The Falcons are looking for their first-ever win tonight against Juneau-Douglas at the Thunderdome, but more importantly, both teams are looking to get back on track after enduring tough stretches prior to Round 2 of Juneau's new crosstown high school hoops rivalry.
The Crimson Bears, who started slow but looked like a contender again after winning five in a row, dropped two straight to first-place Ketchikan last weekend. JDHS played from behind all night in the first game but had a shot - a few shots - to tie or win the game late, but then regressed the next night, falling behind by as many as 20 points in the third quarter before a late push.
The teams will play three times in the next eight days including the first round of the conference tournament, which begins March 4 at Mt. Edgecumbe High School.
"It's certainly interesting knowing you're going to play the same team three times in a row," JDHS coach Steve Potter said. "We're coming off a weekend where we didn't perform at the level we wanted to, and it sounds like (the Falcons) didn't do what they wanted to do up in Fairbanks.
"I think we'll have a couple of teams that are hungry for some wins. The games were spirited and competitive last time, and I expect the same thing."
Thunder Mountain, on the other hand, started strong but has now lost eight straight games, including defeats by as few as one point and as many as 12. Compounding matters is the fact the Falcons' senior night is tonight, the Crimson Bears' is Saturday, and coach John Blasco can't be at the Saturday game because his sister is getting married that night in Seattle.
The schools agreed to move Friday's game to tonight at 8 p.m. so Blasco could attend his team's senior-night festivities before heading to the Emerald City. Assistant coach Rob Ridgeway will lead the team Saturday.
Blasco said both teams' pride - in addition to bragging rights - is on the line.
"We'd like to take some pride to see who can finish in second place in the conference," he said. "Both nights being senior night, which always adds emotion to the games, and getting ready for regionals will provide some additional motivation in terms of getting some momentum going in (to the tournament)."
Blasco said the losing streak is taking a toll on his guys, especially the younger ones.
"You've got to keep finding motivation for them in practice and keep encouraging them," he said. "They're playing good basketball; we're just playing good teams that are playing equally as well. That makes it tough because you really have to find ways to make adjustments and find ways to win. We have the chance to get there. Pretty much every game I can pinpoint a quarter or two that have really hurt us.
"If we can be a more consistent team for four quarters, I think we're not on an eight-game losing streak any more."
Potter also said his team needs to be more consistent.
"We have to pay attention to details, which hasn't been our strength this year. We lose focus. When we're focused, I think we're pretty tough," he said. "It's up to individuals on the team to keep reminding each other to keep talking on the defensive end and to make sure everybody is doing what they're supposed to be doing."
Blasco said his main focus is stopping the Bears' backcourt from getting to the cup.
"Their speed and dribble penetration is an issue for us and if you look at the games, different guys beat us each night," he said. "We need to contain all 11 that they normally play.
"They're deep, they're fast and they're physical."
As far as missing Saturday's season finale, Blasco said he's trying not to think too much so as not to drive himself crazy.
"... I'm interested to see how the guys play. Hopefully, they won't play a lot better without me," he joked. "I'm definitely going to be very nervous the whole night sitting in Seattle by my phone getting text updates and wondering what's going on. Maybe I can text fast enough back to put in a play or two. I'm going to be a wreck."
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