The second-ranked Juneau-Douglas boys basketball team clinched the Region V-Class 4A regular-season title with a sweep of the Ketchikan Kings this weekend in Ketchikan.
The Crimson Bears locked up the title Friday with a 59-57 comeback win over the Kings, and followed it up with a 68-44 victory on Saturday.
With the wins, Juneau (17-1 overall, 17-2 with an Alaska School Activities Association endowment fund game loss) remains perfect in Southeast play with a 6-0 record. The Crimson Bears earned a first-round bye at the Region V-Class 4A tournament in Juneau on March 14-16. Ketchikan fell to 2-4 in the region and 12-7 overall.
"We started talking about how Ketchikan would play better on their court after the Colony games," Juneau head coach George Houston said, referring to Juneau's sweep last weekend over the Knights. "They proved me right."
Houston warned his team before the road trip that Ketchikan would not be the same team the Bears defeated by 38 and 39 points in consecutive nights in Juneau on Jan. 18-19. And, at least on Friday, the Kings lived up to Houston's billing.
Ketchikan came out strongly and led Juneau 21-12 after the first quarter behind inspiring play from Jesse Richardson. He scored six of his game-leading 23 points in that quarter as the Kings showed they were not going to give up the regular-season title without a fight.
The Bears closed the gap to 36-31 at halftime and 46-43 at the end of the third quarter and finally took the lead in the fourth quarter.
"It was pretty much a miracle we were only down by five at the half," Houston said. "It should have been more. It was a struggle."
Juneau could have wrapped the game up with less drama had it not been for dreadful free-throw shooting. The Bears shot just 6-for-16 from the line in the fourth quarter and finished the game shooting less than 50 percent (19-for-40).
"Typically, you don't win games on the road when you shoot like that," Houston said. "We were really fortunate to eke out the win."
The Crimson Bears were also without their season-leading scorer, Curtis Lane, who rolled his right ankle in a game against Colony on Feb. 16.
Juneau was led in scoring Friday by Junior Cumlat with 13 and Bryan Hamey with 10 points. Sterling Henderson stepped up off the bench with nine points and Ryan Monagle and Craig Kitka each chipped in seven.
After Richardson, Ketchikan got nine points from Braden Sharp and seven points from Russell Miller.
On Saturday, the Bears decided against another close game and cruised to a blowout win. But Ketchikan again came out strong, scoring the game's first eight points before the Bears stormed back to take a 15-11 first-quarter lead.
"We started slow again," Houston said. "Just couldn't get anything going early. Ryan (Monagle) hit a couple 3s and got us going, then we just kept the pressure on."
The Crimson Bears' pressure defense was working, as they held the Kings to just 27 points over the first three quarters. Juneau, on the other hand, scored 56 points during the same stretch and realistically had the game well in hand by halftime.
Houston was able to get playing time for most of his reserves in the fourth quarter as Ketchikan made a futile late charge. It was Juneau's 12th game this season where it defeated a team by 17 points or more.
The Bears were led by Monagle with 15 points and Henderson hit double-digits with 10 points. Cumlat and Byron Wild both scored eight points.
Juneau held Richardson to just 10 points on Saturday, but it was still good to lead Ketchikan in scoring. Miller scored eight and Shawn Phillips added seven points for the Kings.
Juneau's junior varsity and C-sqaud teams also swept the Kings over the weekend. The Bears come back home for two games against Sitka on Friday and Saturday.
"One of our goals this year was to go undefeated in the region," Houston said. "So far, so good. Now we just have two more to go against Sitka and they'll be tough - they split against Colony."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.