It's fitting that there are five seniors on this year's Juneau boys basketball squad.
Five seniors - a full team. And as they get ready for their final regular-season home games this weekend, that's an apt description of this year's Crimson Bear senior class. No standouts, no stars, but a team.
"Everybody has their different strengths, and we try to take them collectively and play better as a unit," Juneau senior Tom Derbesy said.
"We've got a team with no standouts, but they've handled it well, and accepted their roles and their playing time," Juneau coach George Houston said. "They all contribute in different ways to the whole."
The seniors will take center stage this weekend as Juneau-Douglas High School hosts Ketchikan for a pair of key Southeast Conference-Class 4A games. Varsity games will start at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the JDHS main gym, with junior varsity games at 6:15 p.m. and C team games at 4:30 p.m.
Juneau (7-10 overall, 3-1 SE) is trying to snap a four-game losing streak, while Ketchikan (12-5 overall, 3-1 SE) was idle last weekend. The two teams split a pair of games earlier this season in Ketchikan, and this weekend's games may decide the top seed - and first-round bye - at next month's region tournament.
Juneau will host the region tourney, so Juneau seniors Derbesy, Larry Cooper, Kyle Huntsman, Mychal Hutcherson and Norman Zura will have at least one more home game after this weekend. But the Crimson Bears will be playing with urgency to do well on Senior Night - and to get their season back on track.
"This year hasn't gone as well as we would have liked, but there is still time to turn it around and this weekend will be the start of that," Derbesy said.
"It's kind of hard to think of the end of the season," Huntsman said. "We've got a lot of stuff to do first. We've got a job to do."
When Juneau played in Ketchikan in January, the defending region champion Kings never trailed in the opener as senior Derek Clark scored 28 points - many on drives to the basket - and grabbed 14 rebounds. Senior guard Jesse LeBeau also had a big night, with 18 points in Kayhi's 71-57 win.
In the second game, Juneau matched 6-foot-6 sophomore Will Egolf against Clark, and prevented easy layups. A balanced scoring effort and good depth on the bench helped the Crimson Bears rally to a 60-57 victory.
Both teams have battled injuries this season. Egolf may see some playing time this weekend after sitting out several weeks with a foot injury. Ketchikan senior center Tyler Richardson missed this season's first series against Juneau with a broken hand, but returned to action earlier this month.
In addition to the region tourney ramifications, Ketchikan is drawing extra motivation from its 25-year losing streak to Juneau at the JDHS gym. The Crimson Bears have not lost to Ketchikan at home since Feb. 8, 1980.
"Everybody is excited to come up" to Juneau, Ketchikan coach Doug Nausid said. "It's sort of a prelude to Southeast. ...
"They want to show they can beat Juneau up there. They want to get that monkey off their back."
While the Crimson Bears aren't focusing on the streak, they don't intend to see it end.
"We've got to go hard," said Cooper, who will be charged with guarding LeBeau. "They will come out aggressive, and we can't play passive."
"We've just got to come out ready, play hard and give it all we've got," Zura said.
Juneau will be counting on its fans for support this weekend - fans the seniors have appreciated through their careers.
"The atmosphere - it's unlike any other (gym) in the state," said Derbesy. "We've got our pep band, our drill team, our cheerleaders - the support of the community is fantastic. We try to reciprocate that by giving our best effort on the floor.
"The feeling you get when you step on the floor - it feels so great," Cooper said. "There's nothing better."
While their focus is on their remaining games, the Juneau seniors said it's hard to believe their prep careers are almost over.
"We've been pretty close, growing up together (and playing basketball), most of us since sixth grade," Hutcherson said. "It's going to be hard after the season is over. I've been with these guys for a long time."
"It's amazing - I can still remember running out my freshman year with Junior Cumlat and Ryan Monagle," said Derbesy, who has been on the varsity squad all four years. "It's gone by really fast."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
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