Physical Bears earn trip to state

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2008

For four quarters Friday, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball bumped bodies, dove for balls, collided with Kings and took shots under pressure.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

If all that contact wasn't enough, sometimes the Crimson Bears slapped themselves for good measure.

The Crimson Bears sealed a third-straight trip to the state tournament following a 79-59 victory over Ketchikan in the Class 4A Southeast Conference Tournament title game.

"We knew Ketchikan was going to be tough," JDHS senior Faifo Levale said Friday. "We knew what we had to do. We knew what they're going to do."

The Bears and Kings tangled four times before, with each team winning twice.

Juneau-Douglas used that familiarity to its advantage Saturday. The Bears double- and triple-teamed Ketchikan's 6-foot-9 center Damen Bell-Holter at every opportunity, but didn't shy away from their other duties.

The result proved exhausting but exhilarating for JDHS. Bears coach Steve Potter substituted players nearly every other minute of the game, trying his best to keep his team fresh against a powerful opponent.

Bell-Holter managed to score a game-high 28 points, but worked exceedingly hard in the process.

"Damen is a hell of player," Levale said Friday. "From our perspective, he is the best player in the state."

Levale, Eric Gross, Geoff Craig and Ryan "Bubba" Larson all took turns defending Ketchikan's big man. While that was important, what proved equally critical was defending the Kings' other capable players.

Juneau did a solid job of not allowing Ketchikan point guard Paul Manabat to cut through the defense and free up his teammates. The Bears also were able to defend Simeon Schum and Corey White, two players who were key in the Kings' two wins over JDHS.

JDHS limited White to five points and Schum to three.

"What killed us in the last game we played them (a 72-64 loss on Feb. 23) was our rotation off the double team (of Bell-Holter) was a little late," Gross said Friday. "This time the rotation was on time and we were able to cover up on the other guys."

Juneau-Douglas led 36-30 after a physical, back-and-forth first half.

Juneau came out with energy after the break, almost a little too much energy.

To remind Levale to keep his cool after committing a foul, Potter called for his forward and then slapped himself in the face with both hands as a reminder to stay focused.

Levale responded by slapping himself as well, acknowledging the advice.

"I tend to lose my mind a lot," Levale said Friday. "I just slap myself to get back into it."

Focus wasn't a problem for JDHS in the second half as its offense slipped into a groove.

JDHS outscored Kayhi 19-9 in the third quarter as Larson and Shawn Ibesate hit 3-pointers.

As Ketchikan fouled repeatedly in the fourth quarter to stop the clock, Juneau-Douglas showed poise by knocking down the ensuing free throws.

JDHS made 12 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter, including its last eight attempts.

Juneau also received terrific guard play as Ibesate attacked in a variety of ways. The senior scored 17 points as he scored by driving the lane, making two 3-pointers and hitting 9 of 11 free throws. Brinson added 10 points.

Gross also enjoyed a standout game. Despite banging constantly with the rugged Bell-Holter, Gross scored a game-high 19 points.

"Today we played together," Potter said Friday. "We passed the ball and shared the ball."

For Kayhi, Gunnar Farstad scored 13 points while playing tough defense. Jase Scudero had eight points in the loss.

Juneau showed off its balance with five players scoring in double figures. Larson had 12 points while Brinson and Craig tallied 10 points each.

Juneau-Douglas 79, Ketchikan 59

JDHS 20 16 19 24 - 79

Kayhi 14 16 9 20 - 59

JDHS (79)-Brinson 5 5-6 10, Mahar 2 1-3 3, Saviers 0 0-0 0, Grussendorf 2 1-2 3, Craig 8 2-4 10, Ibesate 8 9-11 17, Larson 8 4-6 12, Gross 16 3-6 19, Bavard 0 1-2 1, Gozelski 0 0-0 0, Fenumiai 0 0-0 0, Levale 4 0-0 4. Totals 53 26-40 79.

Kayhi (59)-Farstad 8 5-8 13, K. Manabat 0 0-0 0, Pihl 0 0-1 0, P. Manabat 0 2-2 2, Scudero 8 0-0 8, White 3 2-3 5, Bell 0 0-2 0, Craig 0 0-0 0, Bell-Holter 19 9-13 28, Schum 2 1-2 3, Lindgren 0 0-0 0, Headley 0 0-0 0. Totals 40 19-31 59.

3-point shots-JDHS 5 (Ibesate 2, Larson 2, Brinson 1). Ketchikan 6 (Farstad 2, Scudero 2, Bell-Holter 1, White 1).

Fouled out-JDHS none. Ketchikan 3 (Pihl, Scudero, P. Manabat).

• Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or

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