KETCHIKAN -- At times this year, the Juneau-Douglas girls basketball team has looked like a top contender to win the Class 4A state championship. Other times, the Crimson Bears seemed to be in the doldrums.
In the semifinal of the Region V-Class 4A tournament Thursday, the Crimson Bears looked like they're ready to play for a return trip to the state tournament as they used a 16-point first-quarter run to cruise to a 54-29 victory over the Sitka Wolves.
``I thought we all came out ready to play,'' senior forward Liz Haas said about Juneau grabbing a 20-4 lead to open the game. ``I think we tried to play hard the whole time.''
``We didn't want to come out flat. We needed to get that spark,'' Juneau senior guard Krystle Llanto added.
Not only did Thursday's victory avenge a loss one week earlier in Sitka, but it also puts Juneau into tonight's 7:15 p.m. winner-take-all championship game against the top-seeded and host Ketchikan Kings. The winner of tonight's game is the only Region V-Class 4A girls team that gets to participate in the state tournament at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena.
``We were ready to play, and I think the girls understand what we need to do and what's at stake here,'' Juneau coach Jim Hamey said. ``We've just got to put it together, we've got to put together two good games back to back.''
After grabbing a 4-2 lead, the Crimson Bears went on a 16-0 run as everything seemed to go right for Juneau while Sitka couldn't get a shot to fall. The Crimson Bears pounded the ball inside to Anya Carlson-Van Dort, who scored eight of her nine points in the first quarter. Then, when Sitka's defense collapsed on the middle, Juneau started launching 3-pointers.
``We were pretty confident,'' Carlson-Van Dort said. ``The bigger the lead the harder we played. That was our main focus. We knew we could play with this intensity and it was nice to reinforce that knowledge.''
Juneau senior point guard Tanya Nizich missed her first four shots as she adjusted to a new knee brace, but once she found her range Nizich made four straight 3-pointers to score a game-high 12 points. Nizich, who is Juneau's leading scorer and playmaker this season, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee three weeks ago and sat out last weekend's two-game series in Sitka, which included a 37-35 loss to the Wolves in the regular-season finale.
Nizich said her leg was stiff and her mobility was hampered by the brace, but she was happy just to be able to play. Nizich plans to have surgery next month.
``It felt OK. It was pretty good,'' Nizich said. ``But it was starting to rub my other knee when I ran. It's just doing it to remind me it's there.''
Besides the 12 points from Nizich and the nine from Carlson-Van Dort, Juneau also picked up nine from Llanto and eight from Erin Mesdag as 10 of the 12 Juneau players who entered the game scored. Nizich dished out three assists; Carlson-Van Dort grabbed seven rebounds; the trio of Nizich, Haas and Llanto each made three steals; and Hilary Rehfeld blocked two shots.
``It was awesome,'' CarlsonVan Dort said. ``Everyone needs to contribute for us to win.''
``That was probably the best game Krystle's had in a Crimson Bear uniform,'' Hamey said. ``She knew her role and she played within it. It was really important (for everyone to contribute). I think we're playing more like we're capable of doing. Tomorrow night, that's the key.''
Christine Grun scored 10 points to lead Sitka, with Tricia Young the next leading scorer with six. Grun said she was disappointed in the loss, which dropped Sitka to third place in the tournament and means the Wolves must play the Region V-Class 3A runner-up in Saturday's Class 3A-4A crossover games. But Grun said Sitka is looking strong for next year when all but two players are back in action for the Wolves.
``They (the Crimson Bears) put a lot of pressure on the ball, and we had too many turnovers,'' Grun said. ``I think we'll be really strong next year.''
CRIMSON BEARS 56 WOLVES 29
Thursday's Class 4A semifinal girls game
Krystle Llanto 4 1-2 9, Michael Kohan 1 2-2 4, Courtney Mason 1 0-0 3, Tanya Nizich 4 0-0 12, Anna Capacci 0 0-0 0, Kacie Murphy 0 0-0 0, Anya Carlson-Van Dort 3 3-6 9, Liz Haas 1 1-2 3, Suzanne Parr 0 0-0 0, Hilary Rehfeld 1 1-6 3, Yvonne Harris 1 1-2 3, Kari Parr 1 0-1 2, Erin Mesdag 3 0-0 8, Katie Staton 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 9-21 56.
Kerri Curtiss 2 1-4 5, Christine Grun 5 0-0 10, Tricia Young 2 2-2 6, Breanne Erickson 1 3-4 5, Jennie Phillips 0 0-0 0, Randi Hames 0 0-0 0, Chloe Delong 0 0-0 0, Heather Hawk 0 0-0 0, Mindy Jacoby 0 0-0 0, Sidney Wyman 1 0-0 3, Chelsea Young 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 6-10 29.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS20 10 15 11 - 56
SITKA 4 13 3 9 29
3-point goals - Juneau-Douglas 7 (Nizich 4, Mesdag 2, Mason 1), Sitka 1 (Wyman 1). Fouled out - JuneauDouglas 0, Sika 2 (Curtiss, Erickson). Technical fouls - None. Total ouls -- Juneau-Douglas 13, Sitka 18.
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