The three seniors on this season's Juneau girls basketball team have been playing together for years.
They've shared road trips and memorable wins, suffered heartbreaking losses and endured countless practices. Even their combined first names evoke similarities, thanks to a set of celebrity twins.
But for all their common bonds, the basketball strength of Mary Rehfeld, Kate Potter and Ashley Larson lies in the diversity they bring to their team.
"They really bring ... drastically different skills," Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said. "We rely really heavily on Kate for her defensive matchups, and her ability to guard people in the open court. Mary has always had a huge responsibility for her 3-point shooting (and also) for rebounding. Ashley has an incredible understanding of the game - a knowledge that she shares, especially with the younger players."
Rehfeld, Potter and Larson will play their final regular-season home games tonight and Saturday as the Juneau-Douglas high School girls basketball team hosts the Sitka Wolves at the JDHS main gym.
Games times today are 8 p.m. for varsity, 6:15 p.m. for junior varsity and 4:30 p.m. for C team. On Saturday, the varsity squads play at 8 p.m., and there will be a senior night ceremony about 10 minutes before the game starts. JV teams will meet at 6 p.m., and C teams at 4:15 p.m.
The Crimson Bears (14-6 overall, 6-0 Southeast Conference-Class 4A) will have at least one more home game this year - they'll host the region tournament later this month - but Juneau's senior trio will take center stage this weekend as they near the end of their high school careers.
Basketball is a family tradition for Larson, whose father and older sister are former Crimson Bear basketball players, and whose younger brother plays in the boys program. Larson, who played with the varsity her freshman and sophomore years, returned to the team this season after opting to focus on preparing for softball last year. Larson helped the Juneau softball team win a state title last spring.
"Watching all the games made me really miss it," said Larson, who continued to pick up basketball wisdom during her time away. "I really watched the games when I sat out - I'd watch the screens, and pay attention to the game."
"She means so much" to the team, Rehfeld said of Larson. "She helps so much with defense and boards (and) if I get beat, I can always count on Ashley to be there to help me."
Potter, a three-year varsity player, has picked up her game this season, providing key defensive plays and a strong force inside.
"She's stepped it up and grown incredibly as the season has progressed," Rehfeld said of Potter.
Potter said she hasn't thought about senior night and the end of her high school career very much, since she is focused on getting back to the state tournament. The Crimson Bears finished second at state last season.
"Something that will always be with me is last year, when we came so close to winning" a state title, Potter said. "It showed us we can do anything if we work hard and really want it."
Rehfeld has spent all four years on varsity, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Hilary. She said one of her favorite memories of playing basketball in Juneau is running through the hoop and out onto the court before home games.
"You have such a supportive group of fans," Rehfeld said. "You have the drill team, the cheerleaders, the pep band - it's more of an event than a basketball game. ... It makes you feel very appreciated."
Rehfeld specializes in long-range shooting, and has hit many memorable 3-pointers over the course of her career.
"She's one of our offensive threats and really shoots the ball well," Larson said. "When she's on the floor, she works hard."
Sitka (12-4 overall, 1-3 SE) was forced to regroup several weeks ago after junior center Kim Dodson - a dominating force inside - suffered a season-ending ACL injury in a game at Ketchikan. Senior Cameo Padilla also was lost due to an ACL injury.
"It's a totally unknown weekend," Knight said of facing the Wolves. "We feel that Sitka has built a strong offense around Kim. ... They have several offensive threats."
Topping that list is junior Natalia Potrzuski, who brings a potent outside shot. She had games of 21 and 13 points - and a total of five 3-pointers - last weekend as the Wolves swept a non-conference home series against Class 3A Barrow.
Sophomore K.J. Lorenzo also showed spark from beyond the arc last weekend, hitting four 3-pointers in one game and two in the other to account for all of her scoring. Sitka coach Rich Krupa said senior guard Joy Ribao ran the Sitka offense, and senior Tawny Hoyt made some key baskets.
"The girls stepped up and played a good team game," Krupa said. "Everyone stepped up and contributed."
Juneau beat Ketchikan twice last weekend to clinch the regular-season conference title, but the Crimson Bears are still trying to shake some doldrums that started on their trip to Fairbanks last month.
"There's been such a huge change in the games we played in the first half of the season to the games we're playing now," Rehfeld said. "We're trying to focus on working together, and using the last couple of weeks before regions to do that."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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