It's been more than three years since the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team lost a conference game, but this season's Crimson Bears know they'll have to work harder to maintain that streak.
Juneau (5-4 overall) opens its Southeast schedule at 8 p.m. tonight as it hosts the Ketchikan Kings (10-1 overall) at the JDHS main gym. The two varsity squads will play again at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The Juneau and Ketchikan junior varsity squads face off at 6:15 p.m. each night, with the C teams playing at 4:30 p.m.
"Ketchikan is ranked fourth (in the state), so we can't go into it just assuming good stuff is going to happen," Juneau senior Mary Rehfeld said. "They have a team full of seniors, full of experience, and they want it as badly as we do."
Both teams had last weekend off, but on Jan. 13-15 both squads played in Anchorage at East's Lady T-Bird Classic. While Juneau and Kayhi did not face each other - and had their own games to worry about - the teams were able to do a little scouting.
Ketchikan is full of seniors - seven, to be exact - and one newcomer to that group has made an immediate impact. Stacia Miller, a 5-foot-7 senior transfer from Craig, led the Kings with 10 points as they edged Colony 42-40 at the T-Bird tourney.
In a 50-37 loss to undefeated, top-ranked Chugiak - a game Kayhi led at halftime - Miller scored 15 points, with four 3-pointers.
"She adds a new dimension," Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said of Miller. "She can shoot the 3, and they look like a different team."
Ketchikan coach Bob Hammer said Miller started the season a little slow as she adjusted to her new team, but has turned a corner.
"Now that she has a sense of what we're doing, she's stepping up her game," he said.
Tory Edwardson, a 5-6 senior, is one of the team's top shooters and helps fire up the team. Raquelle Pahang, also a 5-6 senior, is the team's point guard and 6-0 senior Katie Geldaker provides a post presence for the Kings. Kayhi's other seniors are Lindy Henrick, Larissa Otness and KC Greenup.
Ketchikan's performance against Chugiak drew Juneau's attention. Two of the Crimson Bears' four losses have come to the Mustangs, including a 71-69 double-overtime loss at the T-Bird Classic - the last time Juneau played.
"I don't think we can underestimate them," Juneau senior Ashley Larson said of the Kings. "They lost to Chugiak, but at halftime they were up. They put in a good fight."
Juneau players are anxious to get back to action after their week off. While they went 1-3 in Anchorage earlier this month, the losses were by a combined six points against three of the top five teams in the state. The Crimson Bears were proud of their performance, especially after the double-OT loss to Chugiak.
"People who saw us play, it was like a whole other team (with) a whole new confidence," Juneau senior Kate Potter said.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org