Juneau-Douglas High School basketball fans will have a chance to see one of the top girls players the state has ever produced this weekend, when the Colony Knights play the Crimson Bears in their homecoming games at 6:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Colony's top player is senior Jessica Moore, a 6-foot-3 center who signed a National Letter of Intent to play women's college basketball next year for No. 1 Connecticut.
``I'm excited,'' Juneau-Douglas 6-foot-2 senior center Anya Carlson-Van Dort said about the potential match-up in the low post this weekend.
Carlson-Van Dort, who will be a walk-on redshirt volleyball player at Wisconsin next year, was battling a queasy stomach during Wednesday's practice. But she said she expects to be ready to play. Carlson-Van Dort is coming off one of her best games in her high school career, helping Juneau upset then-No. 1 East Anchorage when she matched up well with East's 6-3 junior center Azella Perryman, who is also getting looks from major colleges.
Juneau coach Jim Hamey said Moore will be the main focus as the Crimson Bears, who have an 11-3 overall record and are ranked fourth in the state's basketball poll, prepare for this weekend's games. Both games will have audio and video feeds broadcast on the Education Access Channel, GCI Cable Channel 6.
``I'm worried about how we contain Moore,'' Hamey said. ``I'm sure our post players, Anya and Hilary (Rehfeld), are looking forward to the weekend. It should be a lot of fun for us. We'll be looking to help down low.''
Colony, which has claimed three of the last five Class 4A state titles and been to the last five championship games, is struggling this year. But the Knights are still ranked 10th in the poll despite a 4-7 record. Colony had three key players out with injuries last weekend when it split a twogame series at Kodiak - senior Morgan Swank with a torn anterior cruciate, Sam Gatto with a broken finger that had to be reset and Kelly Quinn with a sprained shoulder - and two of those players (Swank and Gatto) could be out for the year.
Those injuries mean Colony's roster will be dominated by sophomores, especially at the guard positions, and none of those players are the scoring threat Moore is. Most of Colony's opponents have been double- and triple-teaming Moore, and only Quinn has been able to consistently shoot 3-pointers to open up the defense so Moore has room to work. Colony coach Don Witzel said Moore is averaging about 15 points and 11 rebounds a game this year, which is down from 21 points and 10 boards a game last year when she had more help on offense.
``It's been a struggle this year,'' Witzel said. ``We've had a tough time getting the ball into her (Moore) when she's open, so she's not where she should be. But it's not all her fault. Because of all the double- and triple-teams, we've been concentrating more on getting her her rebounds so she can get put-backs. Her rebounds are actually up this year. She grabbed 27 rebounds in the first Kodiak game. We can look good one game, then like a JV team the next.''
Witzel said he expects Juneau will press and trap Colony's younger guards, with a help-defense set up in the low post. But even if the Knights lose, he still wants his younger players to enjoy the homecoming atmosphere at the Juneau-Douglas High School gym.
``We always enjoy coming down there to play,'' Witzel said. ``It's great to watch the crowds come out. It's probably the best place to play basketball in the state.''
Even though Colony is struggling this year, Hamey said he expects Colony will provide some decent competition for his Crimson Bears. Any time a team has a talent of the caliber of Moore, Hamey said that team is always dangerous.
``I think very highly of Don Witzel and the coaching job he's done at Colony,'' Hamey said.
Juneau will be led by senior guard-forward Tanya Nizich, who has been Juneau's leading scorer all season with 15.2 points a game, the only player averaging in double-figures. But Juneau has a balanced attack and six different players have scored in double figures this season. Besides CarlsonVan Dort's stomach bug, Hamey said the only other medical problem was senior guard Krystle Llanto's shin splints and illness.