey said Thursday night's extra practice centered around getting more production out of the post position, and the Crimson Bears worked on plays designed to help get the 6-foot-2 Carlson-Van Dort the ball down low.
Juneau will need to work the post tonight, since East (7-2, undefeated in Alaska) features one of the top Twin Tower combinations in the state in 6-3 junior Azella Perryman and 6-2 sophomore Tenecia Mason. Busbey said East sophomore point guard Christa Wilson, who is also a top college prospect, left the Bartlett game Thursday night with a knee injury and he wasn't sure if Wilson would be able to play tonight.
``Hopefully Juneau can wake up and give East a good game,'' Busbey said.
On Saturday, Juneau plays Bartlett (5-4) which is led by guard Ebony Lewis and forward Chantel Frazier. The Golden Bears don't have the caliber of players and depth East and Palmer have, but they do run many of the same systems as East.
MOOSE 47 CRIMSON BEARS 29
Krystle Llanto 0 0-0 0, Michael Kohan 0 0-0 0, Courtney Mason 2 0-1 5,
Tanya Nizich 5 0-2 10, Anya Carlson-Van Dort 3 0-0 6, Liz Haas 1 0-0 3,
Yvonne Harris 0 3-4 3, Erin Mesdag 1 0-0 2. Totals: 12 3-7 29.
Tami Callison 6 9-11 21, Kristina Lee 0 0-0 0, Kallie Pasquale 4 1-3
12, Tara Hillis 0 0-0 0, Katie Williams 4 0-0 8, Tara Bynum 0 0-0 0,
Lisa Thomas 2 2-6 6, Diana West 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 12-20 47.
JUNEAU 5 2 6 16 - 29
PALMER 11 12 8 16 - 47
3-point goals - Juneau-Douglas 2 (Mason 1, Haas 1), Palmer 3 (Pasquale 3). Fouled out - None. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Juneau-Douglas 18, Palmer 10.