ANCHORAGE - Hands and height beat a lot of heart Saturday night in Sullivan Arena.
Under siege from Dimond's steal-hungry guards and unable to answer the Lynx's towering post presence, the Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team fell to Dimond 58-38 in the Class 4A state title game.
The Crimson Bears upset top-ranked Wasilla 53-43 in Friday's semifinals to win their 14th straight game and reach the championship, but their spirited run came to an end in a rout.
"We're all really disappointed in our performance tonight," junior Mary Rehfeld said after Saturday's game, "but this season we won 14 games straight - that's a lot to say. To come to state and play with all this heart - it feels good to get this far, to say you're the second-best team in Alaska."
"I woke up this morning at 6:30 a.m. and I had an incredible feeling that we had finally reached the point of believing in ourselves, and that's the reason we're here," Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said Saturday. "Dimond just outplayed us."
The game marked the final time in a Crimson Bear uniform for Juneau's five seniors. Nicole Lupro was the last senior to leave the court, coming out for sophomore Jordan Harvey with 1:40 left in the game.
"(There's) a lot of disappointment," Lupro said. "We didn't achieve the goal we wanted to achieve. We had the team to win, and we didn't.
"It felt like (Dimond) wanted it more."
The Crimson Bears grabbed the early lead as freshman Talisa Rhea drove to the basket untouched for a layup 47 seconds into the game. A little more than one minute later, Rhea hit a 3-pointer to give Juneau a 5-2 edge.
With 2:40 to play, junior Jordan Johnston saved an attempted Dimond steal, and after a few passes she fed senior Tasha McKoy for a 3-pointer to make it 8-4 Juneau. The Crimson Bears were ahead 12-9 after the first quarter.
Dimond tied the game at 12-all when senior ZeeZee Young drained a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the second quarter, but Rhea answered with another 3 a minute later to give the Crimson Bears a 15-14 lead.
After Young hit another 3-pointer to give the Lynx a 19-17 advantage with 4:25 to go, McKoy took a pass from Rhea on the run for a layup to tie the game. It was the last time Juneau would pull even, as Dimond went on a 7-0 run to close the half.
Throughout the game, Dimond's guards - Young and Lillian Bullock - forced bad passes and turnovers with the defensive intensity Juneau had inflicted on other teams in the tourney. Meanwhile, the Lynx used its height - with five players 6-foot-0 or taller - to gain a 42-21 rebounding edge.
"They're very strong, very tall," McKoy said. "It was hard to block them out, but we did our best."
In the third quarter, senior Heather Dillon's 3-pointer narrowed the gap to 28-22 Dimond with 6:36 to play, but the Crimson Bears could only manage one more free throw in the period as the Lynx built a 42-23 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Rhea and McKoy led Juneau (21-6 overall) with 12 points apiece, and junior Kate Potter added five. McKoy and Rehfeld nabbed six rebounds each, Rhea had four assists and senior Kendri Cesar had two steals.
Young led Dimond (22-6 overall) with 18 points and six steals, while Bullock added 11 points. Shaina Afoa grabbed 12 rebounds for the Lynx, who lost to the Crimson Bears 49-37 earlier this season in Juneau.
Dimond was itching for another shot at Juneau after that loss.
"Right after we lost that game, the first thing we said was, 'Coach, can we get a rematch?'" Bullock said. "We knew we had to get a rematch."
It was the second straight year that Dimond rebounded from a loss to beat Juneau in the state tournament. Last year, Juneau swept a pair of games from the Lynx in Juneau during the regular season but fell to the Lynx in the state tourney's consolation bracket.
"A lot of credit to Lesslie - she's done a great job with the program in a short amount of time," Dimond coach Jim Young said.
Noting the unexpected final matchup - with Wasilla and second-ranked Lathrop absent - Young said that going into the state tournament "everybody was talking Lathrop-Wasilla, Lathrop-Wasilla. I said, 'What about Dimond-Juneau?'"
The win gave Dimond its first girls basketball state title in 25 years. Juneau last won the title in 1996.
Before the game, Juneau players distributed heart stickers to Crimson Bear fans to wear. In Friday's 53-43 win over Wasilla, the players all wore hearts under their uniforms - the latest in a series of motivational efforts by Knight. All week long, the team stayed together and followed a strict schedule that was dubbed "boot camp" in order to stay focused on the games at hand.
In the locker room after Saturday's game, Knight said she told her players to look at the bigger picture of what they accomplished during the season.
"It's OK to feel loss," she told the team. "(But) we've had an incredible journey together. Everyone has grown as players, as people. The outcome of the game is minor in the whole scope of life, of the season, of the time we spent together."
Crimson Bears 53, Wasilla 43
Wearing hearts taped under their jerseys, the Crimson Bear girls played an inspired game to knock off the top-ranked Warriors on Friday in a semifinal game.
"We played with so much heart tonight," Lupro said. "We had nothing to lose. Everyone thought we would lose."
"It was just leave it all on the floor," senior Alida Bus said. "It was no regrets - give 110 percent."
McKoy scored the first points of the game on a layup with an assist from Rhea, and made it 5-1 on a carbon-copy play with 5:20 to go. But Wasilla went on a 7-0 run to end the quarter to take an 8-5 lead.
Dillon took a pass from Rhea and nailed a 3-pointer to cut Wasilla's lead to one - 13-12 - with 5:59 to play in the second, and 33 seconds later Rhea hit a 3 on an assist from Dillon to tie the game at 15-all. Juneau led 20-19 at the break.
The Crimson Bears pulled ahead with a 15-6 run in the third quarter, but the Warriors battled back and closed to within three points - 46-43 - with 1:04 left in the game. Then, for the second straight night, Cesar made an offensive play that was a turning point for Juneau.
Cesar stripped the ball from Wasilla's Jamie Brown, ran the court and put in a layup while being fouled. She made the three-point play to give the Crimson Bears a more comfortable six-point edge.
Rhea scored 16 points to lead the Crimson Bears, while McKoy added 11 and Rehfeld scored 10. Dillon and Rhea had five rebounds each, Rhea made five assists and McKoy had three steals.
Chandice Cronk scored 18 points to lead Wasilla - far less than previous games against Juneau, in large part due to Cesar's defensive efforts.
"Kendri was amazing, shutting down Cronk," Bus said. "(Wasilla) could never find the flow because we were too crazy, too pumped up."
Juneau avenged a 52-41 loss at Wasilla earlier this season.
"(The loss) was our first road game of the season, and I knew we had improved since then," Rhea said after Friday's game. "It's so cool. I never expected anything like this."
The hearts - and other motivational tools like Knight's game motto of "conceive it, believe it, achieve it" - definitely played a role in Juneau's success.
"We knew we had the talent, and things like that have sparked us, given us a reason to believe we can do it," Cesar said.
West Anchorage 70, Bartlett 69, OT
Sophomore Brian Hurn hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left in overtime to lift the West Anchorage Eagles to a state title over the two-time defending champion Bartlett Golden Bears in the Class 4A boys championship game.
West overcame a 25-8 deficit after the first quarter to knock off Bartlett.
Details on all-tourney awards will run later this week in the Empire.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
CLASS 4A GIRLS
LYNX 58, CRIMSON BEARS 38
Saturday's Class 4A girls state tournament championship game from Anchorage's Sullivan Arena
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (38) - Alida Bus 0-0 0-0 0, Nicole Lupro 1-1 0-0 2, Kendri Cesar 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan Johnston 0-3 0-0 0, Heather Dillon 1-3 0-0 3, Mary Rehfeld 1-7 0-0 2, Talisa Rhea 4-9 2-2 12, Erin Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Harvey 0-1 0-0 0, Tasha McKoy 5-15 1-3 12, Lexi Garvey 0-1 2-2 2, Kate Potter 2-4 1-1 5. Totals: 14-45 6-8 38.
DIMOND (58) - ZeeZee Young 8-13 0-0 18, Jasmynn Liggon 1-1 0-0 2, Prisela Campbell 0-1 0-0 0, Noelani Saena 0-2 0-0 0, Lillian Bullock 4-13 2-4 11, Marissa Hinshaw 0-1 0-0 0, Carolyn Savage 1-2 0-0 2, Savannah Afoa 2-4 4-6 8, Shaina Afoa 2-4 0-0 4, Andrea Stigall 3-6 2-4 8, Molly Weingartner 1-1 0-0 2, Chantel Hernandez 1-4 1-4 3. Totals: 23-52 9-18 58.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 12 7 4 15 - 38
DIMOND 9 17 14 18 - 58
3-point goals - Juneau-Douglas 4-16 (Rhea 2-5, Dillon 1-2, McKoy 1-4, Garvey 0-1, Rehfeld 0-4), Dimond 3-8 (Young 2-3, Bullock 1-4, Saena 0-1). Rebounds - Juneau-Douglas 21 (Rehfeld 6, McKoy 6), Dimond 42 (Sh. Afoa 12). Assists - Juneau-Douglas 7 (Rhea 4), Dimond 7 (Hernandez 2). Steals - Juneau-Douglas 6 (Cesar 2), Dimond 9 (Young 6). Blocked shots - Juneau-Douglas 2 (McKoy 1, Potter 1), Dimond 3 (Sh. Afoa 2). Fouled out - None. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Juneau-Douglas 11, Dimond 11.
CRIMSON BEARS 53, WARRIORS 43
Friday's Class 4A girls state tournament semifinal game from Anchorage's Sullivan Arena
WASILLA (43) - Anne Wesser 0-0 0-0 0, Jamie Brown 1-3 0-0 3, Abbey Bulawa 0-3 0-0 0, Hillarie Putnam 0-2 1-2 1, Christine Cloud 0-1 0-0 0, Megan Stearman 5-10 2-2 12, Chandice Cronk 6-16 5-6 18, Laurel Creel 3-7 0-0 6, Lindsay Wesser 1-1 1-2 3. Totals: 16-43 9-12 43.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (53) - Kendri Cesar 1-1 1-1 3, Nicole Lupro 1-2 2-3 4, Heather Dillon 2-6 2-3 7, Mary Rehfeld 3-8 2-2 10, Talisa Rhea 5-10 5-6 16, Jordan Johnston 1-1 0-1 2, Tasha McKoy 4-4 3-6 11, Alida Bus 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-32 15-22 53.
WASILLA 8 11 6 18 - 43
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 5 15 15 18 - 53
3-point goals - Wasilla 2-8 (Brown 1-1, Cronk 1-5, Bulawa 0-1, Creel 0-1), Juneau-Douglas 4-15 (Rehfeld 2-7, Rhea 1-2, Dillon 1-5, Lupro 0-1). Rebounds - Wasilla 23 (Cronk 7), Juneau-Douglas 25 (Cesar 5, Dillon 5, Rhea 5). Assists - Wasilla 9 (Cronk 3), Juneau-Douglas 6 (Rhea 5). Blocked shots - Wasilla 1 (Stearman), Juneau-Douglas 1 (Dillon). Steals - Wasilla 6 (Bulawa 2, Putnam 2), Juneau-Douglas 7 (McKoy 3). Turnovers - Wasilla 12, Juneau-Douglas 15. Fouled out - None. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - Wasilla 17, Juneau-Douglas 12.
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