ANCHORAGE - As a theme for the Class 4A state girls basketball tournament, the Juneau-Douglas High School team chose "Taking Care of Business."
The team took a photo of themselves in a boardroom wearing business suits and very serious expressions. They also brought portfolios with them to Anchorage.
On Wednesday, JDHS lived up to its motto with a business-like 56-36 victory over Homer in the quarterfinal round at Sullivan Arena.
The Crimson Bears (22-4) beat the Mariners not with fancy gimmicks, but with hard-nosed, on-the-ball defense.
"We took the whole week of practice working on different things that we haven't brought out of our purse yet," JDHS coach Lesslie Knight said. "It's huge for us to play that well man-to-man because we haven't really focused on that this much this week."
Defensively, JDHS made it very difficult for Homer to feed the ball to its star center, Reba Temple.
The Crimson Bears forced 21 turnovers and recorded 17 steals. They also limited the 6-foot-2 Temple to eight points and six rebounds.
"They were pressuring our passing lanes and we didn't get too many passes into her (Temple)," Homer coach Tim Daugharty said. "You have to hand it to Juneau. They did that really well."
Talisa Rhea led the way for Juneau-Douglas. The junior posted 19 points, four rebounds, seven steals and five assists.
While Rhea may have scored the most points, though, the entire roster contributed to Wednesday's victory.
Six different Crimson Bears recorded steals while nine of the 12 players on the roster scored.
"The real nice thing for us is that we can go real deep into our bench," Knight said. "Our fifth player on any night could be one of three people so our fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth players are all pretty much equal. If we get in foul trouble, we have a really experienced bench."
While JDHS ended up winning by a comfortable 20-point margin, the first half proved much closer.
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The Crimson Bears sputtered offensively while Homer found ways to score off screens in the first half. JDHS held a 10-9 lead after the first quarter before extending that lead to 18-9 in the second quarter.
Homer closed the half on an 8-2 run, however, to knot the game at 20-20.
"In the first half we weren't communicating at all with each other," said Juneau's Lexi Garvey, who had 11 points and three assists in the win. "Then we talked in the locker room, we knew what we had to do to bring it back in the second half.
"In the second half we were communicating more, which made us move more and we knew where our men were at all times, which brought us back in the game."
JDHS outscored Homer 36-16 in the second half as Garvey, Rhea, Nicole Fenumiai, Sophia Smith, Veronica Lietz and a host of others swarmed the Mariners.
Rhea started attacking the lane in the third quarter. The Junior knocked down 3 of 4 free throws and scored seven of Juneau's 26 points in the quarter.
JDHS extended its lead to 36-27 in the third quarter and emphatically finished the game by outscoring Homer 20-9 in the final eight minutes.
In the game, Fenumiai scored eight points on 4-for-4 shooting and played solid defense on Temple. Jordan Harvey had five points, three rebounds and three steals, Smith scored four points, Maddie Swofford and Andrea Doerflinger chipped in with two points each and K.K. Sanders hit a free throw in the win.
Kayla Creamer led Homer with 16 points.
"We didn't underestimate them," Garvey said of Homer. "We knew they were going to be a tough team."
JDHS will face Dimond in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Sullivan Arena. The Bears fell to the Lynx earlier this season.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com
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