Strong defense led to a championship victory in the 26th Annual Cougar Tip-Off Tournament for the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team on Saturday.
The Crimson Bears (3-1) dusted Lathrop 54-41 in the championship game at Service High School in Anchorage. JDHS has won three straight since losing at Colony on Wednesday.
"It's just a turnaround," JDHS coach George Houston said. "Not only was it losing there and losing a close one, but they didn't let that affect them. We moved on, hopefully. We played better and that's good early in the season. You want to work gradually where you get better each time."
The Malemutes succumbed to Juneau's relentless pressure in the championship game. The Crimson Bears limited Lathrop to just 21 points in the first three quarters. JDHS opened up a 22-point lead in the fourth quarter before Lathrop embarked on a late but inconsequential run to narrow the score.
Juneau-Douglas also played much of the game without 6-foot-7 Will Egolf, who found himself in foul trouble early. Egolf netted six points and was named the tournament's most outstanding player.
Reserve forwards Faifo Levale and Ryan Larson stepped up in Egolf's absence, though, to provide JDHS with a defensive presence in the paint.
"For some stretches we played pretty well," Houston said. "It was unfortunate that Will got into foul trouble, but Faifo played by far his most effective game of the year. I thought Ryan Larson came off the bench and played well. Everybody played well and contributed, and I thought our defense was pretty good until the end when they got those buckets."
Much like Thursday's opening-round win versus Kotzebue, Juneau-Douglas put its foot down in the second quarter.
Juneau went on a 10-0 run in the second quarter to seize control of the lead. The Malemutes refused to roll over, however, as John Theis' bucket late in the quarter cut Juneau's lead to 20-15.
Tres Saldivar hit a 3-pointer as time expired in the second quarter, though, as Juneau-Douglas took a 23-15 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"That was a big hit for us," Houston said of Saldivar's 3-pointer. "We were going for one shot and they built some momentum going in, and he hits that 3 at the half and that took the wind out of their sails a little bit. It was a big shot for us at the half."
In the third quarter, Juneau-Douglas started to go to work inside by pounding the glass and driving the line. JDHS opened the quarter on an 8-0 run and made 7-of-10 free throws to seize a 38-21 lead after three quarters.
JDHS extended its lead to 22 points in the fourth and cruised to victory.
Clae Baker led the Crimson Bears with 12 points. Saldivar had 10 points, Ryan Fagerstrom contributed nine, Larson scored eight, Luke Miller and Levale had four points each and Scott Lesh had one point for JDHS.
Dominique Smith led Lathrop with 10 points.
Miller picked up all-tournament honors following Saturday's win.
The Crimson Bears earned the right to play for the championship on Friday by nipping Southeast Conference foe Mt. Edgecumbe 57-56.
Egolf led Juneau-Douglas with 17 points and seven boards in the win.
"He played a great game against Edgecumbe," Houston said. "Edgecumbe is a very good team. ... It was a tough ball game and could have gone either way."
Miller added 11 points while Lesh scored eight and Baker contributed six points and a team-high 14 rebounds in the win.
Saldivar had five points, Fagerstrom posted three points while Sam Clark, Levale and Larson chipped in with two points each. Cameron Cook had one point for JDHS.
Zach Klein led the Class 3A Braves with 23 points.
"We had a lot of trouble with him," Houston said of Klein. "He was too quick for our bigs and too big for our smalls."
JDHS next plays in the Capital City Classic starting Dec. 27.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com