The Sitka High School girls basketball team is clearly more than just one person, but center Kim Dodson looms large as the focal point for Juneau-Douglas.
In fact, Crimson Bears coach Lesslie Knight brought boys junior varsity player Zach Heppner into practice Thursday as a Dodson substitute. JDHS (13-2, 4-0 SE) plays its final two home games of the season this weekend against the Wolves. Tonight and Saturday's games tip-off at 8 p.m.
"We've been working on our defense a lot because we're trying to shut down Kim Dodson," JDHS center Nicole Fenumiai said. "That's who they turn to. We've been trying to think of ways to pressure them and have them not give her the ball. That's our defense right now."
While Sitka may not be well known statewide, the Crimson Bears are well aware of the Wolves' toughness.
crimson bears girls team
who: jdhs vs. sitka.
when: 8 p.m. tonight and saturday
where: juneau-douglas high school
what: these are the last two home games this season for the girls team.
JDHS took two from Sitka in early January, but both games proved close. The Bears beat the Wolves 47-42 and 52-46 in two of the toughest contests they have played this season.
"They are really good," JDHS forward Veronica Lietz said. "They have a lot of guards that can shoot the ball and they have Kim Dodson in the post. With her on that team, she makes the team so much stronger. She's very strong and physical."
In their previous two meetings, Dodson averaged 18 points a game. More than that, however, the imposing 6-foot senior knows how to score in the paint.
Dodson's strength and savvy down low creates an imposing and interesting challenge for JDHS post players Fenumiai, Hannah Buck, Maddie Swofford and Andrea Doerflinger.
"It's exciting but it's hard work," Fenumiai said. "I've just got to put in for the team and do what I can, along with all the other posts we have."
One of the keys to defending Dodson is to not let her touch the ball.
If JDHS can harass Sitka's guards and force turnovers on the perimeter, Dodson would be forced to fight for rebounds or get the ball in an uncomfortable spot on the floor.
"You really try to not let them get her the ball at all," Lietz said. "When she does get the ball, if you collapse on her, if you have two or three defenders on her she won't generally put it up."
When Dodson decides to kick it out, though, she has a number of viable options capable of draining a 3-pointer.
Forwards Natalia Potrzuski and guard K.J. Lorenzo can extend the defense with their outside shooting. If Sitka starts to click with its inside-outside game, it will force Juneau-Douglas' defense to work that much harder to contain the Wolves.
"We want to continue to pressure the ball and play containment," JDHS coach Lesslie Knight said. "Containment means we want to eliminate penetration in order to avoid any rotations. We always kind of come out in a containment format but the idea is we wan to force turnovers so I'd like to play a little more aggressive."
Offensively, the Crimson Bears are in their element in transition. With Talisa Rhea distributing the ball on the fly, players like Jordan Harvey, Sophia Smith and Lexi Garvey find open space and score on the fast break.
Whether JDHS can get steals and disrupt Sitka's offense should determine whether or not the Crimson Bears can extend their winning streak from three to five.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com