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Bears to play for region championship

Posted: Sunday, March 02, 2008

With a regular season conference title on the line, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team made sure no upset would occur Saturday.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The Crimson Bears (12-10, 6-2 Southeast) overwhelmed Sitka 80-38 on Saturday to seal a top-seed in the Class 4A Southeast Conference Tournament. JDHS also beat the Wolves (7-15, 0-8) 72-47 on Friday.

JDHS will play either Sitka or Ketchikan Friday for the region championship and a trip to the state tournament. The game starts at 9:15 p.m. in Juneau. The Wolves and Kings will play at 8:45 p.m. Thursday in the play-in game.

"We talked about how it was an important game for us," JDHS coach Steve Potter said. "We wanted to win the league and to win the league we had to perform. I thought we did a great job of looking for each other. We didn't over-dribble. We made the extra pass without hesitation. We made hard cuts. We rebounded. We did a good job."

Saturday also marked Juneau's senior night as the program honored Faifo Levale, Ryan Larson, Shawn Ibesate and Dominique Brinson. The pregame festivities for the basketball team, cheerleaders, dance squad and pep band delayed the start by about 20 minutes.

Once the game got started, though, Juneau-Douglas took over almost immediately.

"If we win the league, we don't play on Thursday," Levale said. "Our motto was 'Play on Friday.' If we let up and give them a chance, we'd play Sitka three straight times. We didn't want to do that."

JDHS immediately attacked the rim in the first quarter, leaping to a 21-11 lead. Outside of Brinson's 3-pointer, all of Juneau's points came either in the paint or on the free throw line after driving to the rim.

The Bears continued to pound inside as Levale, listed as 6-feet-2 and 280 pounds, showed off a baby hook to open the second-quarter scoring.

Once JDHS established itself inside, the perimeter players found room to operate. Ibesate and Cody Grussendorf knocked down 3s while Larson and Eric Gross went to work down low.

"We have a lot of guard that can put the rock in the bucket," Levale said. "We like to establish going inside first, get fouls and as we go inside the guys on the perimeter start to collapse on us and that leaves open guys on the arc to hit 3s. That's been our game-plan all year."

The Crimson Bears outscored Sitka 28-8 in the second quarter to take an insurmountable 49-19 halftime lead.

The offensive strategy also led to a successful night at the free throw line as JDHS made 18 of 21 free throws.

"Ideally we want to go inside to score and that opens up the perimeter shot," Potter said. "Obviously, we've shot a lot of 3s this year. We're learning that if we go inside and take the 3s as they present themselves instead of looking for the 3 first, we're more effective."

To compliment Juneau's offensive strategy, the Bears employed a nasty half-court trap.

Ibesate, Brinson, Grussendorf and Corey Mahar each recorded steals in the first half, kickstarting a fast break that frequently resulted in layups.

"Sitka plays pretty hard and because of that, sometimes they make themselves susceptible to that," Potter said of the half-court trap. "They play really hard but I think we were focused and when we're focused, I think we're tough to beat."

Gross led a balanced JDHS scoring attack with 15 points. Every player on the Bears' roster scored as Ibesate had 12 points, Mahar and Levale tallied eight points each while Brinson, Grussendorf and Geoff Craig scored seven points each. Freshman Colin Gozelski also had a two points and an assist in the win.

Sitka's Jeremy Espeleta led his team with 12 points.

"We're still focusing on our job," Potter said. "We have an opponent (Friday), but our focus is on what we want to do."

JDHS used a big fourth quarter to knock off Sitka on Friday. Juneau led 48-34 after three quarter and then outscored the Wolves 34-13 in the final eight minutes to close out the win.

Four Crimson Bears scored in double figures as Brinson had a team-high 14 points. Craig tallied 12 points while Gross and Grussendorf scored 10 points each.

Kory Hansen led Sitka with a game-high 15 points.

SATURDAY'S GAME

Juneau-Douglas 80, Sitka 38

JDHS 21 28 19 12 - 80

Sitka 11 8 12 7 - 38

JDHS (80)-Brinson 5 2-2 7, Mahar 8 0-0 8, Saviers 2 0-0 2, Grussendorf 5 2-2 7, Craig 6 1-2 7, Ibesate 10 2-3 12, Larson 6 0-0 6, Gross 6 9-10 155, Bavard 6 0-0 6, Gozelski 2 0-0 2, Levale 6 2-2 8. Totals 62 18-21 80.

Sitka (38)-Carlos 0 0-0 0, Diaz 4 0-0 4, Reynolds 0 0-0 0, McCarty 5 3-4 8, Peters 2 2-2 4, Espeleta 7 4-4 11, Hansen 4 1-2 5, Lee 0 0-0 0, Venneberg 2 0-0 2, Dunlap 2 0-2 2, Staton 0 2-6 2. Totals 26 12-20 38.

3-point Goals-JDHS 6 (Ibesate 2, Bavard 2, Brinson 1, Grussendorf 1). Sitka 2 (McCarty, Espeleta 1).

Fouled out-None.

FRIDAY'S GAME

Juneau-Douglas 72, Sitka 47

JDHS 14 18 16 24 - 72

Sitka 12 10 12 13 - 47

JDHS (72)-Brinson 11 3-3 14, Mahar 7 0-0 7, Saviers 3 0-0 3, Grussendorf 8 2-5 10, Craig 6 6-6 12, Ibesate 0 0-0 0, Larson 8 1-2 9, Gross 8 2-3 10, Bavard 0 0-0 0, Gozelski 2 1-2 3, Levale 2 2-4 4. Totals 55 17-25 72.

Sitka (47)-McCarty 2 0-0 2, Peters 7 2-3 9, Dunlap 2 1-3 3, Diaz 0 0-2 0, Espeleta 4 0-0 4, Hansen 10 5-5 15, Lee 2 2-3 4, Venneburg 2 0-0 2, Reynolds 6 1-1 7, Staton 0 1-2 1, Carlos 0 0-0 0. Totals 35 12-19 47.

3-point Goals-JDHS 5 (Larson 2, Brinson 1, Mahar 1, Saviers 1). Sitka 3 (Hansen 2, Peters 1).

• Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or sports@juneauempire.com.



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