SITKA -- One down, one to go.
The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team moved one step closer to a berth in the Class 4A state tournament following a 50-33 victory over the Sitka Wolves on Thursday in the opening round of the Region V-Class 4A tournament at Mount Edgecumbe High School's B.J. McGillis Gym.
The Crimson Bears now have to play the Ketchikan Kings in today's 7:15 p.m. Region V-4A championship game, with the winner earning the trip to Anchorage for the state tournament March 22-24 at Sullivan Arena. Juneau and Ketchikan split their regular-season series 2-2, but the Kings earned a first-round bye because of a point-differential tie-breaker.
"I think we can take them," said Juneau senior guard Courtney Mason, who led the team with 13 points and three steals Thursday.
"I like this floor and I like our situation," added Juneau senior forward Michael Kohan, who had seven points.
Juneau (16-6 overall) might have been tempted to look past Sitka (8-13) entering the region tournament, since the Wolves were winless in region play. But Mason said the Crimson Bears knew they had to win Thursday if they were going to have any chance to play for a state berth today.
"They've lost all year, but that meant they had nothing to lose," Mason said.
"We were focussed on this game," Juneau coach Jim Hamey said. "We had a long talk about it last night."
Juneau and Sitka were scoreless through the first three minutes of the game, when Kacie Murphy came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer to get the team going. Sitka came back to tie the score at 8-8, but then the Crimson Bears began to pull away. Juneau led 16-10 at the end of the first quarter, and it was 31-17 by halftime. Juneau led by 19 points, 43-24, at the end of the third quarter. The closest Sitka would get in the fourth quarter was 13 points, 45-32, before Juneau finished the game with a 5-1 run.
"It was good defense by both teams," Mason said of the early scoring drought.
Hilary Rehfeld added nine points for Juneau, plus she held Sitka center Breanne Erickson to just six points. Murphy scored eight points off the bench, plus she led the team with eight rebounds and three assists. Danielle Larson grabbed six rebounds for Juneau.
"She's tough, and she blocked some of my shots," Rehfeld said of Erickson. "None of my shots were falling."
"I did OK," said Murphy, who has gained confidence and playing time as she's improved over the season. "I didn't realize I had any assists, and on the rebounding I was just in the right spot."
Erickson said Sitka thought it had a chance against Juneau. Even though the Wolves were 0-8 in region action, they were 8-4 outside the region.
"We were killing ourselves with turnovers," Erickson said. "I thought we could play with these teams."
"I think both teams were a little nervous at the start," Sitka coach Rich Krupa said. "We had a tough shooting night and we didn't recognize when they sagged down on Breanne a couple of times. It's a learning experience every day. We're in a tough spot. We're down to 392 students and we don't want to drop down to (Class) 3A, and Juneau's got 600 in its freshman class. But we do what we can."
Sidney Wyman scored 15 points to lead Sitka, while Jennie Phillips added seven for the Wolves.
With Sitka vanguished, Juneau now can turn its sights on Ketchikan (14-4). The Kings beat Juneau in overtime to win last year's region title, and the Crimson Bears are especially driven to regain the championship crown. The Crimson Bears split a two-game series in Ketchikan last weekend, with the Kings winning the opener 46-22 and Juneau rallying in the fourth quarter to win Saturday night's game 37-34.
"I think we can take them," Mason said. "We have to make our outside shots to get them to pull their defense out. It helped us to get our offense going. We shot better from the field in this game, and that brings the team up and gives us more confidence."
"It'll be a tough game," Rehfeld said. "Beating them Saturday was a good boost for our confidence. They play a pretty tight zone."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CRIMSON BEARS 50, WOLVES 33
Thursday's girls boxscore from Mount Edgecumbe High School
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (50) -- Kari Parr 0 1-2 1, Suzanne Parr 0 0-2 0, Michael Kohan 2 3-5 7, Courtney Mason 4 3-5 13, Kendri Cesar 1 2-2 4, Anna Capacci 1 0-0 2, Amy Neussl 2 0-2 4, Kacie Murphy 2 2-2 8, Hilary Rehfeld 3 3-6 9, Danielle Larson 0 2-4 2, Jessica Hahnlen 0 0-0 0, Alida Bus 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 16-30 50.
SITKA (33) -- Sasha Forsyth 0 0-0 0, Chloe Delong 2 0-3 4, Kim Uddipa 0 1-2 1, Mindy Jacoby 0 0-0 0, Chelsea Young 0 0-0 0, Randi Hames 0 0-0 0, Alaina Brown 0 0-0 0, Jennie Phillips 3 1-3 7, Breanne Erickson 1 4-7 6, Heather Hawk 0 0-0 0, Sidney Wyman 3 7-8 15, Kandi McGilton 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9 13-23 33.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 16 15 12 7 -- 50
SITKA 10 7 7 9 -- 33
3-point goals -- Juneau-Douglas 4 (Murphy 2, Mason 2), Sitka 2 (Wyman 2). Fouled out -- Juneau-Douglas 1 (Kohan), Sitka 0. Technical fouls -- None. Total fouls -- Juneau-Douglas 22, Sitka 25.