The Crimson Bears and Kings can agree on one thing about tonight's opening game of their best-of-three 4A Southeast Conference Championship Series - nobody wants to start with a loss.
"There's a mental edge that comes with that first game," Juneau head coach Steve Potter said. "All the pressure goes to the team that loses."
The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team appeared more than ready to jump ahead in the series after a two-game Senior Night sweep of Ketchikan that ended just three days ago. JDHS walloped their visitors 75-49 on Friday behind a season-high 11 three-pointers and ran to a 81-76 win on Saturday that wasn't as close as the score suggests.
"They were vastly different from the team we played (in January), that's for sure," Ketchikan coach Eric Stockhaussen said.
The Crimson Bears (17-4 overall, 2-2 SEC) readily admit, though, that neither team was about to pull out all of their tricks in that series. Most noticeably, the Kings (10-12 overall, 2-2 SEC) only showed glimpses of the attacking full-court press that forced Juneau-Douglas into 46 turnovers in a pair of January losses at KayHi. Without the press, JDHS was able to alternately run in transition and punish the smaller Ketchikan players inside at home, but Potter expects an entirely different opponent on the road tonight.
"We're never going to be faster or quicker than they are," Potter said. "If we do what we're supposed to do that stuff won't matter. If we don't get something in transition we always want to go inside. Even if we get a three in our halfcourt stuff, it's fine as long as the ball goes inside first."
Senior post Eric Gross will be the big target in the middle for the majority of those dump-down passes. The 6-foot-3 post put up 19- and 15-point performances, respectively, in last weekend's games and was the Bears' second-leading scorer during the January series.
Junior wing Cody Grussendorf was JDHS' leading scorer in those earlier games, including a 14-point, three long ball performance on the second night that nearly helped his team pull out the road win.
The Bears were treated to their usual royal treatment in those road rivalry games that included a student section full of hunters orange, an array of camouflage and stuffed bears hanging from fishing poles. Potter refused to make the crowd an excuse after those games, and claims they will only have a positive effect on his team this week.
"Nah, we don't need to block out the crowd. I think we like the noise. I think it helps us play better," Potter said. "You've just gotta hear the boos and think they're cheers."
Neither team will pick up the advantage after the quick turnaround from Saturday night's game to tonight's tip-off, according to Potter. Both teams have little practice time, less rest and no choice but to play all-out for the next three days, the coach said.
"The better team usually comes out on top in a series like this," Stockhaussen said. "If it's one-and-done you can have a bad day and go home. I like this better."
Tonight's and Thursday's boys games tip off at 8 p.m. and Friday's, if necessary, tips off at 4:45 p.m. Streaming radio coverage from Ketchikan will be available online at kfmj.com. Periodical updates also will be posted on the AlaskaPreps.com boys basketball message board.