KETCHIKAN -- Earlier this season, when it seemed like half of the Juneau-Douglas boys basketball players were injured, the Crimson Bears suffered in the paint.
But as the Crimson Bear forwards have gotten healthy, Juneau has been able to pound the ball inside with authority. Friday night's Region V-Class 4A championship game was a perfect example as Juneau grabbed more than twice as many rebounds as Sitka en route to a 74-40 decision over the Wolves at Ketchikan High School's Clarke Cochrane Arena.
Juneau's victory earned the Crimson Bears their eighth straight region title and the region's only berth in the Class 4A state tournament March 23-25 at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena.
``There's always the expectation at Juneau that we'll go to state,'' said Juneau senior point guard/forward Evan Tromble, who nearly posted a triple-double with 14 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists despite still being a little hobbled by two taped ankles and a pulled groin muscle. ``Right now we're all clicking. State is going to be a lot of fun. All the teams can win it. There's not one really dominant team like there's been in past years.''
Tromble's 14 points led a balanced Juneau scoring attack that had forwards James Severin and Jon Chapman with 10 points each, guards Ryan Monagle and Curtis Lane with eight apiece and every player but one scoring at least two points. No Sitka player scored more than the nine points turned in by Sean McCarthy.
In the paint, Juneau outrebounded Sitka 43-19. Juneau also made 26 of its 56 points for a 45-percent shooting average from the field, while holding Sitka to 26 percent (12 for 45). Juneau forced Sitka into 19 turnovers, while only making 11 itself.
``We like to work it into the post, so we can get our inside-outside game going with our rebounding,'' said Severin, who recently returned from a broken thumb. ``We came out to play, and when we come out to play we're a pretty good team.''
``Here we really played well together,'' Chapman said. ``If we just keep blocking out we're really strong. Rick (Carte, who missed several games in the middle of the season with an ankle injury), James and I just try to block out so Evan can grab the rebounds. We have to get prepared for state, but when we play this way we should do OK.''
Last week, Juneau lost by 10 points to Sitka in a game where Tromble pulled his groin and didn't play more than a minute or two. Tromble returned the next night to score 28 points as Juneau avenged the loss. Juneau also lost to Ketchikan earlier in the season, and entered the tournament without the aura of invincibility it has had in recent years.
But Lane said the Juneau players weren't worried about being upset in the region tournament.
``They just got us on a bad night,'' Lane said. ``If we played like we did tonight, we knew we'd be OK.''
Juneau controlled the game from the outset, jumping out to leads of 12-2, 14-4 and 22-7 before ending the first quarter with a 23-10 advantage. The Crimson Bears led 41-21 at halftime and 61-27 at the end of the third quarter before coasting in the fourth quarter.
About the only scary moment for Juneau came late in the second quarter when senior guard John Blasco crashed to the floor with an ankle injury. But Blasco taped up the twisted left ankle and returned to action in the second half, hitting a 3-pointer before heading to the bench to begin treatment as Juneau's lead grew.
``I just came down on the outside of it,'' Blasco said. ``But there was no chance I was going to sit out this game. We really wanted it. Southeast is really evenly matched this year, but we all took that as a challenge. It was great to see everyone involved tonight. Obviously, Tromble will lead us, but we need balance like we had tonight.''
CRIMSON BEARS 74
Friday's Class 4A championship game
Joe Ayers 2 0-2 4, John Blasco 2 1-4 7, Ryan Monagle 4 0-0 8, Julius Cumlat 0 0-0 0, Curtis Lane 2 2-2 8, Clay Brown 3 0-0 6, Leon Bus 0 2-2 2, Evan Tromble 4 6-12 14, Bryan Hamey 1 0-0 3, James Severin 5 0-0 10, Rick Carte 0 2-2 2, Jon Chapman 3 4-4 10. Totals: 26 17-28 74.
Mitch Mork 0 0-2 0, Dylan Mahoskey 0 0-1 0, Cody Campbell 0 2-2 2, Dustin McLeod 3 0-0 6, Casey Campbell 3 0-0 6, Brett Haavig 0 0-0 0, Mike Schneeberger 0 4-4 4, Colin Kambak 0 0-0 0, Brian Friske 2 3-3 7, Sean McCarthy 3 0-0 9, Greg Blankenship 0 4-6 4, Charles Van Otten 1 0-3 2. Totals: 12 13-21 40.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS23 18 20 13 - 74
SITKA10 11 6 13 - 40
3-point goals - Juneau-Douglas 5 (Blasco 2, Lane 2, Hamey 1), Sitka 3 (McCarthy 3). Fouled out - JuneauDouglas 1 (Severin), Sitka 0. Technical fouls - JuneauDouglas 0, Sitka 2 (Ca. Campbell 1, Schneeberger 1). Total fouls - Juneau-Douglas 21, Sitka 23.