ANCHORAGE - The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team will face a familiar foe when the Crimson Bears tip off for the first round of the Class 4A state tournament at Sullivan Arena.
The Crimson Bears will play the Wasilla Warriors at 5:35 p.m. today, a team Juneau beat in last year's first round of the state playoffs. Wasilla (20-5 overall) beat Juneau (16-8) twice this season, winning 67-56 and 59-49 in Juneau. Juneau's games at the state tournament will be broadcast locally on KINY radio.
``They're a good team. They beat us by a lot,'' Juneau guard Joe Ayers said. ``But we didn't have Rick (center Rick Carte) then. I think we're a lot better team now.''
In other first-round boys tournament games, the defending state champion East Anchorage Thunderbirds (20-5) will play the Homer Mariners (12-12) at 8:45 a.m., the Kodiak Bears (19-6) will play the Chugiak Mustangs (16-8) at 10:20 a.m. and the Lathrop Malemutes (19-4) will play the Dimond Lynx (19-7) at 4 p.m. The boys semifinals are at 7:10 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. on Friday, with the championship game scheduled for 8:45 p.m. on Saturday.
This is the first year a power ranking called the WPI (Winning Percentage Index) has been used to seed the state tournament, and the Juneau players thought they would most likely play top-seeded East in the first round because the Crimson Bears were ranked about 10th in the WPI. But Homer, which had a lower WPI, upset Colony for the third berth from Region III and the Crimson Bears instead drew the second-seeded Warriors. The Crimson Bears feel they have a better chance of beating Wasilla than they do of upsetting East, which beat Chugiak 58-28 in the Region IV championship game.
``When we heard Homer upset Colony, the team was really happy we'd get a rematch in the first round,'' Ayers said.
``Actually, we were more happy not to be playing at 8:30 in the morning,'' said senior forward-guard Evan Tromble, who leads Juneau in scoring and rebounding this year.
Carte, who was out with an ankle injury when Juneau played Wasilla in January, said he can't wait for the chance to play the Warriors. ``I feel we're better now,'' Carte said.
While the Crimson Bears feel they lucked out in the bracket with Homer's upset victory, coach George Houston was quick to point out that Juneau also lost 70-40 to East, in the game where Carte hurt his ankle. He said Wasilla isn't that much of a better matchup.
``They both kicked our butts,'' Houston said.
The only other state tournament teams Juneau played this year were Chugiak (a 53-40 loss) and Homer (a 70-44 victory). But the Crimson Bears feel they've improved since their last trip north.
``I think we're a lot stronger playing as a team,'' Juneau forward Jon Chapman said. ``It'll still be a hard run to get to the finals, because we've got the Lathrop-Dimond winner next. But it should be a good game (against Wasilla). It'll be tough, but I don't see any dominant teams out there.''
While Juneau is the only Southeast team in the boys bracket, the Ketchikan Kings represent Region V in the girls bracket. This is Ketchikan's first trip to the state tournament since 1987, and none of the current Kings have been to the state tournament before.
``This is all new for everyone,'' Ketchikan forward Amanda Kolanko said.
Ketchikan (20-2) opens the first round by playing the defending state champion Palmer Moose (21-5) at 1:30 p.m. today. Top-seeded East Anchorage (20-4) plays the Bartlett Golden Bears (11-14) at 11:55 a.m., the Lathrop Malemutes (22-1) play the Wasilla Warriors (20-5) at 7:10 p.m. and the Colony Knights (16-10) play the Chugiak Mustangs (15-8) at 8:45 p.m. The girls semifinals are at 4 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. Friday, with the championship game Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Kings come into the state tournament as a bit of an unknown, having only played one team outside Region V (Kenai) during the regular season.
After Ketchikan beat Juneau in the Region V championship game Friday to earn the region's lone berth at state, Juneau assistant coach Jer Hamey wrote up a scouting report on all the teams Juneau played during the season. Juneau beat East, Bartlett and Chugiak in their only meetings, split a pair of games with Lathrop, went 1-2 against Palmer and lost twice to Colony. The only state tournament team Juneau didn't play this year was Wasilla, but Juneau was at Lathrop's tournament when Lathrop needed a last-second shot to beat the Warriors. Juneau was 1-4 against Ketchikan this year.
``I really think both our programs deserved to be at state,'' Ketchikan coach Doug Nausid said after his team beat Juneau. ``I think we're probably two of the better teams in the state.''