The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team has proven its Region V-Class 4A dominance at home this season. Now the Crimson Bears have to show what they're made of on the road.
The Crimson Bears travel to Ketchikan this weekend for a pair of games against the Kings. Juneau (11-5 overall, 4-0 region) needs just one win to clinch the top seed and a first-round bye at next month's region tourney, but the Crimson Bears are looking to dominate the Kings (11-5, 3-3) both nights.
"We're feeling pretty confident, considering that we played them already and beat them twice," said junior Alida Bus, referring to Juneau's home sweep of Ketchikan earlier this month.
Bus said the team wants to "send it home that we are the No. 1 seed for regionals" by defeating the Kings on their home court - which, coincidentally, is where the Region V-Class 3A/4A tournament will be held this season.
Juneau, ranked fifth in the latest state basketball poll, beat Ketchikan on Feb. 7 and 8 by scores of 57-34 and 50-37. Even when the Kings managed to contain Juneau's high-scoring senior duo of Amy Neussl and Danielle Larson, the Crimson Bears' supporting players stepped up on offense.
But the Crimson Bears left those victories with things to work on to get ready for this weekend's rematch. Juneau was somewhat sluggish in the second half of each game, and the Crimson Bears failed to keep Ketchikan star Anne Elliott under 10 points, a target set before each game.
Also weighing on the minds of many Juneau players is the 20-point loss they suffered at the hands of the Kings last season in Ketchikan. The Crimson Bears got into foul trouble in that game - the opening contest of a weekend series - and let Ketchikan pull away on late free throws.
Bus said they aren't going to suffer a letdown this weekend.
"We're ready to go," she said. "We've been practicing and doing some scrimmages. ... We're going to come out strong on Friday night."
Ketchikan is on a roll after a two-game road sweep of Sitka last weekend. Coach Doug Nausid told the Ketchikan Daily News that the Kings stepped up on defense in the 44-27 and 45-27 wins.
"It just seemed like they had a bounce in their step," he said. "It was like they finally put their foot down, and they did whatever they wanted to do. ...
"These wins give the kids some real incentive, and they're talking about beating Juneau and getting on the winning track. We just really want to peak at the right time."
Elliott continues to be Kayhi's go-to player, scoring a combined 39 points in the Sitka series. As usual, Juneau will be looking to hold her to less than 10 points a night.
Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said she's expecting Ketchikan to be tougher at home, but said Juneau has done well on the road this season.
"We play a little better on the road, a little more relaxed," she said.
The Crimson Bears did not play last weekend, and Knight said they should be strong from the start this weekend.
"Whenever you're off, you get hungry," she said. "We're in shape and ready to finish off the season."
After its Ketchikan trip, Juneau will play a pair of games in Sitka on March 7-8 to close out the regular season. Region tournament play begins on March 12.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.