Practice pays off.
Zone defense is what the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team prepared for, and zone defense is what the Crimson Bears got - and exploited - in a 49-37 home victory over the Dimond Lynx on Thursday evening.
"It couldn't have been more perfect," Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said. "It's what we worked on all week in practice."
Dimond came to town ranked fourth in the state, with two heralded guards and five 6-footers on its roster. But unranked Juneau's prep work helped the Crimson Bears find open shots and build a 16-7 lead after the first quarter.
Junior Mary Rehfeld led the way for Juneau with 12 points in the opening period, as she found gaps in Dimond's defense to sink three 3-pointers in a 75-second span that but the Crimson Bears up 13-4.
The Lynx closed to 17-13 in the second quarter when Savannah Afoa - half of Dimond's 6-foot-1 sophomore twin package (with sister Shaina) - got her own rebound and completed a three-point play. But Juneau closed with a 7-1 run, including a pass from senior Kendri Cesar to freshman Talisa Rhea for breakaway lay-up, and a 3-pointer by Cesar.
"We knew what to expect," Cesar said. "Coach Knight had us practice with a lot of different offenses to deal with the tight pressure. ...
"This game, (the most) out of the whole season, we felt like we were playing as a team."
Juneau's collective speed helped negate Dimond's dominating inside presence. Despite their size disadvantage, the Crimson Bears stayed nearly even with the Lynx on rebounding by beating Dimond to the ball, and refusing to be intimidated in the paint.
After Rehfeld's early success, Dimond put sophomore guard Lillian Bullock on man-to-man defense against Rehfeld.
"That was the most tiring thing in my whole life," Rehfeld said.
But the Crimson Bears found other ways to score.
With the clock winding down in the third quarter, on a set play, Rhea executed a perfect pass inside to senior Tasha McKoy for a lay-in and a 37-20 Juneau lead.
Midway through the fourth quarter, after Juneau killed about a minute with passes around the perimeter, junior Jordan Johnston - in her first game of the season - made a quick, pinpoint pass across the lane to Rehfeld for a lay-in to make it 39-24.
"While (Bullock) was kind of sagging, Jordan shot it into me," said Rehfeld, who finished with a game-high 19 points. "It was risky, but it was an amazing pass."
McKoy added seven points for Juneau, while Rhea scored six.
Dimond outscored Juneau 17-12 in the final period, but Juneau's early lead was too much to overcome. Senior Zee Zee Young led the Lynx with 11 points, and Bullock chipped in 10.
"The first half ... our shooting was horrendous, and Juneau played us well," said Dimond coach Jim Young, whose team is traveling to Sitka for a Friday-Saturday series with the Wolves. "They slowed our tempo down, they moved the ball well and they did all the little things they needed to do to beat us."
Juneau hosts Lathrop tonight for the first game of its annual homecoming series. The Crimson Bears and Malemutes face off at 6:15 p.m. at the JDHS main gym. The series concludes Saturday.
Lathrop is 10-1 and ranked second in this week's state poll. The Malemutes - like the Lynx - feature a roster brimming with tall players, led by 5-10 junior Alana Clooten and 5-10 senior Kari Reabold. Clooten and Reabold posted double-figure scoring games against Juneau in Lathrop's 47-42 win two weeks ago.
Crimson Bear JV 44, Lynx JV 29
A pair of Jordans and a 14-4 second-quarter run led the Juneau junior varsity girls to a win over the Dimond JV.
Jordan Harvey led Juneau with 17 points, while Jordan Johnston added 11 points and nine rebounds as the Crimson Bears built a 23-12 lead at halftime.
Lexi Garvey chipped in seven points for Juneau. Pricilla Campbell led Dimond with seven points.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
CRIMSON BEARS 49, LYNX 37
Thursday's girls boxscore from Juneau-Douglas High School
DIMOND (37) - Zee Zee Young 3 3-4 11, Noelani Saena 0 0-0 0, Lillian Bullock 3 3-9 10, Marissa Hinshaw 2 0-0 4, Savannah Afoa 1 3-5 5, Shaina Afoa 3 1-2 7, Andrea Stigall 0 0-0 0, Chantel Hernandez 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 10-20 37.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (49) - Alida Bus 0 3-4 3, Nicole Lupro 1 0-0 2, Kendri Cesar 2 0-0 5, Jordan Johnston 0 0-1 0, Heather Dillon 1 0-0 3, Mary Rehfeld 7 1-4 19, Talisa Rhea 2 1-2 6, Erin Thompson 0 0-0 0, Jordan Harvey 0 0-2 0, Tasha McKoy 3 1-2 7, Lexi Garvey 0 1-2 1, Kate Potter 0 3-4 3. Totals: 16 10-21 49.
DIMOND 7 7 6 17 - 37
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 16 8 13 12 - 49
3-point goals - Dimond 3 (Young 2, Bullock 1), Juneau-Douglas 7 (Rehfeld 4, Cesar 1, Dillon 1, Rhea 1). Fouled out - None. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Dimond 18, Juneau-Douglas 13.