Juneau-Douglas High School basketball teams will get their last taste of out-of-region competition before the postseason as the Crimson Bear boys and girls head north this weekend for games in Fairbanks.
The Juneau boys (7-8 overall) play Lathrop at 7:30 p.m. tonight and 6 p.m. Friday, while the Juneau girls (11-4 overall) will complete the Fairbanks Class 4A trifecta with games at Lathrop at 6 p.m. tonight, at West Valley at 6 p.m. Friday, and at North Pole at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The girls trip has been on the schedule all season, but the boys games at Lathrop were late additions when travel troubles prevented the Crimson Bears from playing the Malemutes at an Anchorage tournament last month.
Lathrop (9-5) is on a roll, having beaten three Class 3A teams and Class 4A West Valley - ranked third in the state - in the past week. The Malemutes traveled to Juneau last season and swept two games from the Crimson Bears, but all but two members of that squad graduated.
Though they didn't get to play Lathrop last month in Anchorage, the Crimson Bears did get to watch the Malemutes. Juneau coach George Houston said the Malemutes are still a potent team, despite the turnover from last season.
"They're pretty athletic, pretty talented," Houston said. "They try to get up and down the floor pretty quickly. ... For us, (the focus) is going to be trying to control the tempo."
Houston said the Crimson Bears also will focus on shaking off two tough home losses last weekend to Colony, including one in double overtime.
"It'll be an interesting challenge for us, coming off two losses to Colony, how we bounce back," he said.
The Juneau girls beat Colony twice last weekend. They have yet to face Lathrop this season, though Malemutes star Alana Clooten is a familiar face to a few of the Crimson Bears. Clooten - who scored her 1,000th career point and grabbed her 500th career rebound this season - was a teammate of Juneau senior Mary Rehfeld and sophomore Talisa Rhea on an Alaska traveling team last summer.
Like the boys, the Lathrop girls (12-3 overall) swept a pair of games in Juneau last season and have been on a roll this season with four wins in the past week. Joining Clooten is senior Sheena Brown, who averages about 20 points a game and earlier this month gave a verbal commitment to play for the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"Lathrop was a top-ranked team last year, so we can't expect to just go up there and claim a win," Rehfeld said.
West Valley (8-9 overall) is coming off a loss to North Pole on Tuesday. Casey Miller has been a frequent scoring leader for the Wolfpack this season, bringing a strong outside shot.
Juneau faced North Pole (15-3 overall) in an Anchorage tournament earlier this season, and the Crimson Bears trounced the Patriots 76-46. It was North Pole's first loss of the season.
The Patriots have gotten back on track in the last few weeks. In addition to their win over West Valley, North Pole went 3-0 against Class 3A competition to win last weekend's Valdez Elks tourney. North Pole junior Kelsy McIntosh scored 30 points against West Valley, and was named tournament MVP in Valdez.
While the varsity teams play in Fairbanks, the Juneau boys and girls junior varsity teams will travel to Sitka for a JV tournament today through Saturday. Other teams at the tournament include Sitka, Mount Edgecumbe and Haines.
The Juneau Empire sports department can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.