Sometime within the next couple of years Brittney Kroon will need to have a liver transplant.
Still, Wasilla's 6-foot-4 senior center is a major force Alaska's girls high school basketball teams will have to contend with when they play the Warriors.
Kroon took over Saturday night's championship game of the Princess Capital City Classic, scoring 24 points and grabbing 16 rebounds to lead the Warriors to a 45-35 victory over the host Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears at the JDHS main gym.
"People are going to have to stop Brittney inside," Wasilla coach Jeannie Hebert said. "If we're getting the ball to her inside and she's scoring we're going to keep going to her. We've got other options, but tonight that worked best for us."
Kroon found out last year she has autoimmune liver disease, which she said means her name was placed on a liver transplant waiting list and Kroon said she expects it will happen sometime within the next year or two. After putting her on an intensive program of medication, Kroon's doctors cleared her to play basketball while she waited for the transplant.
"I feel better this year than last year because I'm used to all the meds," Kroon said, adding that her condition doesn't seem to affect her play. "Not that I notice anyway. I'm on tons of meds. Other than the bruises (from banging bodies in the paint), I'm OK."
Kroon won tournament's MVP award. The girls all-tournament team featured Amy Neussl, Kendri Cesar and Suzanne Parr from Juneau; Chandice Cronk and Tonya James from Wasilla; Sheena Brundage from North Kitsap and Katie Burroughs from Mills. Sarah Bergman of North Kitsap won the sportsmanship award. In the girls skills contests, Cronk won the 3-point shooting and Bergman claimed the free-throw shooting event.
The Crimson Bears saw Kroon last year in one of her first games back in action after her condition was diagnosed, so they knew she'd be a force in the Princess Capital City Classic. Juneau coach Jim Hamey said his team's defensive plan for Kroon was to keep someone just in front of her, so the Warriors had to throw the ball over the top in order to get it to Kroon in the low post.
That theory seemed to work early in the game, as Juneau's 6-2 center Hilary Rehfeld scored six quick points and Kroon only had four points in the first quarter. Juneau led 12-7 early in the second quarter when the Warriors started finding Kroon. She scored eight points during a 12-4 run by the Warriors, who took a 19-17 lead at halftime.
Kroon continued to be a force in the third quarter, as she scored eight of Wasilla's 11 points as the Warriors extended their lead to 30-21 entering the fourth quarter. Wasilla (5-0 overall) continued its roll in the final quarter, this time getting a few outside buckets as they took a 15-point lead with three minutes to play. Juneau (5-1 overall) made a late run to get Wasilla's lead to single digits, but couldn't close the gap beyond eight points.
"They had a nice high-low game going with Kroon and (forward Marsha) Schirack, and we had no help defense," Rehfeld said. "We all came out really strong and ready to play. I'm not disappointed we lost. We played hard and were fighting at the end. We learned a lot from this loss. We're going to be practicing hard this week, a lot of conditioning."
"There were several things we didn't do today," Hamey said. "We were trying to front her (Kroon), but we weren't getting the right angle. But we did OK on defense. We hurt ourselves offensively, we had no execution. We didn't put the ball in the basket. That's nothing new for us. We have to score. We're not going to win if we don't score."
Jessica Hahnlen, who spelled Rehfeld at center, also said Juneau hurt itself with its shooting. When Juneau could get a shot inside, the Crimson Bears struggled to get the ball through the hoop.
"Nothing would fall for us," Hahnlen said. "We weren't making good shots, so we'll be doing lots of shooting before we head to Ketchikan (in two weeks). We had no inside-outside game."
Juneau's top scorer was guard Kari Parr with nine points, while Rehfeld finished with eight. Amy Neussl added seven points and Hahnlen scored six for the Crimson Bears.
Mills Vikings 69, North Kitsap Vikings 54
Mills claimed third place in the tournament on Saturday as Katie Burroughs scored a career-high 36 points and Jillian Scialanga added a career-high 21 points for the Vikings from Millbrae, Calif.
Mills (8-8 overall) only led by three points at halftime, 36-33, but Scialanga scored nine points in the third quarter as Mills took a 55-40 advantage. North Kitsap, of Poulsbo, Wash., closed the margin near the end, but couldn't make a big enough run to get much beyond seven points late in the game.
Sarah Bergman and Haily Koivu both scored 12 points to lead North Kitsap (0-10), while Sheena Brundage chipped in nine.
Crimson Bears 75, Vikings 36
Juneau hit its first seven shots of Friday's game and cruised to an easy victory over North Kitsap.
Hilary Rehfeld led four Crimson Bears in double-figure scoring as she finished with 14 points. Amy Neussl added 13 points and nine rebounds, while Suzanne Parr scored 12 points and Kendri Cesar chipped in 10 points, three assists and three steals. Danielle Larson added nine points and seven rebounds, while Letasha McKoy also pulled down seven boards.
"We had a lot more intensity," Larson said when asked what the difference was between Friday's victory and Thursday's 46-32 decision over Mills. "We weren't as nervous and we talked a lot more."
"We moved the ball around more and we did a better job getting the ball into the post," Cesar added. "We had an offense today, and our spirit was way up."
Sarah Bergman scored 11 points to lead North Kitsap, while Sheena Brundage added nine rebounds and three steals.
Warriors 77, Vikings 54
Brittney Kroon and Chandice Cronk gave Wasilla a nice inside-outside combination, combining for 43 points as Wasilla beat Mills on Friday.
Kroon scored 22 points from the paint, while Cronk added 21 points for the Warriors. Malorie Egger chipped in 11 points for Wasilla, which also picked up seven points apiece from Tonya James and Marsha Schirack.
Katie Burroughs scored 18 points to lead Mills, while Marissa Gutierrez added nine points and Teresa Rangel scored eight.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.