The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team already was facing a tough task as it prepared for this weekend's two regular-season-ending Region V-Class 4A games in Ketchikan.
That task got tougher Thursday afternoon when two of the Crimson Bears' four seniors - shooting guard Alex Heumann and forward David Jones - were kicked off the team for violating team rules.
Juneau head coach George Houston didn't say what the rules violation was, but he said the decision to release the players was made by the coaches and the school administration.
"I've had better weeks," Houston said as the team practiced Thursday afternoon, just minutes after the team was told of the situation. "It just came down. I told them we've got 24 hours to get ready to play Ketchikan. At this point, these guys have got to move on."
The Crimson Bears take on the Kings at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday at the Clarke Cochrane Gym, with games broadcast locally on KINY radio, 800-AM. The junior varsity and C teams also will play this weekend.
Ketchikan played the Crimson Bears (12-8 overall, 6-0 region) tough twice before losing both games in Juneau two weeks ago. If the message boards from the AlaskaPreps.com Web site are to be believed, the Kings (11-11 overall, 2-4 region) left those games feeling they'd been homered by the officials and that they could beat Juneau on a neutral court.
Now the Crimson Bears head into the rematch without their top scorer (Heumann) and top defender (Jones). Heumann and Jones also ranked 1-2 on the team in 3-point shooting percentage and free-throw shooting percentage. Houston said he'll probably start juniors Kyle Huntsman and Tommy Derbesy in their place.
"There's a little shock and sadness, but I think we'll be able to work through it," Derbesy said. "There are some new roles, so we'll have to come up. I definitely think we can do it (beat Ketchikan) if we play as a team. We can't take these games lightly. We couldn't take them lightly before, and we definitely can't take them lightly now."
"I'm a little bit nervous, it'll definitely be a challenge," Huntsman said. "I think if everyone steps up, we can do it as a team. We don't have anybody who can put up 30 points in a game now, so we'll have to do it as a team."
When Juneau played Ketchikan two weeks ago, the Kings dominated the boards in the first game and it was Juneau's free-throw shooting and a late technical on Ketchikan's Nate Norton that gave the Crimson Bears the 57-52 victory. In the second game, Juneau did better on its rebounding and its defense shut down Ketchikan forwards Norton and Tyler Richardson, but Ketchikan guard Jesse LeBeau kept the game close before the Crimson Bears claimed a 71-64 win.
Since then, Juneau swept a pair of region games against Sitka, winning 67-33 and 67-53 last weekend to clinch the top seed and first-round bye in the region tournament March 10-13 at Sitka's Mount Edgecumbe High School.
The Kings played Region V-Class 3A power Metlakatla in a home-and-home non-conference series, and lost both games. Metlakatla scored the game's first 22 points and cruised to a 78-55 victory in Friday's game at Ketchikan. On Saturday in Metlakatla, the Chiefs needed overtime to claim a 63-59 decision.
"When Ketchikan puts their minds to it, they play well. Metlakatla's a tough team," Houston said. "We're going down there already guaranteed of winning the league. But our goal is always going undefeated (in league play)."
As for the Crimson Bears, they will rally around the post combo of senior captain Adam Nelson and sophomore Josh Monagle, who leads the team in points scored (Heumann, who missed a game due to illness, led in scoring average). Nelson is third in points scored, behind Heumann. Earlier this season Nelson missed four games to an Achilles' tendon injury and Heumann missed a game, so the Juneau players think they know how to fill in the gaps.
"We're going to have to step up more," Monagle said. "We have to come together and if we are together we can do it. I think we can definitely win. Our scoring might be less, but our defense can step it up. It'll be like our East trip (to the East T-Bird Classic in Anchorage), when Adam was out, and it'll be like that Lathrop game when both Adam and Alex were out."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.