After dropping two games to two-time defending state champion East Anchorage last week, the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team won't find things much easier this weekend.
Juneau's varsity team hosts the Colony Knights, one of the state's traditional powerhouses, at 6:15 p.m. on Friday and at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday in its annual homecoming games. The Juneau junior varsity hosts the Hoonah varsity at 2:30 p.m. on Friday and 4:15 p.m. on Saturday. The two varsity games will be broadcast locally on KJNO, 630-AM.
The Crimson Bears, who had been ranked third, slipped to fourth in this week's state basketball poll after losing twice to top-ranked East last weekend, 55-36 on Friday and 60-37 on Saturday. The Saturday game, though, doesn't count against Juneau's record (11-4 overall) since it was an Alaska School Activities Association endowment fund game. ASAA endowment fund games are new this season and the money raised by those games goes to a fund to help bring teams to state tournaments.
After last weekend, the Crimson Bears would like to get back on the winning track, especially since Juneau feels it's improved quite a bit over the past three or four weeks. Three of Juneau's five losses (including Saturday's East game that's not in the official record) have come against East, and all five losses have come against ranked teams.
"We learned something about ourselves," Juneau coach Jim Hamey said about last weekend's losses. "I definitely think we're playing better basketball. A lot depends on how we shoot the ball. We need to get our confidence offensively."
Colony (7-5 overall) is unranked, but the Knights bring one of the state's best girls basketball programs to Juneau. Colony, which didn't start playing varsity sports until the 1992-93 school year, won state titles in 1995, 1997 and 1998. Former Colony basketball players have made varsity college basketball rosters at Connecticut and Iowa, and in volleyball at Michigan State and Duke.
"Colony's a good team and we're looking for some good games," said Hamey, who said he respects the way Colony coach Don Witzel runs his program. "We had a close game with them up at East (a 47-36 Juneau victory at the East T-Bird Classic on Jan. 24). They score a lot of points, but they didn't shoot well against us when we played them before."
"We still have to play our best against them," Juneau sophomore guard Kendri Cesar said. "We're playing a good team. We have to treat them like East and not look past them. I don't think we're worried, but we're not taking them lightly."
When Juneau beat Colony three weeks ago, the Crimson Bears handed the Knights their first loss of the season. That loss started a four-game Colony losing streak, and it wasn't until this past weekend before the Knights recovered. Colony swept a two-game series with Kodiak over the weekend, winning 70-40 on Friday and 58-47 on Saturday in a game where many of Colony's seniors weren't listed in the boxscore.
In some ways, Colony is similar to East in that the Knights press on defense and are quick on offense. The Knights are led in scoring by senior guard Kelly Quinn with 12.5 points a game, senior guard Carly Thaggard at 12.1 points and sophomore forward Kristina Klapperich, the only 6-footer on Colony's roster, with 10.0 points a game. Last weekend, Colony also had strong performances from senior forward Cindy Beckman and sophomore post Jessica Dault.
"Homecoming is always exciting, and they probably want to beat us since we beat them," Juneau senior forward Anna Capacci said. "Playing East was good preparation for us, especially against their press. One of our goals is not to get overconfident."
"We're looking forward to the home crowd," Juneau junior forward Amy Neussl said. "We just have to play all 32 minutes. Colony is pretty quick all-around, and if they do press we got good practice last week."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.