There's still a big donut to fill at the front of the Crimson Bears' Southeast Conference record from a week ago, but Saturday's 60-45 shellacking of Service and Friday's 71-54 beating of Bartlett gave coach Steve Potter and company a delicious 4-0 record through the first four days of their whirlwind road trip up north.
"If nothing else, those (two losses) in Ketchikan reminded us that we're in trouble if we don't do what we practice out there," Potter said. "We're starting to play like we want to play. They're high school kids, and they're learning that all the talent in the world doesn't matter if you're doing the wrong things."
The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team added the Cougars and the Golden Bears to a 4A victory buffet this week that already included wins over North Pole and West Valley on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. The squad will play just one more on Monday afternoon at Colony before returning from their nearly week-long marathon against Fairbanks and Anchorage teams.
The Crimson Bears (10-4 overall, 0-2 SEC) jumped on Service (1-12 overall) early Saturday, outscoring the Cougars 20-5 in the first period. Service made the switch to a loose zone defense in the second period, though, that limited the Bears to just six points in the stanza as they clawed within 26-21 by half-time.
"We came out and attacked right away, but I don't know if we started to get too fancy or we just got impatient (in the second period) and we let them right back in it," Potter said. "They were a really big team - they had one kid who was about (6-foot-6) and if he didn't weigh 315 (pounds), I don't know who does. We were getting deep into their zone and just couldn't get the shots up."
The struggles continued for JDHS through the third period, as sloppy play on both sides allowed Service to scramble within 38-34 by the stanza's end.
The Bears, who have focused on solidifying their man-to-man defense in past weeks, extended their pressure in the fourth with a trapping press that finally bought them some offensive breathing room.
"We had a tough time getting back into it, but when we extended (the defense) we were able to turn them over a few times and get them in a hurry. Normally they're pretty deliberate, but we got out on some fast breaks and forced some fouls."
After the press helped Juneau-Douglas extend their lead to 20 points in the fourth, they were able to seal the win by combining to hit 10 of 12 free throws in the period.
Senior guard Sean Bavard continued his hot shooting over the road trip, going 7-for-7 on free throws in the second half and finishing with a team-high 12 points.
"I think Sean's a little more focused now," Potter said. "He's moving around and getting the ball in spots where he can be successful."
Junior Cody Grussendorf and senior Eric Gross each added 11 points for JDHS.
Kenny Johnson led the Service effort with 13 points.
The Crimson Bears played without two of their primary wing players on Saturday and most of Friday's game after senior Alex Fagerstrom suffered a sprained ankle just three minutes into the Bartlett contest. Senior point guard Reese Saviers fell ill and returned to Juneau prior to Friday's contest.
Juneau-Douglas 20 6 12 22 - 60
Service 5 16 13 11 - 45
Juneau-Douglas - Mahar 5, DeRocher 5, Yadao 3, Craig 5, Bavard 12, Grussendorf 11, Er. Gross 11, Gozelski 8.
Service - Krynski 8, Jackson 5, Freed 5, Aukusitino 4, Johnson 13, Klie 2, Pullen 8.
JDHS 71, Bartlett 54
The Crimson Bears rebounded from the loss of Saviers and Fagerstrom to wear out Bartlett (7-6 overall) and pass their coach's "test game."
"Bartlett's got a lot of talent and we were using this game to see if we've improved from where we were earlier in the year. I'd say we passed that test," Potter said.
The teams were tied 16-16 after the first period, but Grussendorf helped break open a 20-11 second stanza for Juneau-Douglas with seven of his 15 points. The Bears steadily increased their lead through the second half.
JDHS stayed in a tight man-to-man defense from start to finish, wearing down Bartlett and forcing a stream of turnovers that they capitalized on with an efficient offense. The Bears surrendered just 10 turnovers themselves, far below their season average of 25.
Senior Corey Mahar helped pick up the slack on the perimeter, hitting his first two three-pointers of the season on the way to an 10-point, 11-rebound effort.
"He hadn't hit (a three-pointer) all year, but he ended up hitting another one against Service," Potter said. "He really stepped up and let us know he can make that shot. We need to keep that outside threat and Corey stepped up with the guys out and took that role."
Grussendorf also took on more of the ballhandling and scoring loads in his first game back after being sidelined with a neck injury Thursday. He finished with 17 points.
Gross maintained his steady play on the road trip, finishing with a game-high 16.
"Eric's a strong player and he always gets a lot of attention. He's been double and triple teamed this year and sometimes he struggles," Potter said. "He's always relentless, though. He doesn't stop working."
Juneau 16 20 15 20 - 71
Bartlett 16 11 10 17 - 54
Juneau - Mahar 10, Derocher 6, Craig 5, Bavaro 11, Grussendorf 15, Eric Gross 16, Gozelski 8.
Bartlett - May 9, Blount 3, Queen 6, King 11, Uwisa 1, Newsome 15, Johnson 6, Rollins 3.
Juneau Empire ©2014. All Rights Reserved.