Give Alex Fagerstrom the ball and stand back ... or just dump it in to Eric Gross whenever you can.
The gameplans for the Crimson Bears football and basketball teams merged beautifully Saturday night.
All-everything senior football star Fagerstrom quarterbacked the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team past rival Ketchikan from the point guard position, joining high-scoring senior post Gross with a team-high 15 points apiece, as JDHS slipped past 4A Southeast Conference rival KayHi 81-76 at home Saturday night.
Fagerstrom led the Bears football team to the 4A state title game this season but moved over from his usual wing position to accommodate a starting lineup of himself, Gross and fellow senior wings Sean Bavard, Corey Mahar and Mark Enriquez.
"I've been at the point a little bit in practice," Fagerstrom said. "It's something we've been working on, but I don't usually get to play there with all the other guys we've got. I'm comfortable there knowing I have all the other guys to throw it back to right away if I need to."
Fagerstrom's handle might have looked a little creaky, but he clearly knew what to do once he got past half-court with a head of steam. The usually low-scoring senior made his last home game memorable with plenty of weaving drives into the lane, capping them with a surprising array of jumpers and diving lay-ups.
Gross' performance has come to be expected from the Crimson Bears (17-4 overall, 2-2 SEC), as he punished the smaller Kings (10-12 overall, 2-2 SEC) for second straight game with his 6-foot-3 frame and long arms. The senior's night included 14 trips to the free-throw line, seven of which he converted, as Ketchikan collapsed help defense of double and triple teams down to his spot in the post.
Both coaches admittedly held back their full deck of tricks over the weekend, with the two teams meeting in Ketchikan for a best-of-three SEC championship tournament beginning on Wednesday. The players held back nothing, though, as the regional rivalry took on its usual frantic pace in front of a near-capacity crowd at the JDHS main gym.
The first quarter started off with a series of weird events as Kings senior Matt Carpenter put his team up 5-3 after pulling up from five feet behind the three-point line on the right elbow. The teams then traded lay-ups before Juneau-Douglas was hit with a technical foul for arguing with the officials. The resulting free throws from Carpenter put Ketchikan up 10-5 with 4:16 remaining in the period. The visiting senior then put up yet another three-point heave from the same deep spot, missing the second attempt before teammate Jeff Whicker hit one of two free throws after being fouled on the putback attempt.
The technical briefly boosted the Bears, and they eventually pulled even at 13-13 after a short pull-up jumper from Fagerstrom with 2:45 left in the stanza. However, a series of ill-advised, long attempts followed for JDHS, and a brief glimpse at Ketchikan's trademark full-court press helped them jump out to a 19-13 lead to end the period.
Mahar opened the second period with a short jumper to pull Juneau-Douglas within 19-15, and then hit another short shot a minute later to pull his team within 21-19. The teams traded short runs for the rest of the half, with neither team leading by more than two possessions.
JDHS finally pulled even at the 3:56 mark on a fading jumper from Fagerstrom along the right sideline and then again tied it on a Fagerstrom free throw at the 2:28 point. The senior then gave the Bears their first lead in nearly 10 minutes after winding through the lane for a lay-up that made the score 37-35 with 1:35 until half.
The Bears were nursing a 39-38 lead with four seconds remaining in the half when freshman point guard Lance Ibesate bobbled the inbounds pass out of bounds on the right sideline. Kings senior Jase Scudero took the following inbounds pass across the line and hit a reverse lay-up as time expired to flip the lead Ketchikan's way at half.
The teams continued to swap leads throughout the third quarter. An aggressive lay-up from Mahar off an inbounds pass and then two free throws from the senior helped pull JDHS out of a late four-point hole and two more free throws from Fagerstrom helped the Bears end the period tied at 59-59.
A free throw from Gross helped JDHS cap a 6-0 run and jump out to a 65-59 lead to start the fourth, and the Bears lead wavered between two and three possessions until the final minute.
The seniors exited the game with 32 seconds remaining to a standing ovation from the Juneau-Douglas and Ketchikan crowds.
Fagerstrom, Gross, Mahar, Bavard and Enriquez were honored prior to the game with oversized candy necklaces and presented roses to their respective parents. Senior cheerleaders, dance team members and other basketball-affiliated students were also honored with their parents.
Both Bavard and Mahar finished with eight points in the game, while Enriquez finished with three after hitting a bomb to open the game that drew a loud cheer from the already-wild crowd.
Enriquez competed in his first year of competitive basketball with the Bears this season and competed with the junior varsity squad. After witnessing the hard work the first-year player put in during the season, JDHS head coach Steve Potter inserted him into Saturday's starting lineup.
Only six Kings scored during the night, led by Scudero with 20. Carpenter followed with 17. Kevin Manabat, Paul Manabat and Whicker chipped in 11 apiece.
The Kings and Crimson Bears meet at 8 p.m. in Ketchikan on both Wednesday and Thursday nights for the regional tournament. If necessary, the third game will tip off at 4:45 p.m. on Friday.
The girls' games in Ketchikan will tip off at 6:30 p.m. on both Wednesday and Thursday. If necessary, their third game will start at 3 p.m. on Friday.
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