First round - knock 'em down. Second round - get 'em.
The Juneau-Douglas girls basketball team played out their motto yet again Saturday, overcoming a shaky first quarter to run past Australia's Club Kilsyth team 43-35 in their opening game at the annual Capital City Classic Basketball Tournament in the JDHS main gym.
Sophomore forward Taylor Larsen came off the bench and helped kick-start the Crimson Bears after the Aussies slowed down the pace and dominated most of the opening period. Kilsyth led 15-5 after the first five minutes, before Juneau-Douglas' pressure defense began to work its magic. Larsen powered up a pair of tough, short hooks off the left block in the final minute to help the Bears pull within 15-11 as the quarter ended.
Larsen's love affair with the left block was far from over, however, as plenty of hard-fought rebounds and nice interior passes helped her rack up a team-high 14 points on the night. All but four of those points came from her block of choice.
"It's just easier for me to get the ball on the left side, being left-handed, and my teammates did a great job of passing the ball inside," Larsen said. "I think I had 14 in the (season-opener) down in Oregon, but I don't really think about scoring a lot. I try to get open and if I get (the ball), then I get it. Then I just do what I'm supposed to do."
Larsen's low-post scoring and tough defense and rebounding from fellow post Hannah Swofford helped the Bears stay within one or two possessions for most of the second. JDHS finally took their first lead of the game at 21-20 on Larsen's putback with a minute left in the second. Once again, she ended the quarter with a pair of tough lay-ups after powering up another lay-up just three seconds before half-time to put her team up 23-20.
"I'm not sure why we started slow, but we did a good job of executing plays tonight and on our individual defense," Larsen said. "They were fast and really aggressive, but I'd say our defense helped us out a lot."
The Bears came out with much more energy than Kilsyth in the third, but both teams used tough interior defense to hold the scoring to a minimum despite a whirlwind pace. Larsen was finally able to shake free in the final two minutes of the third, scoring her team's final six points from inside. The period ended with JDHS expanding their lead slightly to 34-27.
While Larsen was closing out quarters for Juneau-Douglas, junior forward Brittany Fenumiai was opening them. Fenumiai opened the first, second and then fourth quarters with jumpers. She started the fourth with a tough jumper from the free throw line despite being fouled, and converted on the free throw, before giving her defender a head fake on the next trip down and converting the lay-up.
The Crimson Bears went into a stall offense shortly after Fenumiai's scores and Kilsyth was unable to pull closer than eight the rest of the way.
Fenumiai finished behind Larsen with 10 points on the night for JDHS, including the Bears' lone three-point hit in the first quarter.
"Brittany said she didn't think her shots were falling tonight, but she played really good on defense and really helped us out," Larsen said.
Junior Emily Johnson chipped in seven for Juneau-Douglas.
Emily Van Poppel led the way for the Aussies with 12 points, including a three-point bomb. Jordan O'Shea added seven in the effort.
Alexander 49, Wasilla 47
The small-town team from Ohio showed they could play with Alaska's 4A girls Saturday afternoon.
The Spartans overcame a four-point half-time deficit and survived a tight second half that was tied after three quarters to squeak out the narrow win.
Whitney Smith broke out of a short slump after not scoring a field goal in the first quarter, finishing with 17 points on the game to lead the Spartans. Smith was 5-for-8 from the free throw line in the contest.
Lauren Raines finished with eight and Whitney Daugherty added seven for Alexander.
All-State senior guard Jenna Johnson finished with 22 points for the Warriors, but was held to a single field goal in both the third and fourth quarters.
Leisle Brown chipped in 12 and Jillian Troisi added five for Wasilla.