ANCHORAGE - The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team's dream of a state championship came to an abrupt halt Thursday at Sullivan Arena.
Chugiak, the tournament's seventh-seeded team, led for the entire game and upset the Crimson Bears 63-56 in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
The best JDHS can now finish at the tournament is fourth.
"Sometimes in life you don't always get what you want, but you have to move on," Juneau-Douglas coach George Houston said. "It's tough. When you invest as much as they've invested and come up short it's always tough to have to deal with, but hopefully we can move on."
Down 53-43 with four minutes left in the game, Juneau-Douglas mounted one final assault.
Faifo Levale started the rally with two free throws. Juneau's Will Egolf then stole the ensuing inbound pass and threw down a monstrous one-handed slam.
Luke Miller capped the 9-0 run with five straight points as the Bears trailed 53-52 with 1:54 left.
"We got them a little bit out of their comfort zone," Houston said of the late rally. "We got a couple of tips, a couple of deflections, a couple of steals and turned them into offense. Will got that dunk that was pretty big. We had momentum going."
Chugiak persevered through Juneau-Douglas' attack, however. The Mustangs made seven of eight free throws in the final two minutes and Justin Williams sank a 3-pointer dashed Juneau's hopes.
Williams led Chugiak with 17 points, including three 3-pointers.
"The player that hurt was that guard Williams," Houston said. "He just really lit us up. We left him open at times and he knocked down shots."
Chugiak took control of the game immediately by expertly spreading out Juneau's man defense and scoring inside.
Forward Joseph Spink scored the Mustangs' first 10 points, all from close range, while JDHS struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
Chugiak took a 13-8 first-quarter lead and extended it to 32-26 at halftime.
While six points didn't seem insurmountable, the Mustangs successfully employed their game plan. By using 6-foot-3 forward Brian Niedermeyer on the perimeter, they forced Egolf to play defense away from the basket. Then the interior opened up for Chugiak.
Chugiak's lead grew to 11 points in the second quarter before Juneau crept back to within six at halftime.
"We did some good stuff, but hopefully when we pulled (Egolf) away from the basket it makes us more effective," Chugiak coach Kevin Fullmer said. "I teach my kids to play all five spots so we can do some of that."
Juneau-Douglas continued to chip away in the third quarter behind Egolf.
The Crimson Bears trailed by as many as nine points in the third before Egolf found his rhythm.
The junior scored five points late in the third, including a dunk, as JDHS cut Chugiak's lead to 42-40. Chugiak scored the quarter's final four points to hold a 46-40 lead with one quarter to play.
Egolf led JDHS with 15 points, six blocked shots, four steals and five rebounds.
"He is just a great player," Fullmer said. "He dunked on people. The bottom line is Juneau is a well-coached team and a good team."
Juneau-Douglas' intense defense in the fourth quarter got the team within one, but Chugiak mustered the resolve to seal victory.
"We had momentum going," Houston said. "We rotated at the other end defensively and the kid hit the 3. That really hurt us. That was kind of the dagger that sealed the deal. We battled to the end. They did everything I asked them to."
For Chugiak, Spink had 15 points and 13 rebounds, Niedermeyer added 10 points while Shane Grahmm made all six of his free-throw attempts.
"They're a good team," Juneau's Miller said of Chugiak. "They're clicking on all cylinders right now. I was impressed."
Miller had 12 points, Tres Saldivar and Clae Baker scored six each, Scott Lesh five, while Faifo Levale and Ryan Larson had three apiece in the win.
Juneau-Douglas takes on Wasilla at 9:40 a.m. today in the consolation round.
"I just told them I love coaching them, working with them," Houston said of his post-game talk with the Crimson Bears. "I'm really proud of our accomplishments they had to this point of the season, and I told them we play at 10 a.m."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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