The Juneau-Douglas girls basketball team will celebrate homecoming this weekend by rolling out the red carpet for the Kings of Ketchikan today.
But don't be surprised if there is a hole or two in the carpet to trip up the team that beat the Crimson Bears in last year's Region V-Class 4A tournament championship game and knocked Juneau out of a state tournament berth.
The Bears, who have not played on their home court since Jan. 13, will play back-to-back games against the Kings at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
One person who will be missed on the Crimson Bears' bench is head coach Jim Hamey, who had surgery this week on his Achilles' tendon.
"He hurt it back in December while putting up Christmas lights," Hamey's son and assistant coach Jer Hamey said. "He's been hobbling along until he went to the doctor on Monday and they said he ripped his Achilles'. He's in a lot of pain and chances are slim to none he will be on the bench this weekend."
That means Jer Hamey will take the reigns of the Bears this weekend, but the players don't think it will affect their play.
"It will be different without him (Jim Hamey) there," co-captain Courtney Mason said. "But Jer will do everything coach Hamey did and we should be fine."
Ketchikan won four of five meetings last year, including a season-ending 68-62 overtime victory in the finals of the Region V-4A tournament at Ketchikan.
This year's Kings (9-2 overall, 2-0 region) are loaded with talent and experience and feature seven seniors back from last year's team that finished fourth at the state tournament. Ketchikan's only losses this season have come against Ashland (Ore.) early in the season and to Colony two weeks ago.
"We're expecting Juneau to come out like a tidal wave," Ketchikan coach Doug Nausid said. "We need to go out and play our game and not get caught up in letting Juneau dictate the play of the game. We know it's going to be a battle and hopefully we will be competitive."
Ketchikan's starting five will feature 5-foot-6 senior guard Kelly Nausid, 5-8 senior guard Amanda Kolanko and 5-10 senior forward Cassie White who all average 15 points a game. Senior Johanna Johnson, a 6-1 center, and 5-9 junior forward Jonnae Ostrom round out the starters, with 5-6 senior guard Holly Thompson, 5-6 senior guard Danette Kahle and 5-10 junior forward Deanna Hallman all seeing action for the Kings.
"They have three girls who are capable of beating us on any given night," Jer Hamey said. "Cassie White creates a problem for us because she's so long and athletic."
Juneau (11-4 overall, 2-0 region) is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Third Annual Lady Lynx Prep Shootout at Anchorage's Dimond High School. The Crimson Bears lost a heartbreaker to Chugiak 34-33 on a last-second shot, but bounced back and trounced Grace Christian 52-28 and edged Service 38-36 in overtime.
Juneau's loss to Chugiak dropped them out of the top five in the state's Class 4A poll. East Anchorage received all nine first-place votes and stands on top of the poll with 45 points followed by Kenai Central (29), Lathrop (28), Ketchikan (14) and Palmer (8). The Bears received seven votes to finish sixth.
"We're capable of beating everyone in the state," Jer Hamey said. "But we might not even go to state this year."
The Kings are the major obstacle in Juneau's road to the state tournament and the two Southeast rivals will play each other four times before the Region V tournament on March 14-17 in Sitka -- twice in Juneau and twice in Ketchikan.
"We're really excited to play and see what the Southeast (teams) looks like," Juneau co-captain Michael Kohan said. "We're looking for people to step up and we're going to use our defense to our advantage."
"This is probably our most exciting game and were getting better as a team," Mason said. "We're really looking to pay them back for last year."
Hilary Rehfeld continues to lead Juneau in scoring with a 13.3 point-per-game average and Amy Neussl is second with 8.9 points. Kohan and Mason are averaging 7.7 and 7.1 points, respectively.
"We're not going to create anything new," Jer Hamey said. "We're going to execute and play with confidence. I'm not worried about the girls playing hard -- I know they will do it."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.