Be sure to take a good look at the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team as it hosts the Sitka Wolves this weekend. Unless you take a trip out of town, it's the last time you'll see the Crimson Bears in action this season.
The Crimson Bears round out their home schedule with a pair of games against the Wolves on Friday and Saturday. The varsity games are at 8 p.m. each night, with junior varsity games at 6:15 p.m. and the C teams at 4:15 p.m.
"We hope people will come out this last weekend," Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said. "For us, this is our last home game before we hit the road for three, possibly four weeks."
While this weekend's series will be the last home matches of the season for all the Crimson Bears - the region tourney is in Ketchikan this year - it will mark the final high school home games for Juneau's two seniors, Amy Neussl and Danielle Larson.
"I'm definitely very excited," Larson said. "(But) it's kind of emotional at the same time."
"When it gets to the end of the season, I think it will hit us," Neussl said. "It will be kind of emotional (this weekend), but we can't let that get in the way of the game."
Neussl said her favorite memory of games in the Juneau gym is the atmosphere - with devoted fans like the students who showed up covered in red and black paint for homecoming last weekend.
Larson said one image that sticks out in her memory came during her sophomore season, in March 2001, when she was called in from the bench to guard standout Sitka player Breanne Erickson. Juneau swept that series from the Wolves.
While Neussl and Larson have been clear leaders on the court this season - they are Juneau's top-producing offensive weapons - Knight said they carry that leadership through everything they do.
"Our two seniors can't demonstrate any better work ethic," she said. "They're two of the hardest-working ladies I've ever seen.
"In addition to working hard, they are fierce competitors. They'll step up when times are tough."
Juneau (9-5 overall, 2-0 region) is ranked fourth in state in the latest state basketball poll and hopes to step up to a commanding lead in Region V-Class 4A with a pair of wins over Sitka this weekend. Last weekend, Juneau swept the Ketchikan Kings in a pair of home games.
The Crimson Bears will be working to cut down on fouls this weekend - they allowed Ketchikan to shoot a lot of free throws last weekend - and they continue to focus on maintaining intensity for a full four quarters.
"We're hoping to put together a whole game," Knight said. "Last weekend we put together great first halves, (but) even though we maintained scoring, out second halves were not as intense (and) a bit of a letdown."
Sitka (5-10 overall, 1-1 region) enters this series with confidence from a swing through Anchorage last weekend.
While the Wolves wound up with an 0-3 record in the Lady Lynx Prep Shootout at Dimond High School, they hung tough with the Chugiak Mustangs, ranked third in the state, through three quarters before losing 46-32. In another of their games, the Wolves were tied with Bartlett entering the fourth quarter, but wound up losing 43-38.
Bartlett and Chugiak both beat Juneau in last year's state tournament; Chugiak edged Juneau by a point earlier this season.
Sitka coach Rich Krupa said aside from about four minutes of poor play late in those games, the Wolves had the larger Anchorage opponents on their heels.
"It was a great trip for us to get ready for Juneau," he said.
Key players for Sitka this year are 5-foot-8 senior Sidney Wyman (who made the all-tournament team at the Lady Lynx Prep Shootout), 6-1 junior Miranda Whitson, 5-2 sophomore Joy Ribao and a pair of promising freshmen, Natalia Potrzuski (5-9) and Kim Dodson (5-11).
"We're very young, and we're learning every day," Krupa said. "We've done a lot of growing this year."
Earlier this season, the Wolves upset the Ketchikan Kings in Ketchikan, 38-36. Ketchikan won the second game to earn a split of the region series.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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