This is uncharted territory for the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team -- at least it is under head coach Jim Hamey's six-year tenure.
The Crimson Bears are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, and two weeks ago Juneau lost its first Region V-Class 4A games since the 1997 region championship game against Ketchikan.
``I've never had a four-game losing streak, not with the girls,'' said Hamey, who also coached Juneau's boys team for 22 years. ``It's not very much fun, that's all I can tell you.''
Juneau, which is ranked ninth in the current state poll, will be trying to get back on the winning track this weekend when the Crimson Bears host the No. 4 Ketchikan Kings in a pair of games at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Ketchikan, which is actually tied for fourth with Palmer in the poll, swept a two-game series against Juneau in Ketchikan two weekends ago. Those victories, which were both in the 20-point range, followed a pair of losses to No. 6 Colony early this month.
``I know we're better than what we've been playing,'' Hamey said. ``Our opponents have been good, and this is not to take anything away from them, but I don't think we've played to the best of our ability. We've not executed very well, and we're not taking the best shots. Unless it improves, we're in for a long haul.''
Nizich commits to UAA
Juneau-Douglas High School senior Tanya Nizich decided to stay close to home, or at least as close as a basketball player can when there's no college team within 800 miles.
Nizich, currently the top scorer for the Crimson Bears with 14.8 points a game, made a verbal commitment to play college ball for the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves next year. Nizich said she felt at home when she visited UAA during the Great Alaska Shootout, and again when Juneau's team made road trips to Anchorage, and that played a big part in her decision.
``I made a verbal commitment to Anchorage last night (Tuesday). I'm pretty excited about that,'' said Nizich, a 5-foot-7 guard. ``I've been looking a lot at their program, especially since coach (Jim) Hamey always makes sure we can go to their games whenever we travel north. Plus there's the connection with coach Hamey's son, Chris, up there on the men's team. I really liked (first-year UAA head coach) Brandi (Dunigan) and (UAA assistant) Bill (Bacon).''
Nizich said she received interest from several colleges, especially after playing on a couple of summer tour teams. She said she received interest from Eastern Washington, University of Puget Sound, Seattle Pacific, UAA, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Colorado State.
``I narrowed it down to Puget Sound and UAA, and UAA got me,'' Nizich said.
Nizich can still change her mind, since the first day recruits can sign National Letters of Intent is April 12. UAA isn't allowed to comment on a recruit until receiving the signed Letter of Intent in April.
Hamey, whose son just completed his senior season on UAA's men's team, said he agreed with Nizich's choice. He said the only teams that called him about Nizich's play were UAA, UAF and Puget Sound, but he knew she'd received interest from other teams.
``I think it's an excellent choice. I think she'll be very happy there. It's a good match,'' Hamey said. ``I think things will work out well with her at UAA, and it's good she's staying in Alaska. She did have some good options.''
Tanya Nizich, who is one of Juneau's six seniors making their last homecourt appearances this weekend, said the Crimson Bears don't think their season is slipping away. But Juneau (11-7 overall, 2-2 region) has been lethargic in recent weeks.
``We've lost our enthusiasm, our energy, and we hope we're getting it back,'' said Nizich, who leads the team with 14.8 points and 2.9 assists a game. ``We've been running a lot in practice. We looked lazy. No, we looked slow, not lazy. We've not been clicking together the past couple of weeks. It kind of just feels like everything's all broken down. We need to play as team a little bit more.''
The Crimson Bears were flying high a month ago. They handed No. 2 East Anchorage its first loss to an Alaska team all season, and split with No. 1 Lathrop and beat defending state champion Palmer. But things crashed to a thud when a struggling Colony team came in and swept Juneau's homecoming series. Two weeks later, Juneau went to Ketchikan (17-1, 6-0) and the wheels fell off. Ketchikan jumped out to a 22-4 first-quarter lead in the first game, which ended in a 65-45 victory for the Kings, then completed the sweep with a 63-45 victory.
``I'm sure Jim will have a new wrinkle or two when we come up there,'' Ketchikan girls coach Doug Nausid said. ``We'll be working hard and we're focused, but I'm sure they're chomping at the bit to play again. It makes me sick that only one of the two of us gets to go to state.''
Both teams are a little banged up, and Nausid said reserve post player Brandyce Nelson won't even make the trip to Juneau because of a bad ankle. Ketchikan's leading scorer and rebounder, Mary Scudero, is also recovering from a bad ankle, and point guard Kelly Nausid has been battling the flu. Juneau senior Krystle Llanto has been battling shin splints for several weeks and senior Yvonne Harris has been fighting an illness, Hamey said.
``We're looking at these like they're big-time games,'' Hamey said. ``Ketchikan is an outstanding team.''