The 19th year of the Capital City Classic boys' and girls' basketball tournament tips off today, with the host Crimson Bears taking on the East Anchorage girls and Wrangell boys at Juneau-Douglas High School.
Service and Palmer will get the tournament underway with a girls-boys doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m.
The JDHS girls (2-0, 2-0) will take the court at 6:15 p.m., followed by the Bear boys (0-3) - looking for their first win of the young season - 20 minutes afterward.
While the boys' team is looking to break into the win column, the girls are battling the injury bug and will be a little short-handed. Senior wing Emily Johnson is still rehabbing a torn ACL and won't return until January, while it was recently learned that senior guard Brittany Fenumiai will be out for two months with a knee injury. Junior guard Nani Ostrom also is expected to miss tonight's game after tweaking her groin.
This year's tournament also is starting a day later, so only a couple of the teams were in town Sunday for the skills competitions.
"With the tournament starting a day later, it's kind of thrown everybody off," girls' coach Lesslie Knight said. "In the past, we did two days of games and then the competitions, and then a final night. Because of Sunday falling on the start of the tournament, we don't usually play on Sunday so we did the competition, banquet and dance (Sunday)."
Knight is happy to see her girls, who have a good chance to return to the state tournament this year, get a chance to play a couple of teams from Anchorage so early in the season.
"Anchorage has East and Service here, and we expect to see really athletic play and tough competition," she said. "Palmer is always really well-coached and very disciplined in their approach to things. East and Service are very athletic, so they tend to run and shoot well. It will be nice for us to see Anchorage teams."
The boys, meanwhile, are just happy to be home after losing all three games in the Don Larson Roundball Classic from Dec. 21-23.
Senior wing Colin Gozelski said there has been a sense of urgency in recent practices that wasn't quite there before.
"To get some wins will definitely help us out," he said. "We have a lot of key players on our team that if they have good games, we'll have no problem. Our bigs are injured right now so we haven't been able to work it inside as much, but our fast guys like Tony (Yadao) and those guys are really going to have to step their games up."
"We've had a lot of different teams come out, and we won last year against Palmer in the championship," he continued. "This year, we've got Service, East Anchorage, Wrangell and Palmer again. We've never played East before, so that should be a good matchup. We're really young right now because we lost half of our team to TMHS, and I'm our only starter from last year. We've just got to learn who our leaders are and we shouldbe fine."
Boys' coach Steve Potter said he expects to see some good basketball.
"Wrangell is usually one of the top teams for 3A in the Southeast," he said. "Service won their early-season tournament, and the coaches I talked to up North said they're playing really well. They have some athleticism, and a couple of freshmen that are supposed to be pretty special. Palmer, the coach there is a really good coach and he runs a pretty tight system. He coached Wasilla to the state championship a couple of years ago.
"I would guess to see different styles," he continued. "I would guess that Service is going to try and trap and use their athleticism. Palmer will run some pretty intricate stuff and they'll have some traps. Wrangell, being a 3A group, they'll have a different approach to the game because they're not as deep."
Potter also said he expects to see a good crowd.
"Our evening games, we usually come close to selling out, and it's exciting for the kids to get to play in front of 1,000 people," he said. "And the teams that come in don't always get to play in front of crowds like that, so they're usually guaranteed at least one good crowd."
Skills competition results
Girls' free throw contest - Nani Ostrom, JDHS
Boy's free throw shooting contest - Adam Klie, Service
Girls' 3-point contest - Mahlet Tingley, JDHS
Boys' 3-point contest - Alex DeRocher, JDHS
Dunk contest - Nate Klie, Service