ANCHORAGE - The capital city girls are one win away from state glory.
Juneau-Douglas buried West Anchorage 40-20 behind a first-half barrage of jumpers and a constant wave of fresh defenders as the Crimson Bears rolled into today's 4A girls' basketball state title game against Wasilla at Sullivan Arena.
Coach Lesslie Knight tinkered with the starting lineup, inserting senior guard Mahlet Tingley, in order to press West from the jump.
"We mixed up our starting lineup to start off pressing right away, and we were really happy that a variety of people were hitting outside shots," Knight said. "We didn't do well with getting the ball inside, and they had a big presence inside so hitting the outside shots was huge for that lead."
Brittany Fenumiai buried a 3-pointer and a long jumper as JDHS led 5-0 after their first two possessions to set the early tone.
"That's one of my roles on this team is to shoot, so I'll keep shooting till Coach tells me to stop," said Fenumiai, who scored 12 points on 5 of 11 shooting, with 10 points coming in the first half.
Junior power forward Taylor Larson, the Bears' Player of the Game with six points, five rebounds and two steals, then scored three straight to put the Bears ahead 8-0 at the 3-minute mark.
West had trouble against the pressure and didn't score until Adrina Lavern-Tossi drove the lane for a lay-up at the 2-minute mark. An Annette Highley steal led to a jumper for Tingley, and the Bears led 10-4 after one quarter.
JDHS scored four quick points to start the second period after Fenumiai dished a beautiful dump-down pass to a wide-open Highley for an easy deuce off the glass. Junior forward Sarah Tarver stole the inbound pass under the goal and laid it in. Larson then scored an old-fashioned 3-point play on the left block, and the Bears were rolling 17-4.
Tingley drained a long jumper, followed by a triple for Fenumiai for a 24-7 lead. West answered with a bucket inside, but Tingley stuck another long deuce as the Crimson Bears blistered the nets early, leading 26-9 at the midway point of the second quarter.
Karli Brakes got a steal and raced the length of the court for a lay-up, beating two West defenders to the cup for a 28-9 cushion, and the Bears led 28-10 at the break.
The second half was not so pretty.
West scored just 10 points to the Bears' 12 as JDHS was content to kill the clock. But Knight said the Bears got a little too passive, forcing her to call a timeout at the midway point of the third.
"One of the things I said was we needed to be smart in our decision making and our shots. Brittany is obviously a fairly high-percentage shooter, and she didn't shoot in the second half," Knight said. "There were times I thought we passed up lay-up opportunities because they thought we were slowing it up. I'm thankful that they didn't get back into the game.
"Our intention was to slow up our offense a little bit, but we need to still score."
After shooting 12 of 27 for 44 percent in the first half, JDHS shot just 4 of 17 for 23.5 percent in the second.
"We were up so we were in no rush to score, and we didn't want to force anything," Fenumiai said. "They were basically set into a triangle zone in the key, so it was harder for our scorers to get the ball down low, but we worked with it and did what we had to do."
The Eagles barely bettered their 21 percent shooting in the first half with a 28.6 percent performance in the second, totaling 8 of 33 on the night, including 0-for-9 from behind the arc.
West scored the first six points of the third quarter to force a JDHS timeout. Annette Highley finally broke the drought with two free throws at the 3:45 mark to push the lead back to 14, 30-16, and the Bears led 32-18 after three.
No one scored in the fourth quarter until Fenumiai made a backdoor cut for a lay-up after a picture-perfect bounce pass from Tingley at the 4:25 mark for a 34-18 JDHS lead, and the Eagles would get no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
Next up is today's state title game at 7:30 p.m. against the Wasilla Warriors. Alexis Imoe hit the game winner with about five seconds left in overtime after Dimond point guard Keiahnna Engel mistakenly let the time run out in regulation without giving the Lynx a chance at getting a shot off.
The Bears beat Wasilla 50-36 in their only matchup this season.
"It feels great. We've been together through everything and we've played together as a team all throughout the season and especially here in this tournament," Fenumiai said of the title-game berth. "We aren't selfish, and as long as we keep playing as we do, then it's not a problem."
The Bears had 10 assists on 16 field goals for the game, and forced 21 West turnovers.
Game Notes: Tarver took a knee to the quadriceps, causing some swelling, and didn't play in the second half. Knight had a trainer work on it after the game and she's hopeful to play today.
WEST - Nidoy 0-6 1-2 1, Phillips 0-0 0-0 0, Harris-Grant 0-1 0-0 0, Tufi 0-1 0-0 0, Zamora 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-5 0-2 0, Lavern-Tosi 5-10 0-0 10, Sala 3-10 3-4 9. TOTALS 8-33 4-8 20.
JDHS - Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Henderson 0-3 0-0 0, Tingley 3-7 0-0 6, Fenumiai 5-11 2-3 12, Brakes 2-7 0-0 4, Ostrom 1-1 0-1 2, Tarver 1-3 0-0 2, Highley 1-4 4-4 6, Weyhrauch 0-0 0-0 0, Larson 2-4 2-3 6, Siddeek 0-1 0-0 0, Swofford 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS 16-44 6-8 40.