The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team had never needed a win more badly than Saturday night's 53-42 victory over the Ketchikan Kings.
The Crimson Bears, ranked ninth in the state poll, were mired in the midst of a five-game losing streak after Friday's emotional 60-54 overtime loss to the No. 4 Kings. Not only did the Crimson Bears lose in overtime, which let Ketchikan clinch the regular-season Region V-Class 4A title, but Juneau senior guard Tanya Nizich went down with a hyperextended right knee after scoring 10 points in the first quarter and junior guard Courtney Mason suffered a painful right ankle twist after scoring seven points in the fourth quarter.
So it was a struggling Crimson Bears team that took the court Saturday for the final home game for Juneau's six seniors. But there was hope when both Nizich and Mason were able to return from their injuries, and the two injured players hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter to key an 11-0 run that gave Juneau control of the game and a much-needed split of the two-game series.
``It's about time,'' Mason said of the victory, which was Juneau's first in more than a month and also ended a 14-game winning streak for Ketchikan (18-2 overall, 7-1 Region V-Class 4A). ``It always brings us up when we hit a couple of threes. We played a lot better tonight. We really needed it after last night. To get that close and lose ...''
In Saturday's game, Juneau (12-8 overall, 3-3 region) held a 9-6 lead midway through the first quarter only to go nearly six minutes without scoring as the Kings went on an 11-1 run to take a 17-12 lead. Senior forward Liz Haas finally ended Juneau's scoring drought, then Mason hit a 3-pointer, Nizich followed with three treys and senior guard Krystle Llanto added a layup to put Juneau up 26-19.
``It hurts,'' Nizich said of her knee, which was protected by a bulky knee brace Saturday after allowing her just one minute of action after the first quarter of Friday's game. ``That was a fun game. We weren't going to let it slip away like last night. We (Nizich and Mason) talked about it earlier, about how we both got injured and needed to play through the pain.''
``That was definitely big of them to be able to come back,'' Haas said. ``I think we played more as a team. We had a good game last night, but we made a couple of stupid mistakes and a lot of bad fouls. Tanya hit a couple of threes to get us going.''
Juneau held onto that momentum for a 30-23 halftime lead, then carried it into the third quarter which Nizich opened with another 3-pointer. The Crimson Bears outscored Ketchikan 15-6 in the third quarter, and built such a lead with three minutes left in the fourth quarter coach Jim Hamey felt comfortable enough to start pulling each senior out of the game one-by-one so they could each receive a warm round of applause from the crowd.
``Tonight we had some very nice passing,'' said Hamey, who was presented with a new executive-style rolling chair by the seniors before the game. ``We really worked on not shooting so quickly. I don't know how Tanya did that. She played on one foot. She said the brace was very restrictive, that it made her limp, but I think she just wanted to play. And Courtney had an excellent weekend.''
While Nizich and Mason were both hitting from the perimeter, Juneau also established a strong post presence as Anya CarlsonVan Dort scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Carlson-Van Dort scored eight of Juneau's nine points in the first quarter. Nizich added 12 points, while Mason and senior forward Erin Mesdag added six points apiece.
``Anya had a big game, the same way she did when we played (No. 2) East (Anchorage, whose coach Dorena Bingham was in the crowd Saturday night),'' Hamey said. ``She stepped up in the big games, and if we're going to be successful she's going to have to step up and get it done. She's an impact player for us.''
Amanda Kolanko scored 14 points to lead Ketchikan, while Cassie White added 11 and Mary Scudero scored 10. White said the loss might help Ketchikan regain its focus for the Region V-Class 4A tournament in two weeks, which will be in Ketchikan.
``This makes us realize we're not invincible,'' White said of Ketchikan's first loss since the Lady Kings Invitational, when a traveling team from Australia beat Ketchikan in late December.
On Friday, Juneau seemed to take control of the game early as the Crimson Bears took a 15-3 lead midway through the first quarter. That was a drastic change from Ketchikan's two victories two weekends ago (65-45 and 63-45) when the Kings took 24-4 and 14-4 leads in the first quarter.
But Juneau was being called for a lot of fouls, 11 in the first quarter alone, and Ketchikan was able to use free throws to close the margin to 20-11 when Nizich hurt her knee trying to drive for the final shot of the quarter. Ketchikan didn't even make a field goal until White scored with 6:37 left in the second quarter, but Juneau's fouls were starting to add up as the Kings closed the margin to 29-25 at halftime. Three of Juneau's seniors - Carlson-Van Dort, Haas and Mesdag - eventually fouled out of the game.
Juneau led 35-29 midway through the third quarter, but Ketchikan scored the next eight points for a 37-35 lead entering the final period. Mason, who hadn't scored yet, started to take over by scoring seven points and blocking two shots in the fourth quarter as Juneau took a 47-42 lead. Juneau led 47-44 with 1:07 left when Mason crashed to the floor, screaming in pain as she grabbed her ankle. Suzanne Parr made one of Mason's two free throws to make it 48-44, but Ketchikan was able to send the game into overtime when Scudero and White both scored off rebounds.
Juneau took a 53-49 lead in the overtime, but Scudero (who battled an ankle problem both nights) tied the game with two buckets. Ketchikan closed out the game by making seven of its final eight free throws. Ketchikan made 31 of 46 free throws for the game, while Juneau only made 10 of 18.
White scored 19 points to lead Ketchikan, including a 13-for-14 performance from the free-throw line. Scudero added 15 points and Kelly Nausid scored 11 for the Kings. Yvonne Harris, another of Juneau's seniors, scored 14 points and made four steals to lead the Crimson Bears, while Nizich added 10 points and Mason had seven. Hilary Rehfeld came off the bench to grab eight rebounds.
``An overtime loss is always disappointing, but I kept smiling every time I talked to one of the girls last night,'' Hamey said. ``I'm so happy with how hard they played. We had a lot of fouls and we had some injuries., but we played hard.''
Juneau travels to Sitka to close out its regular season with a pair of games this Friday and Saturday. Ketchikan is done until it hosts the region tournament in two weeks.
CRIMSON BEARS 53
Saturday's game from Juneau-Douglas High School
Fe Villanueva 1 0-0 2, Cassie White 5 1-4 11, Danette Kahle 0 0-0 0, Amanda Kolanko 7 0-0 14, Kelly Nausid 1 1-2 3, Jonnae Ostrom 0 0-0 0, Johanna Johnson 1 0-0 2, Sarah Keene 0 0-0 0, Mary Scudero 3 4-4 10, Holly Thompson 0 0-0 0, Deanna Hallman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 6-10 42.
Krystle Llanto 1 0-2 2, Michael Kohan 2 0-0 4, Courtney Mason 2 1-2 6, Tanya Nizich 4 0-0 12, Anna Capacci 0 0-0 0, Kacie Murphy 0 0-0 0, Anya Carlson-Van Dort 7 2-6 16, Liz Haas 2 0-0 4, Suzanne Parr 0 0-0 0, Hilary Rehfeld 0 0-0 0, Yvonne Harris 1 1-1 3, Kari Parr 0 0-0 0, Erin Mesdag 2 2-4 6, Katie Staton 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 6-15 53.
KETCHIKAN11 12 6 13 - 42
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 9 21 15 8 - 53
3-point goals - Ketchikan 0, Juneau-Douglas 5 (Nizich 4, Mason 1). Fouled out - None. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Ketchikan 16, Juneau-Douglas 16.
CRIMSON BEARS 54, OT
Friday's game from Juneau-Douglas High School
Fe Villanueva 0 2-2 2, Cassie White 3 13-14 19, Danette Kahle 0 3-8 3, Amanda Kolanko 1 3-4 6, Kelly Nausid 3 5-6 11, Jonnae Ostrom 0 0-0 0, Johanna Johnson 1 2-4 4, Sarah Keene 0 0-0 0, Mary Scudero 6 3-8 15, Holly Thompson 0 0-0 0, Deanna Hallman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 31-46 60.
Krystle Llanto 0 0-0 0, Michael Kohan 0 0-0 0, Courtney Mason 3 0-0 7, Tanya Nizich 4 0-0 10, Anna Capacci 0 0-0 0, Kacie Murphy 0 0-0 0, Anya Carlson-Van Dort 2 0-0 4, Liz Haas 2 0-0 5, Suzanne Parr 2 2-4 6, Hilary Rehfeld 1 0-2 2, Yvonne Harris 3 8-10 14, Kari Parr 0 0-0 0, Erin Mesdag 2 2-2 6, Katie Staton 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 10-18 54.
KETCHIKAN11 14 12 11 12 - 60
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS20 9 6 13 6 - 54
3-point goals - Ketchikan 1 (Kolanko 1), JuneauDouglas 4 (Nizich 2, Haas 1, Mason 1). Fouled out - Ketchikan 1 (Villanueva), Juneau-Douglas 3 (CarlsonVan Dort, Haas, Mesdag). Technical fouls - Ketchikan 1 (K. Nausid), Juneau-Douglas 0. Total fouls - Ketchikan 20, Juneau-Douglas 30.