The waiting was getting to be too much for the Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team.
The Crimson Bears had slaved through four weeks of practices without a game, and the anticipation was getting to be too much as they awaited their season-opener. Finally, the big day arrived and Juneau was more than ready for action. The Crimson Bears dominated the West Valley Wolfpack, claiming a 94-47 victory in Wednesday's first round of their own Capital City Classic basketball tournament.
"That was all I could think about last night," Juneau junior guard Curtis Lane said after scoring 11 points. "I was pumped for our first game."
"We'd really been anticipating this game," Juneau senior guard Clay Brown added. "We'd been practicing the last three weeks against each other, and it was nice to finally see some different competition."
The Crimson Bears (1-0 overall) struck quickly Wednesday, taking leads of 11-2 and 17-5 before coasting to a 27-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was even more one-sided as Juneau had an 8-0 run and an 11-0 run before ending the half with a 49-18 advantage.
West Valley (0-2) made a brief 9-1 run to open the third quarter, but Juneau responded with a 13-0 run to squelch the rally. The Wolfpack made another run in the fourth quarter, but couldn't sustain the momentum even though Juneau was deep into its bench.
"I think there was a big difference between playing here and in Fairbanks," West Valley forward Zach Craft said after leading the Wolfpack with 10 points. "We don't have these kinds of crowds (there were about 1,500 fans at the game). We get about 200 at the most, unless we play Lathrop. I think we were trying to move the ball too fast."
Juneau's pressure defense, led by 5-foot-5 guard Julius "Junior" Cumlat and the 5-7 Lane, created havoc for the Wolfpack. West Valley was only able to get two shots off in the first four minutes of the game, mainly because it couldn't get the ball down the floor. In the second quarter, Lane had one stretch where he forced four turnovers in less than two minutes. Juneau coach George Houston called off the full-court pressure after the first half, but Juneau was still able to force West Valley turnovers in a half-court man-to-man defense.
Once West Valley got the ball into the paint, Juneau had a decided height advantage as seniors James Severin (a 6-5 forward) and Leon Buss (a 6-6 center) both had more than three inches on West Valley's tallest player. Severin led Juneau with 24 points, picking up many of his field goals on putbacks or on cutters through the paint. Severin also made 10 of his 11 free throws, only missing his final shot midway through the third quarter.
"You can easily tell it was our first game," Severin said. "We can play a lot better than we did. We made a lot of mistakes. We did some nice things, but we didn't look as sharp as we should be. I think our defense really stepped up, but I don't think they really had anybody who could handle the ball against the pressure."
"I thought we had some good streaks, but we had some poor sequences, too," Houston said. "When you're playing as many kids as we are this year, you'll have some peaks and valleys. We just need to learn how not to have as many valleys. Against teams like Dimond and Kentlake, we'll have to play a lot better."
The only Juneau player beside Severin and Lane to reach double figures in scoring was junior forward Ryan Monagle, who scored 12 points. Brown added nine points in Juneau's balanced attack while Jon Carlo Malacas and Bryan Hamey both scored seven points each in the fourth quarter. Juneau had 11 of the 13 players on its roster score, and the two who didn't were both key players in Juneau's defensive scheme.
"We were pretty much excited before the game," Monagle said. "We've got some good team chemistry this year and everyone can anticipate what we're all doing. This year we have good depth, and we all look for each other. Other teams won't be able to focus on one person all the time because we're really deep."
Juneau's onslaught spoiled the homecoming of West Valley coach Mike Lessley, who spent his sixth through eighth grade years in Juneau (Craft said Lessley even showed the team his seventh grade picture from the 1966 Juneau yearbook). Lessley went to junior high school with Houston, but moved to California for high school because his dad was transferred by the Coast Guard. So he never got to fulfill his dream of playing for the Crimson Bears. Lessley said the reason he returned to Alaska to play at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was because he heard Houston was playing for the Nanooks.
"I've had three goals in basketball," said Lessley, who is bringing a team to the Capital City Classic for the first time. "I wanted to play in the Gold Medal tournament, which I did. I wanted to bring a team here for this tournament, and I want to see George Houston dunk. So far I've accomplished two of the three."
When asked if he'd answer Lessley's challenge by taking part in this afternoon's slam dunk contest, Houston replied, "Me dunk? Not going to happen."
"I wanted to bring my kids here so they could see the excitement basketball has in Juneau," he said. "I think Juneau is the basketball hub of the state."
Charles Bingham can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CRIMSON BEARS 94, WOLFPACK 47
Wednesday's boys boxscore from the Capital City Classic at Juneau-Douglas High School
WEST VALLEY (47) -- Josh Grubich 2 0-0 5, Chad Young 0 0-0 0, Dan Kollmeyer 1 0-0 2, Francis Sweetsir 3 1-3 8, Greg Ferguson 0 1-2 1, Kevin Kennedy 0 2-2 2, Matt Jager 1 1-3 4, Jeff Baldridge 3 0-0 6, Justin Ferringer 3 1-6 7, Shaun Conwell 0 2-2 2, Zach Craft 4 2-3 10, Ryan Jager 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 10-21 47.
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS (94) -- Joe Ayers 1 1-2 3, Jon Carlo Malacas 3 1-3 7, Julius Cumlat 0 0-0 0, Ryan Monagle 6 0-0 12, Curtis Lane 4 1-2 11, Craig Kitka 0 0-0 0, Sterling Henderson 2 0-0 5, Leon Bus 3 1-2 7, Clay Brown 4 0-0 9, Bryan Hamey 3 0-2 7, Jacob Miller 2 1-2 5, James Severin 7 10-11 24, Byron Wild 1 2-4 4. Totals: 37 17-28 94.
WEST VALLEY 10 8 15 14 -- 47
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 27 22 27 18 -- 94
3-point goals -- West Valley 3 (Grubich 1, Sweetsir 1, M. Jager 1), Juneau-Douglas 5 (Lane 2, Henderson 1, Brown 1, Hamey 1). Fouled out -- West Valley 1 (Conwell), Juneau-Douglas 0. Technical fouls -- None. Total fouls -- West Valley 21, Juneau-Douglas 19.