Riding a three-game winning streak, the Juneau-Douglas girls basketball team will travel to the hostile confines of Ketchikan High School for its regular-season finales, tonight at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 6:15 p.m.
Both teams have a lot riding on this weekend's games, with the regular-season title and a first-round bye at the Region V-Class 4A tournament on the line.
The Crimson Bears (14-5 overall, 5-1 region) can guarantee a first-round bye with two victories and the Kings (13-3 overall, 5-1 region) can do the same.
"Getting the first-round bye isn't that big of a deal to us," Juneau girls head coach Jim Hamey said. "Our goal is to make it to state. Whatever happens, it's going to be fine."
A series split could also give the Bears a first-round bye if they outscore Ketchikan by at least two points in both games combined.
The first tiebreaker goes to the team with the better record against the other region opponent, Sitka. Ketchikan and Juneau both swept the Wolves this season, so the second tiebreaker goes to point differential in games played against each other (up to a 10-point-max differential from any game).
Right now the Kings hold a one-point advantage over the Crimson Bears in head-to-head games this year. Juneau split with Ketchikan in Juneau on Feb. 16-17, losing the first game 60-51 but winning the second 51-43.
If both teams are still tied after head-to-head point differential, it comes down to point differential against games played against Sitka. Juneau outscored Sitka by at least 10 points in each game this season while Ketchikan had eight- and three-point wins to give the edge to the Bears.
"These are two important games for both teams." Ketchikan head coach Doug Nausid said. "The bye is not a big determining factor in who's going to win the tournament, but I would prefer not to play a warm-up game. You can never predict what will happen."
Coach Hamey has somewhat the same outlook.
"It's hard to say. If we come out flat, everyone will say we could have used the warm-up game, and if come out strong, they will say we didn't need the game," Hamey said.
The Bears will benefit from the return of Michael Kohan and Suzanne Parr, who sat out last week's games against Sitka with injuries. Kohan injured her stomach in a sledding accident and Suzanne Parr had an injury to her knee cap.
"I expect both to play," Hamey said. "I don't expect them to be 100 percent but they will definitely see playing time."
Juneau will need everyone healthy to combat the fourth-ranked Kings, who are led by a trio of talented, experienced players.
Senior sharp-shooting guard Kelly Nausid tagged the Bears for five 3-pointers and 27 points in their first meetings, while senior forward Cassie White scored 31 points in the two games. Junior forward Jonnae Ostrom can also light up the scoreboard for the Kings.
"We spent a lot of time practicing plays they were successful with," Hamey said. "We worked on stopping the back screens and blocking out and getting up close on their guards. We know who can shoot."
One thing that is almost certain is the games will be physical. In Ketchikan's 60-51 win on Feb. 16, both teams combined for a whopping 45 fouls and 60 trips to the free-throw line.
"They play very physical and we've got to step up and fight through it," Hamey said. "We've got to overcome that stuff and play a sportsman like game. The way you fight through that stuff says a lot about yourself."
"I know it's going to be physical," Nausid said. "But I hope it doesn't end up being a free-throw shooting contest. Nobody wants that -- players or spectators."
"I expect the girls to do well. I don't see either team falling apart," Hamey said. "I think the games should be pretty close. I know the girls are focused and well rested. It should be a real good series."
Both weekend games will be broadcast on KJNO-AM 630.