The Juneau-Douglas boys' basketball team looked comfortable in their new uptempo attack this weekend, putting at least 60 points on the board in both wins over the visiting Palmer Moose.
Saturday's 62-60 nailbiter came down to a final failed desperation heave from Palmer after a wild flurry of turnovers and three-pointers helped the Moose close a late deficit.
The Crimson Bears (2-0 overall) led the Moose (0-2) 57-50 with 1:35 left on the game clock when Palmer's Shaquille Odom put back his team's fourth rebound during a frantic possession to cut into the lead.
Juneau forward Cody Grussendorf, playing at point guard for much of the game, then fell down while attempting to receive the following inbound pass and Palmer's Kyle Titus hit a three-pointer from deep in the left corner to close in 57-55. Grussendorf hit a pair of free throws on the next possession, but Odom followed with a quick lay-up to keep the deficit at two with 23 seconds remaining.
A pair of free throws from senior Alex Fagerstrom pushed the lead back to four, but another quick corner three from Titus pulled the Moose within one point at the 10-second mark. Palmer was forced to foul again, and Grussendorf hit one of two free throws, giving Palmer the rebound and one last chance.
Palmer forward Mitch Swetzof caught the ball off the outlet pass at midcourt and launched a two-handed heave with seven seconds still on the clock. The shot bounced left off the backboard and neither team was able to control the ball before time expired.
"We just kept talking about keeping our cool and remembering we were ahead that whole time," JDHS coach Steve Potter said. "We forgot how to help off of dribble penetration at the end and opened up some shooters. I think (Swetzof) could've gotten closer at the end, but they had to be feeling some of that pressure, too."
Senior forward and leading scorer Eric Gross got into foul trouble early for Juneau-Douglas and was unable to stay on the court for the majority of the game. Gross, who scored 20 points in Friday's 61-51 win, was limited to just two points for the game. Gross eventually fouled out with 2:07 left.
"They certainly weren't hard fouls, but they were fouls. They just weren't very effective fouls," Potter said. "He just didn't feel like he could do what he does to help this team tonight."
Grussendorf, a 6-foot-3 senior, took over much of the scoring load for the Bears despite playing out of position at the point. He found success early by driving into the teeth of Palmer's tight man defense and getting to the line 11 times. He converted on 10 of those free throws and finished the game with 24 points.
Sean Bavard also helped to keep the Moose defense honest by hitting a trio of three pointers and converting on all three free throws from another attempt when he was undercut. Bavard finished with 12 points.
Backup big man Lawrence Fenumiai was able to step in for Gross and provide a solid rebounding and shot-blocking presence to clog the middle for the team.
"Lawrence came in and did a great job. It's not his job to score for us, but he did everything we asked of him," Potter said.
Starting point guard Reese Saviers chipped in seven points, while Geoff Craig - the other JDHS senior post player hampered by foul trouble - picked up all six of his points at the line.
"We played really well in spots and played pretty poorly at times, too," Potter said. "That's just part of the learning process. Fortunately, we were able to come out with a win."
Forward Jake Hillis led the Moose with 16 points and fellow big man Sean Nickamp chipped in 13 while being matched up against Juneau's shooting guard, Bavard.
"(Bavard's) can do a lot of things, but his post defense probably isn't the best in the world, and they made the adjustment to take advantage of our smaller guards," Potter said.
Gross' 22 points and nine rebounds on Friday night helped the Crimson Bears run away in the fourth for the 61-51 win in the season-opener for both teams.
Grussendorf also had a solid game, chipping in 11 points and seven assists, and Alex Derocher finished with eight points.
"It was very much a first game for us - we certainly looked like we were nervous," Potter said. "We shored some things up at half-time, though, and started much better in the third."
Juneau-Douglas managed just 10 points in the first quarter and 13 in the second, but picked up the pace offensively in the second half by combining for 38 points in the final quarters.
"We mainly worked on our defensive positioning at half. We were making our adjustments after the passes were already made, and we needed to jump in and anticipate them," Potter said.
Hillis led the way for Palmer Friday night, finishing with 15 points. Christian Odom followed with nine.
Please look for full box scores in Wednesday's Sports.