The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team has tested itself against teams from Anchorage, the Mat-Su valleys, Fairbanks, California and British Columbia.
But now the real part of the Crimson Bears' schedule starts, as Juneau head to Ketchikan this weekend to play two Region V-Class 4A games against the Ketchikan Kings.
The varsity squads will play at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with both games being broadcast on KINY 800-AM. The junior varsity teams will play at 6:15 p.m. each night, and the C team games are at 4:30 p.m.
This weekend's series takes on extra importance because the Region V-Class 4A and Region V-Class 3A tournaments take place in Ketchikan's Clark Cochrane Gym on March 12-15.
"We're looking forward to playing some more games," Juneau senior guard Joe Ayers said. "The region is always competitive. This gives us a chance to play in the gym where regions will be held. We've been there before, but we can check out the rims and shooting backgrounds."
"We're looking forward to get into conference play," Juneau junior guard Alex Heumann said.
The Crimson Bears are coming off a weekend sweep over the Service Cougars, winning two games that weren't on Juneau's original schedule.
Since one of the games was an Alaska School Activities Association Endowment Fund game, it doesn't count in Juneau's overall record (per ASAA rules). But Juneau coach George Houston said both the games were valuable.
"That really helped," Houston said. "If we had three weeks off, we'd be really stale going into Ketchikan. Getting these games was a godsend."
The Crimson Bears (5-3 overall, 0-0 region) were able to end a three-game losing streak with Friday's 76-49 victory, then won Saturday's game 52-40 as Service tried to slow things down. Juneau also beat the Cougars 71-59 on Jan. 8, the day before Juneau's three-game losing streak started.
"It's hard to tell," Juneau senior center Byron Wild said when asked if the Crimson Bears were back on track. "You can't judge it just from those games."
"Service is a team we'd beat before," Heumann said.
Meanwhile, Ketchikan was opening its Region V-4A schedule last weekend at Sitka. The Kings (3-7 overall, 1-1 region) lost to Sitka 55-45 on Friday night, but earned a split with the Wolves by winning 50-41 on Saturday.
In Friday's loss, Ketchikan allowed four Sitka players to score in double figures while only two Kings - sophomore forward Tyler Richardson and senior guard Brendon Mix - finished in double digits. In Saturday's victory, Ketchikan again had two players in double figures - Richardson and junior forward Nate Norton - but the Kings' defense held the Wolves to only one player with more than 10 points. Other players to watch from Ketchikan are senior forward Calin Bjur and senior guard William Montgomery.
Juneau assistant coach Robert Casperson was able to scout the two Ketchikan-Sitka games while in Sitka for other business. The Crimson Bears spent much of this week going over some of Ketchikan's offensive and defensive schemes.
"They play a 1-2-1-1 in a three-quarters or full court, they play a 2-3 zone in half court, and they'll use a trapping 1-3-1," Houston said of Ketchikan's defenses. "They'll give us some different looks. Ketchikan and Sitka play incredibly hard against us. The winner of the league gets a bye (at regions), so we want to keep up our recent string of success."
"We're looking forward to playing these games, but we've got a lot of things we can improve on," Ayers said.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.