Anxiety was a two-way street for Juneau girls basketball players Thursday as they opened state tournament play.
On one hand, nervousness resulted in miscues and a game against North Pole that could hardly be called "pretty." But on the other, the anxiety provided early-morning energy that powered the Crimson Bears to a 54-38 victory over the Patriots at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena.
"We had people who got really excited about being here, under the lights," Juneau senior Mary Rehfeld said. "Their nerves went to their feet and they played good defense."
Juneau advances to play top-ranked Chugiak at 3:30 p.m. today. The Mustangs routed Colony 54-33 on Thursday, while in other first-round games Service survived a scare to beat Homer 47-41, and Wasilla defeated Dimond 43-32.
The Crimson Bears were excited to face the Patriots at the state tournament. Juneau beat North Pole by 30 points in January, but the Patriots won the teams' second meeting by a single point - and Juneau was looking for revenge. They got it, but had to work through some rough stretches.
"In the second half we had huge game slippage, but fortunately for us, (North Pole) didn't finish on their put-backs," Juneau coach Lesslie Knight said, "Our girls were nervous. They had some moments of indecision, some poor judgment at times."
Rehfeld got Thursday's scoring started with a 3-pointer a little more than two minutes into the game. With 3:32 left in the first quarter, Juneau's defense forced a North Pole turnover when the Patriots were unable to get a clear inbounds pass. Crimson Bear freshman Nicole Fenumiai made a basket on the ensuing possession to put Juneau up 9-2.
Juneau senior Kate Potter capped the first quarter by scoring off an assist from Sophia Smith with 14 seconds left to give the Crimson Bears a 15-7 lead. Juneau had two offensive rebounds on that possession, and the Crimson Bears outrebounded the Patriots 36-32 in the game.
Juneau extended its advantage in the second quarter and took a 25-13 lead at halftime.
North Pole narrowed its deficit to six points - 25-19 - when the Patriots' Kelsy McIntosh sank a basket with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter. But Smith answered with a 3-pointer 45 seconds later to put Juneau ahead 28-19.
"Sophia had probably one of the best games of her season," Knight said. "She played great defense."
Later in the period, Rhea hit a pair of 3-pointers in nearly identical fashion - both from the left corner, both off inbounds passes - the first from Lexi Garvey, the second from Jordan Harvey. Those shots put Juneau up 39-21, and the Crimson Bears were up 41-23 after three quarters. Juneau's lead stayed at or above 13 points the rest of the way.
Rhea scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Juneau. Rehfeld added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Crimson Bears, while Smith scored nine points and Potter scored eight. Rhea and Smith each had three steals for Juneau.
"Everyone really stepped up - they knew what had to happen," Rehfeld said.
"The first step is over," Rhea said. "Now we can move on."
McIntosh scored 10 points and Vanessa McCormick added nine for North Pole (19-6 overall), which falls into the consolation bracket.
"(Juneau) came out and played well, played tough," North Pole coach Rob McIntosh said. "I'm not sure my girls came to play today."
Before Thursday, it had been four years since North Pole played at the state tournament. The Patriots will return three of their five starters next season.
"This is a great experience for us," Rob McIntosh said. "This is going to make us grow."
Now Juneau turns its attention to Chugiak, which beat the Crimson Bears twice during the regular season, though by narrow margins. The Mustangs (23-3 overall) rallied to defeat Juneau 60-55 at the Capital City Classic on Dec. 27 in Juneau, and Chugiak claimed a 71-69 double-overtime win over Juneau on Jan. 15 at an Anchorage tournament. Chugiak is led by two powerful post players, Kelsey Griffin and Sarah Neuschwander.
"It's going to be a tough game, but we can do it," Smith said. "We've got good team chemistry, good shooters around the perimeter."
"We're looking forward to the opportunity to face Chugiak again," said Knight, who plans to play an up-tempo game to take advantage of the Crimson Bears' speed. "I'm hoping that, having beat us twice, they're overconfident."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
CRIMSON BEARS 54,
Thursday's first-round Class 4A girls state
tournament game from Anchorage's Sullivan Arena
NORTH POLE (38) - Caitlin Hamsley 1-5 0-0 2, Kelsy McIntosh 4-12 0-0 10, Whitney Tidwell 1-8 6-6 8, Alicia Hamsley 0-0 0-0 0, Jillian Larson 1-2 0-0 2, Kayce Gebhardt 0-2 1-2 1, Vanessa McCormick 3-14 2-2 9, Ashley Bell 3-3 0-0 6. Totals: 13-46 9-10 38.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (54) - Talisa Rhea 3-11 7-9 15, Lexi Garvey 0-5 0-2 0, Jordan Harvey 1-1 0-2 2, Kerstin Kimlinger 0-2 0-0 2, Sophia Smith 3-5 2-2 9, Mary Rehfeld 5-13 1-2 12, Kate Potter 4-7 0-0 8, Veronica Leitz 0-0 0-0 0, Maddie Swofford 0-0 0-0 0, Ashley Larson 2-4 0-0 4, Nicole Fenumiai 1-1 0-0 2, Andrea Doerflinger 0-0 2-2 2. Totals: 19-49 12-19 54.
NORTH POLE 7 6 10 15 - 38
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 15 10 16 13 - 54
3-point goals - North Pole 3-10 (McIntosh 2-4, McCormick 1-4, Tidwell 0-2), Juneau-Douglas 4-13 (Rhea 2-5, Smith 1-1, Rehfeld 1-3, Garvey 0-4). Rebounds - North Pole 32 (McCormick 8), Juneau-Douglas 36 (Rehfeld 9). Assists - North Pole 10 (C. Hamsley 4), Juneau-Douglas 15 (Garvey 6). Blocked shots - North Pole 1 (McCormick), Juneau-Douglas 4 (Rhea 3). Steals - North Pole 7 (McCormick 4), Juneau-Douglas 13 (Rhea 3, Smith 3). Turnovers - North Pole 20, Juneau-Douglas 16. Fouled out - North Pole 1 (McCormick), Juneau-Douglas 0. Technical fouls - None. Total fouls - North Pole 14, Juneau-Douglas 10.