It's not every season that one of the Juneau-Douglas High School basketball teams gets a chance at a rematch with the previous year's winner of Juneau's Princess Cruises-Alaska Airlines Capital City Classic.
But the Crimson Bears' girls team will get that opportunity, since the defending champion Wasilla Warriors are coming back to this weekend's tournament, which opens on Friday afternoon. Wasilla beat Juneau 45-35 for last year's Capital City Classic title.
Besides Wasilla, the Crimson Bears will host two teams from California in the girls tournament, which will have its strongest field in years. Making the trip north are the Alameda Hornets and the Troy Warriors of Fullerton, Calif. The Juneau girls haven't won the championship of their signature tournament since 1999, having finished second the last two years.
The Juneau and Wasilla girls will be very different teams from last year's meeting when they play on Saturday night, the second day of the round-robin tournament. But there still will be a lot of familiar faces.
Juneau lost six seniors to graduation, but several of the returning Crimson Bear girls are making their third or fourth appearance in the Capital City Classic. Juneau opened its season with three victories in Fairbanks, edging Lathrop 54-49, blowing out North Pole 81-31 and knocking off West Valley 67-45.
Princess Cruises-Alaska Airlines Capital City Classic Schedule
1 p.m. Wasilla vs. Troy (Fullerton, Calif.)
6 p.m. Juneau-Douglas vs. Alameda (Calif.)
1 p.m. Alameda (Calif.) vs. Troy (Fullerton, Calif.)
6 p.m. Juneau-Douglas vs. Wasilla.
1 p.m. Wasilla vs. Alameda (Calif.).
6 p.m. Juneau-Douglas vs. Troy (Fullerton, Calif.)
3 p.m. Alameda (Calif.) vs. L.V. Rogers (Nelson, British Columbia).
8 p.m. Juneau-Dougas vs. Prince Rupert (British Columbia)
3 p.m. Prince Rupert (British Columbia) vs. L.V. Rogers (Nelson, British Columbia).
8 p.m. Juneau-Douglas vs. Alameda (Calif.)
3 p.m. Alameda (Calif.) vs. Prince Rupert (British Columbia)
8 p.m. Juneau-Douglas vs. L.V. Rogers (Nelson, British Columbia).
"It's really good for our nerves to have some away games," junior forward Alida Bus said about Juneau's road games before the tournament opens the home season.
"I'm excited to play against some new competition," Juneau senior post Danielle Larson said.
Wasilla, which finished second to three-time champion East Anchorage at last year's Class 4A state tournament, is one of the favorites to win the state title this year despite a couple of key losses. The Warriors lost all-state players Britney Kroon, a 6-foot-4 center who scored 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds against Juneau in last year's Capital City Classic, and guard Tonya James to graduation. Kroon has since had a liver transplant, but is playing college basketball at Seattle Pacific University.
The Warriors, who beat Colony 67-53 last Friday to open their season, return all-state junior guard Chandice Cronk and all-state tournament team senior forward Marsha Schirack. Wasilla also picked up senior guard Trista White from Lathrop, an honorable mention all-state selection last year and a veteran of the 1999 Capital City Classic when she was with the Malemutes. White scored 22 points against Colony, while Schirack had 14 points (12 in the second half) and Cronk scored 13. The Warriors hit eight 3-pointers in that game.
Other players who could make an impact for Wasilla are guard Caitlin Haley, who is returning from a knee injury last year, post Melissa Mayse and guard Kelly Tompkins.
Wasilla coach Jeannie Hebert-Truax said she was happy to be invited back to the Capital City Classic, and not just because the Warriors hope to defend their title.
"It allows the girls a bonding experience outside of Wasilla," Hebert-Truax said. "It is a great tourney for a starter at the beginning of a season."
While the Troy Warriors are based more than 3,000 miles from Juneau, the Crimson Bears are familiar with the team from Fullerton, Calif. Several of the Crimson Bears got to play against Troy this summer at a basketball camp.
"They're talented," Juneau girls coach Lesslie Knight said. "They have a very good post."
Troy is 7-1 this year and won a tournament in Santa Barbara last week. The Warriors went 29-4 last year, posted an 18-game winning streak and won the Freeway League. Plus, they were CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) state finalists last year.
The Warriors are led by two 6-footers, with 6-1 senior center Amanda Livingston and 6-0 senior forward Meghan McGuire pacing the team. At guard, 5-9 freshman Lauren Sims is a very good shooter, according to coach Kevin Kiernan, while 5-10 sophomore Nicole Hayman runs the point.
"We are looking forward to the experience of traveling to Alaska and seeing new things," Kiernan said.
The Alameda girls are 8-2 this season and are ranked 10th in a poll of East (San Francisco) Bay teams compiled by the Contra Costa Times. The Hornets lost only two non-starters to graduation last year, so the bulk of its team that went 19-10 and reached the state sectional semifinals is back.
"We have all five starters back, we're three-deep at guard," Alameda girls coach Brad Thomas said. "We don't have a go-to star. We have many different go-to players."
In Alameda's most recent game, an 83-23 victory over Irvington (Fremont, Calif.), sophomore reserve guard Raquel Hyche led four players in double-digit scoring with 17 points. Junior forward Christina Perricone, who was MVP of a tournament in Sonora earlier this season, added 12 points, while junior guard Meghan Pipkin and senior guard Kumauri Wills scored 10 points each. Senior Lucia Galindo is the team's point guard and is playing her fourth year on the varsity.
"Besides the basketball experience, it'll be a wonderful cultural experience," Thomas said, adding that the trip is kind of a reward for his five seniors, two of whom are four-year varsity players.
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