Fan Frenzy

Posted: Sunday, February 07, 2010

In the first-ever matchup between the Thunder Mountain boys' basketball team and Juneau-Douglas, the atmosphere at JDHS was spirited - to say the least.

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Brian Wallace / For The Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / For The Juneau Empire

With 30 minutes left until game time, the line into the gym was winding out the entry to JDHS and people were eventually turned away after the event sold out.

"It was electrifying, and I didn't even get to watch the game," said Sandi Wagner, JDHS Activities Director who had her hands full policing the eager crowd. "We put 1,500 or 1,600 people in there (Friday)."

The fans were packing the gym more than an hour before the varsity game tipped off, most donning either the black and red of the Crimson Bears or the Falcon blue and silver. Students were geared up in school attire while some decided to take the black and red body paint route. Either way, Juneau's newest rivalry was in full effect and the student section held nothing back - even for the Falcon cheerleaders.

Gov. Sean Parnell was one of the many in attendance anticipating Juneau's new rivalry, and he said it did not disappoint.

"I love the community spirit. I walk in and I'm handed a towel for the Falcons and a towel for the Crimson Bears, so it's a great night for Juneau," he said. "It really brings the people together. I see people cheering for both sides, but I also see people cheering for their schools - it's great for the city."

One of the running topics of the evening was the fact that nobody had seen the gym packed like it was since a certain No. 4 dominated the court at Juneau-Douglas.

"Look at the crowd; everybody is excited," said Bill Elhers, who was wearing a blue Thunder Mountain T-shirt underneath his coat. "This is historic. When Carlos Boozer was playing the gym was packed like this every night. It's great to see it like this again."

There was mutual excitement between the fans waiting for tip-off, but once the blue-clad Thunder Mountain Falcons entered the court at JDHS, the boos rained down from the student section.

"I think it's pretty weird because they used to go to our school, now they're playing against us," said Juneau-Douglas student Alesa Abbott. "This game is going to be pretty intense and the fans are going to be crazy."

Alex Brown, who was sporting the colors of the Falcons, said she had a pretty good idea why the rivalry had already gotten to this level.

"I think people are going to feel betrayed, like 'Oh my God, they went over to Thunder Mountain - they're terrible people,'" she said jokingly.

With several prominent players from last year's Bears squad transferring to TMHS, Josh Lockhart said he can understand the feeling.

"It's going to be good, mainly because Cody (Grussendorf) and Reese (Saviers) transferred from here," he said. "All these kids know each other pretty well, and they're two of the better players in town.

"They're going to want to beat them and make them regret transferring, or something like that."

The game was close early, but the Crimson Bears fed off the home crowd and put the Falcons away 60-45. However, they knew they would have to visit Thunder Mountain on Saturday, and the Falcons would be ready forredemption.

Miles Bedford and Justin Brooks, covered in black body paint wearing nothing but black bike shorts and tennis shoes, were basking in victory.

"They put up good competition and I can tell this is going to be a rivalry for a long time," Bedford said. "It's going to be different when we go to their home gym (Saturday)."

Brooks had other ideas.

"We're going to do the same thing to them (Saturday)," he said adamantly.

When asked whether this rivalry already had surpassed the magnitude of Juneau-Douglas' rivalry with Ketchikan - or any other school for that matter - both had the same definitive response.

"Not even close, not even close. This will be the biggest one we will have in the state, that's all I got to say," Bedford said as Brooks quickly followed.

"No rivalry compares to this one between JDHS and Thunder Mountain - ever - in all of sports," he said.

At the end of the night, Wagner kept a cool head and a clear perspective about the new matchup in the city.

"We are two schools in a small community, and at the end of the day it's all about Juneau," she said. "They can compete as hard as they want on the court, but at the end of the day we're all from the same spot.

"So, that's what it's about to me, not a rivalry. If you have great competition along the way, so be it."

As former JDHS student Dylan Stuart put it: "Juneau's all grown up. It's got its own rivalry now. Soon we'll have Burger King, Wendy's, who knows."

For now, a game atmosphere like the one at Juneau-Douglas on Friday will do just fine.

•Matthew Tynan can be reached at matthew.tynan@juneauempire.com or by phone at 523-2267.



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