The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team will definitely have a different look this season.
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With just four players returning with significant varsity experience, a young nucleus of sophomores and freshmen will be looking to make their mark for the Crimson Bears (0-2). JDHS will host Class 3A Wrangell at 6:15 p.m. tonight in its Capital City Classic opener.
"They work hard and are pretty diligent in what they do," junior point guard Kayla Harrison said of the underclassmen. "It's just been great working with them."
As a junior, Harrison ranks as one of the elders on the team. The point guard came on late last season with her clutch 3-point shooting and scrappy defense.
Nicole Fenumiai, a senior forward with solid speed, is the team's lone 12th-grader.
"We're probably a pretty scrappy team because we're so guard-deep," she said. "We're pretty fast and quick."
JDHS Girls Basketball Schedule
at Wakefield, N.C. 57-30 loss
at Broughton, N.C. 53-47 loss
*vs. Wrangell 6:15 p.m. tonight
*vs. Kodiak 6:15 p.m. Friday
*vs. Redmond, Wash. 6:15 p.m. Saturday
at Bartlett Jan. 9
at East Anchorage Tourney Jan. 10-12
at Sitka Jan. 18-19
vs. Colony Jan. 25-26
vs. Ketchikan Feb. 1-2
vs. Sitka Feb. 89
at Palmer Feb. 14
at Wasilla Feb. 15
at Service Feb. 16
at Ketchikan Feb. 22-23
Southeast Conference Tournament in Juneau March 6-8
State Tournament in Anchorage March 20-22
(* indicates Capital City Classic)
Sophomores Mahlet Tingley, Brittany Fenumiai and Emily Johnson bring varsity experience to the team. Johnson saw time in the state tournament last year while Tingley and Fenumiai were key contributors in the Bears' run to the state finals last year.
Tingley is a quick, pass-first guard while Fenumiai's passing and shooting ability makes her teammates better. Fenumiai was lost for most of last season to a knee injury but made an impact any time she saw the floor.
"I think I see some leadership out of our sophomores," said JDHS coach Lesslie Knight, now in her sixth year. "In particular, Mahlet and Brittany provide leadership. I think we'll see a much more balanced team than in the past."
Sophomores Kristin Dierick and Annette Highley make the jump from the junior varsity this season.
Knight will carry four freshmen on her squad this year, all of whom appear ready to play.
Guard Karli Brakes and forwards Taylor Larson, Hannah Swofford and Sarah Tarver may lay the foundation for the next four years of JDHS hoops.
"Karli brings intensity, definitely," Nicole Fenumiai said. "She's a little, quick girl and we're glad to have her around. She shoots when she needs to and is not afraid to drive."
The four freshmen are all veterans of the middle school HoopTime program, worked out in the summer with their JDHS teammates so they should be familiar with playing against older athletes.
Larson and Swofford's older sisters also played for Knight.
"Taylor Larson - she works so hard," Harrison said of the left-handed freshman. "She did used to go right. Now she's as good going right as Nicole is. She works hard and beats some guard down the floor sometimes. All the freshmen are working hard."
The 2007-08 Crimson Bears won't be the state's tallest team. They'll try to make up for their lack of height, however, with quickness and pressure defense.
They'll also try to maintain a sense of balance and fun during the season.
"I think it reached a point last year where we really focused on having more fun," Knight said. "I don't think they feel any pressure or stress in general. We're here to have fun and compete and value it as a game. In the past I think we felt more pressure."
JDHS started the season in North Carolina with losses to Wakefield and Broughton. Despite the losses, the trip served as a valuable time to build chemistry and develop bonds between teammates.
Today, however, the stakes will be raised as JDHS makes its home debut.
"The biggest thing we need to do is ... (keep) our intensity level up," Knight said. "You can have fun, but work hard. For us, that's huge."
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or email@example.com.