The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team did some heavy soul-searching after an upset loss in Ketchikan last weekend, and the Crimson Bears hope they bring a new look and attitude into the second half of the season.
This weekend's basketball games at Juneau-Douglas High School:
Varsity: Girls 6:15 p.m.; Boys 8 p.m.
JV: Boys 9:45 p.m.; Girls 4:30 p.m.
C: Boys 8 a.m.; Girls 2:45 p.m.
Varsity: Girls 6:15 p.m.; Boys 8 p.m.
JV: Boys 2:30 p.m.; Girls 4:15 p.m.
C: Girls 10:45 a.m.; Boys 12:30 p.m.
The Juneau boys will put that new attitude on display this weekend, as they host the red-hot Sitka Wolves in Juneau's annual homecoming games at the JDHS main gym. The varsity games start at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and both Region V-Class 4A games will be broadcast locally on KINY radio, 800-AM.
"We were really upset," Juneau senior point guard Joe Ayers said of the loss. "We had a long conversation after the game. We're trying to step it up."
The Crimson Bears were frustrated over their 63-62 loss to Ketchikan on Friday, especially since, after trailing all game, Juneau had rallied to take a five-point lead with 1 minute, 32 seconds left. The Crimson Bears still had chances to win, but wound up turning the ball over. Then Ketchikan won on a free throw by Calin Bjur with no time left.
Still in shock, the Juneau players went to their respective housing assignments for the night. But three seniors - Ayers, guard Sterling Henderson and forward Bryan Hamey - decided something needed to be done.
The three players had the same housing assignment, so they held an impromptu team meeting in the garage for about 30 minutes before they went to bed. Henderson said the three seniors discussed their expectations and roles on the team, trying to work things out so the Crimson Bears didn't suffer any more unexpected losses.
"We felt we had to prove we're still the team to beat in Region V," Hamey said. "We improved on our communications, but we need to try to get some consistency. We're trying to start peaking for the end of the season."
"I think our energy level was up," Henderson said of Saturday's rematch. "We know what we need to work on. We know what caliber we can play at. We have to keep at that before it's too late. We do have to be more selective and play to our strengths."
The Crimson Bears rebounded on Saturday, winning 82-64 to pick up a split in the series. Juneau coach George Houston said just about each of his players had good, positive minutes in Saturday's game, but he was especially impressed with Ayers.
Ayers was held scoreless on Friday but did have seven assists. On Saturday, he may have set a team record for efficiency points. Ayers scored 18 points, had eight assists and grabbed five rebounds to earn 59 efficiency points in Houston's scale (which takes into account shooting percentage, turnovers and other factors). Houston said the highest previous score he could remember was 44 points, but he needed to check out a couple of Junior Cumlat's performances from early last season before giving the record to Ayers.
"He's just getting accustomed to his role," Houston said of Ayers. "He was behind Junior last year and he wasn't asked to run the team like has been this year."
"Our effort level was a lot better, we were a lot more fluid," Ayers said. "We're looking to build on what we did Saturday. Every game means the world from here on out, there are only 11 left before regions. Most of our problems had been our own doing."
Attitudes readjusted, the Crimson Bears will be trying to stop a hot Sitka team that's won six of its last seven games. Despite the upset loss to Ketchikan, Juneau (7-4 overall, 1-1 in region) has won three of its last four games.
Earlier this week, Sitka (9-6 overall, 1-1 region) claimed a pair of victories over the Prince Rupert Secondary School Rainmakers of British Columbia. Prince Rupert went 0-3 during Juneau's Capital City Classic in December, including an 82-40 loss to the Crimson Bears.
The Wolves are led by guards Karel Uddipa and Karl Stedman, while forwards Andrew Broschat, Cody Campbell and Antwan Wilmont all had solid games against the Rainmakers. Sitka may have a big hole in the middle, though, as coach Mike Blewett said center Mitch Hawk has a strained calf muscle and will probably miss this weekend's games.
"This is my first swing through the league," said Blewett, who was Alaska Pacific University's head coach and athletic director 12 years ago. "I'm still learning the teams, so we run what we're supposed to run and leave it at that."
The Juneau and Sitka junior varsity and C teams will also tangle this weekend. The C teams will play at 8 a.m. on Friday and 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, while the JV teams will tip off at 9:45 a.m. on Friday and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.