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With the graduation of the entire starting five of the last year's Region V-Class 4A runner-up team, the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears girls basketball team will feature many new faces in its quest to dethrone Ketchikan for this year's region title.
Lost are leading scorer-point guard Tanya Nizich, who is currently showing off her basketball prowess at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and center Anya Carlson-Van Dort, who now plays volleyball at the University of Wisconsin. Also gone to graduation are Liz Haas, Yvonne Harris, Krystle Llanto and Erin Mesdag.
But coming back for the Crimson Bears are two outstanding seniors -- Courtney Mason, a 5-foot-4 point guard, and Michael Kohan, a 5-9 forward.
Both Mason and Kohan saw considerable playing time coming off the bench last season and will look to step up to be the leaders of this year's squad and improve on last year's 14-10 record, 4-4 in the region.
"Courtney is a good athlete," Juneau head girls basketball coach Jim Hamey. "She's doing a real good job in her decision making. Her decision making goes before her legs."
The remaining starting slots will be filled up by any number of underclassmen.
Hilary Rehfeld, a 6-1 junior, will add some much needed height in the middle along with 5-11 sophomore Amy Neussl and 6-0 junior Jessica Hahnlen.
Kacie Murphy and Anna Capacci, both 5-10 juniors, as well as 5-4 freshman Kendri Cesar traveled to Petersburg for last week's JV games and will see playing time on the varsity squad, according to Hamey.
The Parr twins, Kari and Suzanne, will see considerable playing time at the two-guard spot. The 5-3 juniors show a lot of hustle and enthusiasm in practice and caught the eye of the coach.
"I think the Parr twins are outstanding," Hamey said. "They will add to this fast-paced outfit."
Fast-paced will be the staple of the Crimson Bears gameplan this year as Hamey will be running the girls like race horses.
With a rather small lineup, Juneau will try to take advantage of their quickness to put opposing teams off guard.
Rebounds may come at a premium for the shorter team, but coach Hamey has the solution.
"We're going to take people's legs out. If not we are doomed," Hamey said. "We'll shoot a lot of long shots so hopefully we'll get a lot of long rebounds. The 5-3 and 5-4 girls are just gonna have to be tough to make up for the lack of height."
Even with all the new players in the lineup, look for the Bears to play fundamentally sound basketball, which has come to be a standby for Hamey's teams.
"We're going to try to keep the floor balanced and focus on the fundamentals," Hamey said. "We're going to use motion without being predictable."
More emphasis is put on predictability in Southeast basketball due to the frequency teams play each other throughout the season.
Juneau plays Ketchikan and Sitka four times each this season -- twice at home and twice on the road.
Rounding out the Crimson Bears roster are freshmen Latasha McKoy (5-10), Julie Heard (5-7), Heather Dillon (5-10) and Alida Bus (5-9).
"This will be one of the more exciting teams I have ever coached," Hamey said. "We expect to be better than average but we're anxious to see what we look like in a game."
The Crimson Bears begin their 2000-2001 season at 6 p.m. Wednesday when they play West Valley of Fairbanks in the first round of the Capital City Classic.
The tournament will continue through Saturday, with games against Kentlake (Kent, Wash.) on Friday and Gig Harbor (Wash.) on Saturday. All the girls games begin at 6 p.m. at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gymnasium.
Sitka aims to surprise in Southeast
A lot of the same is what we will see out of Sitka's girls basketball team in the 2000-2001 season.
"Our goal is to surprise a couple of teams in the Southeast," head coach Rich Krupa said. "It's one of the toughest regions in the state with Ketchikan and Juneau in it. We like to play hard against Southeast schools."
Optimism comes from the return of 5-11 senior Breanne Erickson, who was the last year's leading scorer and rebounder for the Wolves.
Erickson will be accompanied by 5-6 senior forward Jennie Phillips, 5-4 senior guard Randi Hames, 5-5 junior forward Chloe Delong, 6-0 junior center Heather Hawk, 5-2 junior guard Mindy Jacoby, 5-3 junior guard Kim Uddipa, 5-8 junior forward Sasha Forsyth, and 5-6 sophomore guard/forward Sidney Wyman.
New to this year's squad are sophomores Chelsea Young and Alaina Brown and freshman Kandi McGilton and Miranda Whitson.
"We have a great bunch of girls," coach Kruppa said. "We're just gonna take what's given to us this year."
The Wolves (3-0) began their season by winning the Grace Christian School Classic earlier this week in Anchorage.
Sitka defeated Grace Christian 52-45 on the first day of the tournament, led by 16 points for Erickson. They continued with a 44-36 win over Service as Erickson scored 20 and finished the tourney with a win against Kotzebue 50-40 to take the championship.
"Mindy Jocoby had a great tournament," Krupa said. "Both Mindy and Randi Hames came off the bench to give us a lift."
Sitka continues its season with the Sitka Shoot-Out Dec. 28-30 in Sitka.
Ketchikan looks to repeat in Region V
The Ketchikan High School girls basketball team will be looking to claim another Region V-4A title in 2000-2001.
The Kings won last year's Region V title in overtime against Juneau, took fourth place at the Class 4A state tournament in Anchorage and will look to once again be a force in Southeast.
Ketchikan (4-1) began its season with two wins against Metlakatla and followed up with a third-place last week's Lady Kings Invitational in Ketchikan.
Ketchikan started off the tourney with a 66-54 victory over Riverside Secondary (Port Coquitlam, British Columbia), but lost to eventual tournament champion Ashland (Ore.) 57-49 in the semifinals. The Kings closed out the tournament with a 65-40 win over Class 3A Metlakatla. Three of Ketchikan's four wins have come over the neighboring Miss Chiefs.
The Kings lost last year's leading scorer Mary Scudero to graduation (Scudero was the Juneau Empire's All-Southeast Team's MVP last year in voting by region coaches). But Ketchikan returns an experienced squad led by senior guards Kelly Nausid (5-6), and Amanda Kolanko (5-8) and 5-10 senior guard-forward Cassie White, who were all named to the Lady Kings Invitational's all-tourney team.
Other players who will see action for the Kings include senior center Johanna Johnson (6-1), senior guard Danette Kahle (5-6), senior guard Holly Thompson (5-6), junior center Brandyce Nelson (6-2), and junior forwards Jonnae Ostrom (5-9), Deanna Hallman (5-10) and Sarah Keene (5-10).