After spending a month as road warriors, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team finally got to play a pair of home games over the weekend.
The Crimson Bears, who hadn't played at home since Dec. 30, swept the Sitka Wolves in a two-game Southeast Conference-Class 4A series at the JDHS main gym, winning 63-52 on Friday and 53-36 in Saturday's rematch. The series featured Juneau's first home games after eight straight road contests in the month of January.
"It was definitely more relaxed for us," Juneau junior guard Scott Lesh said Friday. "There was no travel and no jet lag. We were more relaxed and it allowed us to focus on the game."
"After school today, I went home and took a nice long nap, then I ate my pre-game (meal)," Juneau senior forward Tom Derbesy said. "When you're on the road there's just so much going on."
In Friday's game, the Crimson Bears (7-6 overall, 3-1 SE) took an early lead and then held on as the Wolves (7-6 overall, 0-2 SE) found their rhythm later in the game. On Saturday, Juneau fell behind and trailed for much of the first half before finally turning on the defense to pull away for the victory in the second half.
"It was the crowd, we felt more at home," said sophomore forward Clae Baker on Friday; Baker twisted his left ankle in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game. "Last night it was so nice to sleep in our own beds."
The biggest advantage for Juneau was its depth, since Sitka only had 10 players on varsity and a couple of them had played in the junior varsity games; players are limited to six total quarters in one day. The Wolves still are adjusting to the loss of two starters for the rest of the season, including their point guard.
The depth was especially apparent in Friday's game, when no Juneau player reached double-figure scoring and every Crimson Bear who saw action scored at least three points. Derbesy and Lesh led Juneau with nine points each, while Baker had eight points, the duo of Norman Zura and Luke Miller scored seven each, and the pair of Mychal Hutcherson and Bryan Ryder added six points apiece. Ryder had seven rebounds.
"We didn't mind at all," Derbesy said of Juneau's balanced scoring. "We can all score five points and as long as we win the game we're happy. That just demonstrates our team's depth."
Sitka was led by Manfred Bekeris, who scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Andrew Broschat also scored 13 points and had seven rebounds and Keith Stedman scored nine.
The Crimson Bears took a 14-5 lead in the first quarter, and Sitka could never get closer than three points (18-15) after that. Juneau led 35-23 at halftime, and the margin stayed about a dozen the rest of the game. The Crimson Bears made 20 of their 22 free throws, which helped keep Sitka from making a comeback.
"We're making some big adjustments and we're not a real smooth-functioning team right now," Sitka coach Mike Blewett said. "We didn't make our shots early. We had point-blank shots the first two or three trips down the court, and we just missed 'em."
In Saturday's rematch, the Wolves came out a lot stronger as they led 16-12 at the end of the first quarter and held slim margins during most of the second period until the Crimson Bears tied the score at 25-25 late in the half. But in the second half, Juneau tightened down on defense and held Sitka to just 20-percent shooting (4-for-20) the rest of the game.
Derbesy scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead Juneau, while Lesh and Baker scored seven points each and Miller and Ryder had six apiece. Broschat scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Sitka, but Juneau held Bekeris to just five points (all in the first quarter) and seven rebounds and Stedman didn't score at all.
"I didn't feel our defensive intensity was there in the first half," Juneau coach George Houston said. "I thought they dictated the intensity. I thought we did better in the second half about getting into passing lanes and deflecting the ball."
Blewett said the referees played a factor in the second-half letdown for his team, even though the teams were about even in fouls (15 for Sitka and 14 for Juneau).
"What do you expect when you're bumped and hand-checked all over the court," Blewett said when told of the 20-percent shooting for the second half. "The referees took us out of the game in the second half. ... We're starting to make the adjustments. The kids played hard and it was a good hard-fought game. We'll get 'em at our place."
The Crimson Bears also swept the two junior varsity games and the two C team games this weekend.
In JV action, Juneau won 46-43 on Friday as Faifo Levale scored 20 points and Cameron Cook added seven, while Sitka was led by Caleb Forrester's 11 and Bryn Calhoun's 10. On Saturday, Baker's seven points led the more-balanced Juneau JV to a 55-32 victory, as Kory Hanson led Sitka with 10 points.
And in C team action, the Crimson Bears celebrated the birth of coach Rob Casperson's and teacher Paula Dybdahl's daughter, Carlynn Casperson, on Thursday with a 72-27 win on Friday and a 76-16 victory on Saturday. Joe Kohan led Juneau with 12 points and Kyle Kahklen added 10 on Friday, while Levale and Mike Jacobson scored 10 each to lead Juneau on Saturday.
As for the rest of the Crimson Bears, being at home means no 5 a.m. check-in for the plane ride home.
"It'll be nice to sleep in until the Super Bowl," Derbesy said.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
CRIMSON BEARS 53, WOLVES 36
Saturday's boys boxscore from JDHS
SITKA (36) - Kory Hansen 0 0-0 0, Van Hanson 0 0-0 0, Bryn Calhoun 3 0-0 6, Keith Stedman 0 0-2 0, Manfred Bekeris 2 1-4 5, Jayson Asnin 1 0-1 2, Zach Carlson 1 2-2 4, Doug Folger 0 0-0 0, Andrew Broschat 7 3-4 19, Tom Stonebreaker 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 6-13 36.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (53) - Larry Cooper 1 2-2 4, Norman Zura 0 0-0 0, Nico Saldivar 0 0-0 0, Tom Derbesy 6 3-3 17, Tres Saldivar 0 0-0 0, Luke Miller 2 2-4 6, Ryan Fagerstrom 1 2-2 4, Daryl Lew 0 0-0 0, Scott Lesh 3 0-0 7, Mychal Hutcherson 1 0-1 2, Cameron Cook 0 0-0 0, Clae Baker 3 1-1 7, Bryan Ryder 3 0-0 6. Totals: 20 10-13 53.
SITKA 16 9 5 6 - 36
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 12 13 11 17 - 53
3-point goals - Sitka 2 (Broschat 2), Juneau-Douglas 3 (Derbesy 2, Lesh 1). Fouled out - None. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Sitka 15, Juneau-Douglas 14.
CRIMSON BEARS 63, WOLVES 52
Friday's boys boxscore from JDHS
SITKA (52) - Kory Hansen 0 0-0 0, Van Hanson 1 1-2 3, Bryn Calhoun 2 0-1 5, Keith Stedman 4 1-2 9, Manfred Bekeris 6 1-2 13, Jayson Asnin 1 0-0 2, Zach Carlson 2 3-5 7, Doug Folger 0 0-0 0, Andrew Broschat 3 6-6 13, Tom Stonebreaker 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 12-18 52.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (63) - Larry Cooper 1 0-0 3, Norman Zura 3 0-0 7, Nico Saldivar 0 0-0 0, Tom Derbesy 1 7-7 9, Tres Saldivar 1 0-0 3, Luke Miller 1 5-5 7, Ryan Fagerstrom 2 1-2 5, Daryl Lew 0 0-0 0, Scott Lesh 3 3-3 9, Mychal Hutcherson 2 2-2 6, Cameron Cook 0 0-0 0, Clae Baker 3 2-3 8, Bryan Ryder 3 0-0 6. Totals: 20 20-22 63.
SITKA 5 18 14 15 - 52
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 14 21 12 16 - 63
3-point goals - Sitka 2 (Calhoun 1, Broschat 1), Juneau-Douglas 3 (Cooper 1, Zura 1, T. Saldivar 1). Fouled out - Sitka 0, Juneau-Douglas 1 (Hutcherson). Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Sitka 18, Juneau-Douglas 20.