A team comprised of 10 Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball players claimed the title Sunday in the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Summer Basketball Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., beating a team from Highlands, Calif., by three points in the championship game.
"We ended up beating a pretty athletic team in the championship," said Robert Casperson, who coached the squad at the tournament. "We didn't kill 'em. We got off to a slow start. We were down by four at the end of the first quarter, tied the game at the half, and battled the rest of the way. All the teams were much bigger and much more athletic than we were."
Juneau's Curtis Lane, a 5-foot-7 shooting guard, earned the MVP award for the 13-team tournament. Ryan Monagle, a 6-1 forward, was named to the all-tournament team.
Casperson said the trip was the first to the Lower 48 for a summer camp during current JDHS head coach George Houston's nine-year tenure. Before the tournament July 6-8, the team attended the Pomona-Pitzer Team Camp held June 29 to July 3 in Pomona, Calif. Jim Hamey led the team during the first weekend at the eight-team camp, where Juneau ended up losing the championship game by six points to a team called A.B. Miller. Casperson said the Juneau squad posted a 13-2 record during its trip, with the other loss coming by one point July 5 in a pick-up game against Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo, Calif.
"I think we opened a lot of eyes down here to Alaska basketball," Casperson said. "We had a lot of college coaches come up to us and tell us they liked seeing someone playing team basketball. They said they don't see that much in California these days."
In the Palm Springs tournament, Juneau beat North Bend (Ore.) by 31 points, edged A.B. Miller by three points in overtime and beat Palm Springs by 20 points to win its pool during round-robin pool play. Juneau then beat Banning (Calif.) by six points in the semifinals, before edging Highlands in the title game.
Casperson said Juneau played A.B. Miller three times during the trip, winning in pool play at the Pomona-Pitzer camp before its loss in the camp's title game. He said Lane came up big in the rubber game with Miller, in pool play at the Palm Springs tourney, hitting the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime from about 28-30 feet out.
"Curtis was doing everything you needed an MVP to do," Casperson said.
In the last seconds of the championship game, Highlands had two chances to tie it and send the game into overtime. But Highlands missed both shots and Juneau's Joe Ayers dove on a loose ball as time ran out.
Juneau's tallest players were Jake Miller and Bryan Hamey, both at 6-4. Besides Monagle and Lane, the other players on Juneau's roster were Junior Cumlat, Craig Kitka, Sterling Henderson, Alex Heumann and Adam Nelson. Cumlat, a 5-5 point guard, earned an all-hustle team award at the Pomona-Pitzer camp. Casperson said he usually started Lane, Cumlat and Ayers in a three-guard backcourt, with Monagle and Hamey at forward.
"Highlands went 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 and then down to 6-foot in its guards," Casperson said. "They had one big, long, lanky kid in the middle. But we played team ball and we communicated on defense."