The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team only needs one Region V-Class 4A victory this weekend when it travels south to play the Sitka Wolves.
But the Crimson Bears don't want to settle for just one. The Bears want to win them all, not just the two games at Sitka this weekend but the two games in Ketchikan on March 8-9.
"I think it's a good opportunity for us to get used to playing on the road," Juneau guard Joe Ayers said. "We're focussing on trying to win 'em all. We want to win as many road games as we can."
The Crimson Bears can clinch the top seed in the region tournament if they win one of the two games against the Wolves at 8 p.m. this Friday and Saturday at Sitka High School. The games will be broadcast locally on KINY, 800-AM.
Juneau is the eight-time defending Region V-4A champion and the Crimson Bears have a 12-6 overall and 4-0 region record entering this weekend. Sitka (12-6 overall, 3-3 region) is in second place in the standings, but a loss to Juneau this weekend means the best the Wolves can finish is 4-4 in the standings while the worst Juneau can do is 5-3. Ketchikan already has five region losses and can't earn the top seed at regions.
Winning the regular-season title means Juneau will have a first-round bye at the region tournament is March 14-17 at Sitka's Mount Edgecumbe High School. Since only one Region V team can qualify for the Class 4A state tournament March 22-24 at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena, having a first-round bye means Juneau has one less chance to mess up in its bid for a ninth straight region title and trip to state.
The Juneau players don't want to win once, clinch the region's top seed, then stumble over the final three games of the regular season. The Crimson Bears want to be a perfect 8-0 as they head to the region tourney.
But they also know an 8-0 regular-season record doesn't guarantee them a berth at state. The Crimson Bears will still have to earn it at the region tournament, and for that reason they want to be at the peak of their game as they close out the season.
"Any of these three teams (in the region) can still win it," Ayers said.
"If we go 8-0, we can't be too cocky because we can still lose at regions," Juneau guard Clay Brown said. "But we can go 8-0 and we don't want to give them the confidence of beating us."
The Crimson Bears haven't played in two weeks, since sweeping Ketchikan in Juneau's final home games of the season -- winning 73-34 and 82-58 as the Kings were missing several key players. Sitka went to Ketchikan last weekend and the two teams split, which Ketchikan coming from behind to win 62-56 on Friday for its first region victory of the season and Sitka rebounding for a 67-51 victory on Saturday.
Juneau may not have had any games last weekend, but that doesn't mean the Crimson Bears were idle. Brown said coach George Houston seemed like he was working the players even harder in practice than normal, trying to get that extra competitive edge. Juneau also had a scrimmage over the weekendto stay game-condition fresh.
While Juneau can clinch the region's top seed this weekend, that won't be the only storyline of the weekend. Brown, a senior, transferred to Juneau from Sitka two years ago because he wanted to play a more competitive schedule and he still has family living in Sitka (his younger sister Elena is on Sitka's girls roster,). These will be Brown's last games in his old high school stomping grounds.
"I can count on getting booed," Brown said. "Last year was really weird, because it was my first time back. My parents still live there and my grandparents will be up for the game. I lived there my whole life, and I'd really hate to lose over there. If they beat us one time, they'll gain confidence. And we definitely don't want to hear them ring the bell. Whenever they have a big win they always ring that bell, and we definitely don't want to hear that."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
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