The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team will try to win their 11th straight championship and 12th overall when the Crimson Bears host the 13th annual Princess Cruises-Capital City Classic this weekend.
The Juneau girls will try to win their fifth championship and first since 1999 when the tournament opens on Saturday at the JDHS main gym.
The round-robin tournament features four games per day on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, with a skills contest and tours of Juneau for the visiting teams on Sunday. The boys field includes North Pole from near Fairbanks, Olympic of Silverdale, Wash., and Newport Harbor of Newport Beach, Calif. The girls field features North Pole, Newport Harbor and Class 3A power Monroe Catholic School of Fairbanks.
The Juneau boys are looking to rebound from their 1-3 start this season, which saw the Crimson Bears get crushed by defending Class 4A state champion Bartlett, then finish sixth in the Service Cougar Tip-Off Classic. The Crimson Bears had close losses to Class 3A Barrow and Class 4A state runner-up Wasilla, and slow starts killed Juneau's chances to win both games.
While the Crimson Bears want to keep up their tradition, at this point the Juneau boys have simpler goals in mind. This is the first time in at least four years the Juneau boys played games before their tournament, and the young Crimson Bears feel they needed the shakedown before the Classic.
"We're trying to get better," said senior guard Alex Heumann, who was the boys Capital City Classic MVP last year and Juneau's only representative to the all-tourney team at the Cougar Tip-Off. "The Anchorage trip showed us a lot, and we're anxious to get back out there. It's a huge deal for us to start out strong. If we come to play like we did in the second halves of those games, I don't think we're a bad team. It's the start of the season and we're rushing things."
"Hopefully we can do better," added senior forward Adam Nelson, who won the Capital City Classic's free-throw shooting contest two years ago. "We've got to get there, we've got to get better on our own. We showed we can be a better team, but we didn't show up at the start. ... We need to play like a team better. I think we know each other's tendencies now."
While the boys have four games under their belts, the Juneau girls will open their season with the tournament. So far, all the Crimson Bears have done is scrimmage the boys team, an alumni squad and a couple of local women's teams.
"We're really anxious to get going," senior forward Tasha McCoy said. "Our incoming freshmen have stepped up. I don't think it (the lack of games) will affect us. We've been playing the boys and the women."
"We don't know what to expect," senior point guard Kendri Cesar said of the tournament field. "We've been playing the alumni and older women and, even though we're a small team, we've held our own. ... After a month of practicing, we're ready to play some games. ... We're looking to win the tourney. None of us seniors have ever been on the winning team."
The tournament opens at 1 p.m. when the North Pole girls play Newport Harbor, then the Olympic boys play Newport Harbor at 3 p.m. The Juneau girls play Monroe at 6 p.m. to open their season, then the Juneau boys take on North Pole at 8 p.m. for their home opener. A complete schedule can be found in the Sports in Juneau listings.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.