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Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball coach George Houston took a trip to Ketchikan last weekend to scout a couple of games, and he saw a team that nearly played to perfection.
Now the Crimson Bears have to figure out how to stop Kayhi when the Kings visit for key Region V-Class 4A games tonight and Saturday at the JDHS main gym. The varsity teams play at 8 p.m. both nights, with junior varsity games at 6:15 p.m. and C team games at 4:15 p.m.
"They looked very good," Houston said of the Kings, who beat the Sitka Wolves 85-41 on Friday - after leading 29-2 midway through the second quarter - and won 65-45 on Saturday.
"The first night, they destroyed Sitka. Their 1-3-1 trap (defense) was really efficient and they took it to them. The second night they weren't as sharp, but that happens sometimes in high school basketball after you've won by a bunch the night before. They had some good players come off injuries and they should be rounding back into shape when they play us. Ketchikan did what it had to do."
The Crimson Bears (8-8 overall, 2-0 region) are coming off a week without games, but they were still working. Ever since the Kings (11-7 overall, 2-2 region) announced at the start of the season that this was the year they were knocking off Juneau, both teams have been gearing up for this matchup.
Juneau has long been the dominant team in Region V-Class 4A, winning 10 of the last 11 and 12 of the last 14 titles. The last time Ketchikan won the region title was in 1989 (the Kings also won in 1988). You have to dig even deeper into the archives to find the last time the Ketchikan boys won a game in Juneau - on Feb. 8, 1980, when Ketchikan won 62-61 on a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left and Juneau's last shot missed.
"That's a tradition we don't want to break," Houston said of the winning streak at home against Ketchikan.
"It's going to be a really good matchup. It's a big matchup, a really big region matchup," Juneau junior guard Larry Cooper said. "I guess every team is gunning for us. These will be tough games for us."
Ketchikan's strength this season is hard to gauge, since the Kings have played just four games against Class 4A teams - a 2-2 season series split with Sitka. The rest of the Kings' schedule has been filled with Class 3A teams, teams from British Columbia, Australia and the Lower 48.
Also, the Kings were without senior guard Casey Bass and senior center Tyler Richardson for long stretches of the season. Those two players both returned to action over the weekend, with neither scoring on Friday while Richardson scored 10 points and Bass had eight on Saturday in limited action.
"All we've seen them play is Sitka," said Juneau senior forward Adam Nelson, who has been hobbled by an Achilles' tendon injury and a twisted ankle in recent weeks. "We haven't played in awhile, but we still had two weeks of hard practice with only two days off. We'll show up ready to play. We've been practicing and getting better on the things we need to do."
Juneau's last games were a series sweep of Sitka Feb. 6-7 in Sitka. Juneau's schedule has included two games with two-time defending Class 4A state champion Bartlett, two games with No. 3 Lathrop, three games with defending Class 4A state runner-up Wasilla and a game with Class 3A power Barrow, among others.
"We haven't played in two weeks, but we're fired up to play," said Juneau sophomore forward Josh Monagle, who led the Crimson Bears in scoring during both victories over Sitka. "I think we're conscious of coming out flat, which has been a problem all season for us, but we're pumped up for the conference games. We know their personnel and we'll come out ready to play."
"We're excited," Juneau senior guard Rob Carte said. "We saw the scores (against Sitka) and they have a pretty good team. I think it will be good competition for us. Teamwise, we're pretty excited to play them."
Besides the 6-foot-5 Richardson and Bass, Ketchikan will be led by 6-4 forward Nate Norton, who scored 27 points - 21 in the first half - in Friday's Sitka game and also led the Kings in scoring on Saturday with 14 points. Junior point guard Jesse LeBeau, at 5-8 the shortest King, and junior Derek Clark both scored in low double-figures each night of the Sitka series. The Kings have a new coach this year, as Doug Nausid replaced longtime mentor John Brown after five seasons as the Ketchikan girls team's head coach.
"Norton will be a tough matchup for us; he's 6-3, 6-4 and he's got long arms," Houston said. "Richardson got his 10 points (Saturday) in no time at all. He looked a lot leaner and was in good shape even though he's been injured. I was impressed with them. It'll be a very interesting weekend."
This weekend's varsity games will be broadcast on KINY radio, 800 AM.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.