KETCHIKAN -- This was not the ending the Juneau-Douglas girls basketball team pictured when they opened the 1999-2000 season.
With six seniors back from a team that took fifth place in last year's Class 4A state tournament, the Crimson Bears envisioned a better showing as they returned to the state tourney. As the season progressed, the Crimson Bears played one of the state's toughest schedules, and even posted victories over powerhouses like Lathrop, East Anchorage and defending state champion Palmer.
But there will be no return trip to the state tournament for Juneau, which lost a heartbreaking 68-62 decision to the Ketchikan Kings Friday in the Region V-Class 4A tournament at Ketchikan High School's Clarke Cochrane Arena. With the victory, the Kings claimed the region's only berth in the state tournament March 23-25 in Anchorage.
``It was there for us,'' Juneau senior center Anya Carlson-Van Dort said. ``But I guess with the basketball gods, it was preordained. What I'm saddest about is after seven years of playing with each other and our love for each other, it's all over.''
Ketchikan, which was a much-improved team this season, jumped out to a 29-14 lead midway through the second quarter and threatened to make a runaway of the contest. But Juneau closed the margin to 33-24 by halftime and the Crimson Bears still had life. Juneau closed to within four points, 36-32, early in the third quarter, but Ketchikan extended its lead back to 11 points at 45-34 and 48-37 late in the period.
That's when Juneau senior guard Tanya Nizich went to work, hitting a 3-pointer and adding a baseline jumper to make it 48-42 at the end of the third quarter. Carlson-Van Dort, who'd been held scoreless in the first half, scored six straight points to bring Juneau into a 50-50 tie with 5 minutes, 23 seconds left to play. But the Crimson Bears never got the lead as Ketchikan's Jonnae Ostrom scored on a layup and Kelly Nausid nailed a pair of free throws to put the Kings back up by four points.
Juneau made it 54-52 on a Liz Haas basket, but Ketchikan went on a 7-0 run to regain control of the game.
``I was kind of worried,'' Ketchikan senior forward Mary Scudero said after leading the kings with 20 points. ``But we really wanted this. Juneau's a tough team and I feel bad for them because they had all those seniors.''
Nizich, who was playing with a heavy brace on her right knee because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, scored a game-high 25 points with six 3-pointers to lead Juneau. Carlson-Van Dort added 14 points for the Crimson Bears, all in the second half, while Yvonne Harris and Erin Mesdag each added seven points and Haas scored five points in the fourth quarter. Krystle Llanto had four assists, six steals and a blocked shot to go with her four points.
``We tried our hardest,'' Nizich said. ``Both teams wanted it, but we can't send both teams to state. We played so well against all the top teams up north. Both teams came out and played tremendous.''
``Ketchikan played well and I wish them good luck at state,'' Juneau coach Jim Hamey said. ``I'm proud of all the (Juneau) girls and how they played through all their injuries, Tanya with her knee, Liz with her shoulders, Krystle and Yvonne with their shins. They played their hearts out and I'm very proud of them.''
Scudero scored 20 points to lead Ketchikan, which beat Juneau four of the five times the teams played each other this year. Cassie White added 17 points and Amanda Kolanko scored 14 for the Kings, who only have two seniors on their roster.
``I think we came out with a lot of intensity,'' White said. ``I never even knew they tied us. Juneau played really well and Tanya hitting from the yellow line (about 25 feet) was amazing.''
``It was a fun game,'' Ketchikan point guard Kelly Nausid said. ``I think we needed to call a timeout about four points before the tied us, but we were ready to battle for the lead.''
Ketchikan built its whole offense on attacking the basket, and it's a rare game where the Kings don't shoot at least 35 free throws. In two of Ketchikan's midseason victories over Juneau, the Kings went to the line 46 and 48 times. Friday, the Kings only shot 31 foul shots (making 23), but Juneau only went to the line 14 times and made eight.
``That's sort of been our natural style of ball,'' Kolanko said.
``I just like to attack the basket,'' Ketchikan coach Doug Nausid said. ``I don't like to pull up. I like to keep the pressure on the defense. It makes us a lot more aggressive on defense, too. I feel bad for Juneau. We're probably two of the better teams in the state and I think both of our programs deserve to go to state.''
CRIMSON BEARS 62
Friday's Class 4A girls championship game
Krystle Llanto 2 0-0 4, Michael Kohan 0 0-2 0, Courtney Mason 0 0-0 0, Tanya Nizich 9 1-1 25, Anna Capacci 0 0-0 0, Anya Carlson-Van Dort 4 6-7 14, Liz Haas 2 0-0 5, Suzanne Parr 0 0-0 0, Hilary Rehfeld 0 0-0 0, Yvonne Harris 3 1-4 7, Kari Parr 0 0-0 0, Erin Mesdag 3 0-0 7. Totals: 23 8-14 62.
Fe Villanueva 1 2-4 4, Cassie White 6 5-6 17, Danette Kahle 0 0-0 0, Amanda Kolanko 6 2-2 14, Kelly Nausid 1 3-4 6, Jonnae Ostrom 2 1-2 5, Johanna Johnson 1 0-0 2, Sarah Keene 0 0-0 0, Mary Scudero 5 10-13 20, Holly Thompson 0 0-0 0, Deanna Hallman 0 0-0 0, Brandyce Nelson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 23-31 68.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS12 12 18 20 - 62
KETCHIKAN16 17 15 20 - 68
3-point goals - Juneau-Douglas 8 (Nizich 6, Haas 1, Mesdag 1), Ketchikan 1 (Nausid 1). Fouled out - JuneauDouglas 1 (Mesdag), Ketchikan 0. Technical fouls -- None. Total fouls -- Juneau-Douglas 20, Ketchikan 13.