Southeast Showdown

Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain basketball teams to play at region tourney

Posted: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Though the faces and teams are all the same, the reward for winning is much different.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

In this case, a trip to the state tournament is on the line.

Juneau-Douglas (12-9, 4-4) and Thunder Mountain (7-14, 1-7) boys' basketball teams will be squaring off for the fifth time this season as they are set to battle in the Southeast Conferencetournament.

"Part of me says the approach (to the game) is the same," said Thunder Mountain coach John Blasco. "We've lost four games to them, the last three being 7-10 points (difference). To me that means we're in the game."

He said from watching the film from Saturday's game he noticed things he liked and things the team needs to improve upon.

"We only have one day to do that, so it's not like we can magically change our whole game plan," Blasco said. "We've got to trust what we've done all year and believe it's going to work.

"It's going to be a neutral court - both of us in this new gym that's a different environment - and the pressure is on both of us."

Juneau-Douglas coach Steve Potter said he hopes to see a difference in tonght's game from what he saw from his team over the past weekend.

"I hope that we execute a little better to start the game and play the game at our tempo instead of playing the game at (Thunder Mountain's) tempo," he said. "I thought we spent a lot of the weekend playing their pace, and if we're going to be successful we need to be able to dictate tempo a little bit."

Potter also said at this point, with the teams being so close, his team can't afford to worry about what the other team is trying to do on the court. Instead, they must play their game.

"We certainly know that they have some talented players and we have a pretty good idea what they're capable of," he said. "I think if we do what we're capable of doing and we control the tempo, then I think we'll be successful."

As the low seed in the upcoming tournament, Blasco said he hopes the time his team spent on the road this year will be beneficial at a neutral site.

"We've been on three trips up north, we've played in two tournaments and I can only hope that has prepared us for this," he said. "We're comfortable with the town and I can only hope that being on the road so much this year will help us.

"It's anybody's ball game when it comes to the Southeast tournament."

Blasco said it has been difficult to identify exactly what it is that has kept the Falcons from getting over the hump and beating the Bears.

"Free throws have been our achilles heel all year, but in terms of us not getting over the hump, it's hard to pin-point it because every game is a little different," he said. "Sometimes it's first-half stuff or second-half stuff - it's defense, offense, poor shooting nights - but a lot of it comes down to they are very good with their pressure and they convert on turnovers very well."

While the ultimate goal is to make it to the state tournament in Anchorage, both teams have to first get through their opening game for a chance to play Ketchikan who has the first-round bye. Tip-off is tonight at 8:15 in Sitka at Mt. Edgecumbe High School.

Thunder Mountain girls set to take on Ketchikan

It's been a long season for the Falcons girls' basketball team, one that has truly tested their mettle. But this group has worked hard and is excited for their final test of the season when they face Ketchikan tonight in the Southeast Conference tournament.

"We've played them four times now so it's not a big secret what they (Ketchikan) do," said Thunder Mountain girls' basketball coach Tanya Nizich. "It's just a matter of executing what we've learned."

Nizich also said while this season has been frustrating at times, every game brings its ownexcitement.

"It's always exciting to see them (Thunder Mountain) play just to see what else they're going to pick up on along the way," she said. "Overall, they get a taste of what it's going to be like down the road."

Nizich said her young team is already asking about basketball camps and tournaments over the summer - anything to help them improve.

"From year to year it's up to us how hard we're going to work over the summer and preseasons and years to come to develop a good program here," she said.

Thunder Mountain takes on Ketchikan tonight at 6:30 in Sitka at Mt. Edgecumb High School.

Juneau-Douglas girls are No. 1 in most recent WPI rankings, Ketchikan No. 2.

The season's final WPI rankings came out Monday and the Juneau-Douglas girls' basketball team earned the top spot in the state with Ketchikan closely behind in the second position.

According to the Alaska Schools Activities Association, the WPI stands for Winning Percentage Index. It is a measure of strength of schedule and how a team does against that schedule. It does not consider things like margin of victory or where a game is played---only whether or not a team won. It is similar to the calculation of the RPI (ratings percentage index )which is used by the NCAA as one of the factors in deciding which teams to invite to the NCAA tournament and where to seed them.

At the state tournament, teams will be seeded by their WPI ranking.

Coach Lesslie Knight, while thrilled with her team's success, said it's not always a great thing to be in the first spot.

"I'm very happy with the girls - they've done a great job," she said. "However, whenever you're sitting in that No. 1 spot, everybody's gunning for you.

"It's great to be there but I'd be all right if we weren't there."

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