Ketchikan, January, 71-54; it's all Yoo-Hoo.
Just like a bottle of liquid candy bar magically loses its appeal with age, the Crimson Bears aren't about to storm another court for sweeping their Southeast Conference rivals two weeks ago or laying a 17-point beatdown on their first-round state tournament opponent - the Bartlett Golden Bears - six weeks ago. Too much has changed.
With the KayHi battles over, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team has had two weeks to remember its recent history at the 4A State Championships. There was last season's 68-67 heartbreaking first-round loss to eventual champion South Anchorage. Before that, there was the 54-51 first-round nip by eventual runner-up Colony in 2007. In 2006, it was Chugiak who dumped the Bears to the loser's bracket with a 63-56 opening-round squeaker. They fell short of the tournament in 2005 and 2004. In all, it has been 11 years since JDHS won a state title and more than half as long since their fans even had an opening-round win to dream upon.
The "drought", which extends deep into the current roster's grade school years, is no doubt motivation for the Juneau-Douglas squad. Just don't ask head coach Steve Potter.
"About last year, we just talked about how it's not very fun to lose in the first round. We also said that we don't want to put any extra pressure on them," Potter said. "Losing last year in the first round has no bearing on this team. We don't want them to think there's any correlation."
Potter marked the Jan. 30 win over Bartlett as a "test game" for his kids, and they responded by surrendering just 10 turnovers and connecting on eight of 17 three-pointers.
"That was a good solid game for us," Potter said. "We played within ourselves and we weren't throwing the ball all over the place. Our defensive positioning was really good on both our primary and secondary rotations."
Of course, that win came while every Bear was seeing red and storming to a 4-1 record on a five-day, five-game road trip less than a week after being swept over two games in the madness of Ketchikan's gym. The winning ways continued for JDHS right up into the four straight wins over Ketchikan that ended their season and secured the Southeast Conference title.
After that high, though, came two weeks off and a wave of sickness that limited the team's preparation. Potter said it was lucky that the two weeks came while many of his key cogs were feeling woozy, adding that Tuesday's last home practice was the first "high energy" session the players have had in a while.
"I think that it really was good having that week off," Potter said. "It certainly takes some momentum away from us, but I think it helped. It would be nice to be riding that wave, but we're just focused now on trying to start that new wave."
The coach also added that his team is focused on three main options that the Golden Bears use in their system - State Player of the Year candidate and senior guard Courtney May, 6-foot-3 sophomore post Damon Sheman-Newsome and senior sharpshooter Seth Griebe.
"All their other guys can play, but they won't get as many touches as those three guys," Potter said. "We want to try and make the guys they don't want to shoot to take most of their shots."
The teams square off Thursday at 11:30 p.m. in Anchorage's Sullivan Arena. Bartlett will have the undeniable advantage of the hometown crowd, but Potter points to his team's past success in hostile gyms as proof that a homecourt advantage won't be a problem.
Thursday's winner will move on to a semifinal game against either Dimond or Bartlett on Friday at 7 p.m. The loser will play an elimination game Friday at 11:30 a.m.
E-mail sports editor Trent Makela at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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