2003 in review: Titles, near-misses and weather woes

Three JDHS sports teams won state titles in past year

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2003

It's been said the only thing harder than winning a championship is repeating.

The Juneau-Douglas High School baseball team did that in 2003, as the Crimson Bears claimed their second straight state championship to highlight a year that saw three Juneau teams win state titles and two others finish second.

In other local sports highlights this year, Southeast Alaska won the right to host its first state high school event in 12 years only to have fog delay the wrestling tournament in Ketchikan, Juneau got an ice rink but lost its bid to host the Arctic Winter Games, no snow kept skiers off the mountain again, Carlos Boozer's head got used in the NBA's Rookie-Sophomore Challenge Game, and a longtime JDHS basketball coach's career ended in scandal.

Here is a quick review of the 2003 year in sports for Juneau and Southeast Alaska:

• Juneau-Douglas High School teams claim three state titles: The Crimson Bears baseball team waited until their third try to win its first state baseball title. Repeating came a bit easier.

The Crimson Bears, the only team to have qualified for all four official state baseball tournaments, became the first team to win more than one state championship when they knocked off the Bartlett Golden Bears 7-3 in the championship game June 6 at Growden Memorial Park in Fairbanks. Earlier in the tournament, Juneau knocked off the Lathrop Malemutes 7-0 in a semifinal rematch of the 2002 championship game.

Led during the season by two players - Stanford University-bound shortstop Joe Ayers and University of San Francisco-bound third baseman-pitcher Zach Kohan - who were both drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers the day before the state tournament started, the Crimson Bears were favored to repeat as state champions.

Juneau's roster featured eight seniors and four of them - Ayers, Kohan, outfielder-catcher Bud Baun and first baseman-pitcher Evan Scandling - made the all-state tournament team. But it was a pair of juniors who led the Crimson Bears (15-1 overall) to victory in the championship game.

Relief pitcher Matt Greely, he of the herky-jerky submarine delivery, took the mound when Juneau fell behind 3-0 in the second inning and held Bartlett to no hits and only two baserunners the rest of the game. Left fielder C.J. Keys, Juneau's No. 9 hitter, had three hits and scored three runs as he was the catalyst for a couple of Crimson Bear rallies on offense.

"It's a perfect ending, perfect," Scandling said for the seniors, who had been playing together since they were in T-ball. "It's an awesome way to end it."

"We were saying we weren't losing our last game together," added Baun, who matched Scandling's two RBIs and one run scored in the title game.

The baseball team wasn't the only JDHS team to win a second title this year.

The boys soccer team, which won a state championship two years ago and lost in last year's title game, turned to its "Bear-lin Wall" defense to blank the Service Cougars 1-0 in the championship game May 24 in Wasilla. Juneau's defense didn't allow a goal during the state tournament, as the Crimson Bears also blanked Wasilla 3-0 in the semifinals and skunked East Anchorage 2-0 in the opening round.

"If they can't score on us, they can't beat us," said senior center striker Axel Thibodeau, whose move from midfield midway through the season kick-started Juneau's offense after a 1-3 start. "Unbelievable. Unbelievable. That's all I can say."

Juneau's defense was led by the senior quartet of Kirk Mearig, Kyle Thibodeau, Joe Stendahl and goalkeeper Colin Conerton, and the Crimson Bears (14-3-1 overall) didn't allow a goal over their final six games and seven of their last eight. Unlike the Berlin Wall, nobody tore down the Bear-lin Wall.

"We remembered that 'Bear-lin Wall' thing, and we said, 'That's it, we're allowing no more goals,'" said Kyle Thibodeau, who was player of the game for the state championship game.

"We kept it at zero, that was our goal," Stendahl added. "It's amazing. We put in a lot of work this (past) summer."

In the early part of the title game, Service dominated play and only the quick foot of Mearig saved a goal when a Cougar shot got past a leaping Conerton in the game's third minute. Two minutes later, Juneau scored the only goal it needed as 5-foot-7 freshman Dylan Ashe outleaped several taller players to head in an indirect free kick by senior Lee Sullivan.

The state title was Juneau's second in three years, and the Crimson Bears have been in all four state championship games. It also was the second straight year earned national recognition, finishing the season tied for 20th place in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's final spring season high school poll and fourth in the Region V (Alaska, Washington, California) rankings.

One other JDHS team would win a state title during 2003, and it was the first championship for the Crimson Bears boys cross-country running team.

Led by junior Tristan Knutson-Lombardo's fifth-place finish, the Crimson Bears had six runners among the state's top 22 finishers as they easily won the state title on Sept. 27 at Palmer High School's Michael Janecek Trails. Juneau scored 67 team points to finish 11 points ahead of runner-up Chugiak's 78 points and 19 ahead of third-place Dimond with 86.

Sophomore Tyler Dinnan finished 14th, while sophomore Wesley Dinnan was 19th, freshman Ray Huebschen was 20th, senior Isaac Milligan took 21st and senior Tim Davin was 22nd for the Crimson Bears. Juneau freshman Nils Domke took 65th place to round out the list of Crimson Bears.

"Guy and I, we ran all over the course, and everyone around was like, 'Juneau, look at Juneau - they're all together!'" Juneau co-coach Merry Ellefson said.

"It looked great right at the start ... and after two laps you realized our group wasn't going to give it up. They were just too deep today," Juneau co-coach Guy Thibodeau added.

The only individual state championship won by a Juneau athlete came at the state track meet May 24 at Anchorage's Bartlett High School. Crimson Bear senior Ernest Monts overcame a slow start to win the boys 100-meter dash, becoming the first JDHS state track champion since teammate Loreen Tupou won the discus in 2001 and the first male state track champion since Robert Ridgeway won the 100 meters in 1998.

• Juneau has a couple of close calls at state: While the Juneau baseball team was able to repeat as state champions in 2003, three other 2002 JDHS state champion teams came close but fell short in their bids.

The team that came the closest was the softball team, which took second place with a 7-1 loss to undefeated Chugiak in the June 6 state championship game. The Crimson Bears, who turned over 75 percent of their roster and only had one senior and two juniors, lost to Dimond in its state tourney opener, 8-7 in eight innings. But the young Juneau squad rallied to win five losers' bracket games en route to a spot in the championship game. Three Crimson Bears - senior first baseman-left fielder Danielle Larson, sophomore pitcher-first baseman Ashley Larson and freshman pitcher-middle infielder Hannah Barril - joined Sitka senior shortstop Sid Wyman on the all-state tournament team.

The other two 2002 state champion teams bidding for repeats were the boys swimming and diving team and the girls volleyball team.

The swim team took third place on Nov. 8, scoring just five points fewer than it did in 2002 when the Crimson Bears shared the title with Soldotna, but finishing well behind 2003 state champ Lathrop and runner-up Service. Juneau had three second-place finishes at state - in the 200-yard medley relay team and 400 freestyle relay, plus by junior Tyler Hennon in the 500 free - while senior Olin Robus won his preliminary heat in the 100-yard breaststroke but finished third in the finals.

The volleyball team, which turned over as much of its roster as the softball team did, took fifth place at state. The Crimson Bears beat Bartlett in five games in a rematch of the 2002 state title match to open the tournament, then lost 28-26, 28-26, 28-26 in the semifinals to Colony and 19-25, 25-20, 25-17, 18-25, 18-25 to Dimond in the third-fifth place match. Service beat Colony in four games to win the state title. Senior outside hitter Julie Heard was Juneau's only player to make the all-state tournament team.

While some JDHS teams were falling short in bids to repeat as state champions, another team made its first trip to a state title game.

The Juneau football team, which didn't make the state playoffs in 2002, lost 33-15 to East Anchorage in the Oct. 18 state championship game after leading 15-0 early in the first quarter. The Crimson Bears (8-3) beat East 42-18 in the regular season, but this time the Thunderbirds (8-2) wore Juneau down. The Crimson Bears beat Dimond and Lathrop in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Making the all-state tournament team from Juneau were junior running back-defensive back Brian Felix, senior wide receiver C.J. Keys, senior offensive guard-defensive tackle Jimmy Brown, senior linebacker Toni Talamai and senior kicker Richard Isett.

In other JDHS trips to state tournaments the Juneau boys basketball team took third place, the girls cross-country running team also took third, the girls soccer team was fourth, the girls swim team finished sixth, the girls basketball team tied for seventh place, the wrestling team finished eighth, the girls track team finished 10th and the boys track team was 12th at state.

• Southeast hosts first state high school championship event: After a dozen years, a Southeast community finally got the chance to host a high school state championship. But weather nearly cost Ketchikan the Class 4A state wrestling tournament.

Fog on Feb. 6 kept many of the state's teams from being able to get into Ketchikan and teams were scattered from Fairbanks to Seattle as they waited for the fog to lift so their planes could get in. That led to rumors that Anchorage schools were trying to steal the tournament from Ketchikan, before the fog lifted and the tournament started a day late and had a rare Sunday finish.

The West Valley Wolfpack won the state wrestling tourney and had three of their seven wrestlers in the finals win championships. But the host Kings matched the Wolfpack in state titles as junior David Mann won by pin at 103 pounds, senior Matt Haseltine edged Juneau's Isaac Cadiente 2-1 to claim the 145-pound title and junior Jon Hamilton won by a 12-3 major decision at 275 pounds to close out the tournament. Juneau's only other finalist was Robert Vicario, who lost an 11-0 major decision to all-American wrestler Jed Wade of Wasilla in the 189-pound final.

In other state tournament highlights involving Southeast teams, the Craig Panthers won the boys Class 3A state tournament and the Hydaburg Warriors claimed the Class 2A state title, while Sitka swimmer Matt Way won the 100-yard breaststroke championship. Also, the Craig boys basketball team upset the Juneau boys 70-55 in the Region V-Class 3A/4A crossover game to win the Southeast championship.

Raymond Douville of Craig was the state's Class 3A player of the year, while Craig coach James Carle was Class 3A coach of the year. George Peratrovich of Hydaburg was the state's Class 2A-1A player of the year, while Hydaburg coach James Holien won Class 2A-1A coach of the year honors.

• Boozer continues NBA success: Carlos Boozer, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, has been one of the steals of the 2002 NBA Draft for the Cleveland Cavaliers. But his first appearance in the NBA spotlight wound up on a lot of blooper shows.

Jason Richardson of the Golden State Warriors bounced a pass to himself off Boozer's forehead, then hit a 3-pointer to close out the NBA's Rookie-Sophomore Challenge exhibition game during the NBA's All-Star Weekend. Richardson led all scorers with 31 points for the Sophomores, while Boozer scored 11 for the Rookies in the 132-112 Sophomore victory. But it was his pass off Boozer's head that drew most of the attention.

"He was just trying to get the crowd riled up, but he has no class. You don't do that," Boozer said.

Boozer had the last laugh, as the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in their only matchup after that game, and Boozer went on to make the second team when the NBA announced its all-rookie team. So far this season, Boozer is averaging a double-double for Cleveland and ranked seventh among Eastern Conference forwards in the most recent NBA All-Star balloting.

Another 1999 JDHS graduate is a step away from joining Boozer in the national spotlight. Left-handed relief pitcher Chad Bentz was named to the Montreal Expos' 40-man winter major league roster on Oct. 30 and hopes to make the Expos' 25-man regular-season roster during spring training. Bentz, who was born with a deformed right hand and uses his left hand to both catch and throw, pitched for the Class AA Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators during the 2003 season, earning the team's pitcher of the year and community service award.

Also competing on a national and international level was Juneau monoskier Joe Tompkins, who is a member of the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team and competed in Disabled World Cup races in Europe. Juneau's Matt Beedle was a member of the U.S. Telemark Ski Team and also saw action in Europe in World Cup races.

• Juneau gets its first indoor ice rink: Juneau and Douglas residents were learning the intricacies of the two-line pass and the triple Salchow when the first indoor ice rink in Southeast opened its doors in February.

"I'm originally from Minnesota and I've been waiting for 40 years for this," Douglas resident Pat Spencer said after the Treadwell Arena ice rink opened in Douglas with skating session for people age 50 and older. "I think it's absolutely gorgeous."

Treadwell Arena hosted its first hockey tournament in April and the Juneau Aces won the inaugural Juneau Old-Timers International Invitational with a 3-2 victory over Anchorage's Play It Again Sports. Before, Juneau hockey players usually played on local ponds or traveled to Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, to compete in tournaments.

"We're in hockey heaven," Juneau Aces winger Steve Woods said.

• Juneau loses bid to host 2006 Arctic Winter Games: For the first time, Juneau submitted a bid to host the Arctic Winter Games, a biennial competition featuring sports and cultural teams from Alaska, several Canadian provinces and territories, Greenland and a couple of Russian prefectures.

It's Alaska's turn to host the 2006 Arctic Winter Games and Juneau joined the Kenai Peninsula and Fairbanks in submitting bids. An international committee visited all three sites and eventually chose the Kenai Peninsula to host in 2006. The Kenai Peninsula bid will have events in Kenai, Soldotna, Homer and at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood.

"I'd really like to say that it's projects like this that bring the community together, which is why I enjoyed chairing the bid committee," Juneau Assembly member Jim Powell said after Kenai was announced as the winner. "We all put all of our differences aside and came together. We also proved to the whole state that we can compete for these kinds of events."

One thing that may have hampered Juneau's bid was the weather. When the Arctic Winter Games' site selection committee came to Juneau in January, it had to delay its trip a day when fog diverted the group's plane to Sitka for a night.

Juneau also struggled with a lack of snow, which kept Eaglecrest Ski Area from opening until mid-February, other than a couple of days in early January, and forced a series of Juneau Ski Club race series to move to Alyeska. This season, the mountain opened in November, but the first JSC event of the season - a giant slalom scheduled for Sunday - was canceled due to snow conditions.

• Gastineau Channel Little League softball seniors just miss World Series: The GCLL senior division (age 15-16) team came within one game of advancing to the Little League World Series, but lost a 1-0 pitchers' duel to San Marino, Calif., in the Aug. 6 championship game of the Western Region Senior Little League Softball Tournament in Butte, Mont.

San Marino went on to the Senior Softball World Series in Jeffersontown, Ky., but the Juneau squad matched the longest playoff run by a GCLL All-Star team in the 52 years of the league. In 1999, the GCLL Junior Division (age 13-14) Baseball team came within a game of the Little League World Series. Earlier, the GCLL Seniors won the Northwest Division title in Vancouver, Wash., and earned the right to shave off coach Dennis Powers' hair.

The only other GCLL team to win a state title this year was the Junior Division All-Stars, but they didn't advance out of the Northwest Division tournament in Clackamas, Ore.

Three Juneau Soccer Club teams won state titles this year, while three 2002 state champion JSC teams got to go to Hawaii for the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional Tournament.

The JSC Xtratuffs U-13 girls team became the first Juneau team to win a game at the Far West Regional when they beat FC Marauders of Washington 3-0 on June 24, but the other two Juneau teams - the JSC Riptide U-13 boys and the JSC Jaguars U-14 boys - lost all three of their games.

In this year's State Cup in August, the now-U-14 Xtratuffs and the now-U-15 Jaguars both repeated as state champions (the third straight title for the Jaguars) while the U-13 Juneau Reign boys team also won its first state title. Those three teams will head to Spokane, Wash., in June for the Far West Regional.

In the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament, the Haines Merchants needed double-overtime to beat Huna ANB 99-94 and claim their fourth Mighty B Bracket title in five years. In other Gold Medal championship games, Northwest Strategies of Anchorage beat the Marlintini's Arctic Lights of Juneau 95-80 in the Classic A Bracket, the Klawock Old Totems knocked off the Huna Totem Oldtimers 95-82 in the Legendary C Bracket, and Juneau's Lynden Transport pulled out a 60-59 victory over Klawock-Prince of Wales to end Klawock-POW's four-year reign as Women's Bracket champions.

• Hamey sentenced for theft: The 32-year career of longtime Juneau-Douglas High School basketball coach Jim Hamey came to a scandalous end when he was sentenced in January for stealing $1,000 from the girls team in Nov. 25, 2002.

Hamey, who coached the Juneau boys for 22 years and then coached the girls for eight seasons (with a two-year break in between), pleaded no contest to third-degree theft charges, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine. Hamey, who had already returned the money when he was questioned about the theft, was sentenced to 18 months of probation, 150 hours of community service and anger management classes, which he initiated himself.

Hamey posted a 451-161 record with the boys team, leading it to the 1973 and 1982 state titles. He took over a struggling girls program and led it to a 157-51 record and the 1996 state title. Hamey retired as a teacher due to health reasons in 2000, but continued coaching the girls team until the fall of 2002. At that time, then-assistant coach Lesslie Knight applied for and took over the program.

"I take full responsibility for my actions and I am disgusted by them and embarrassed by them," Hamey said at his sentencing, adding that he was lashing out because of his dismissal as coach and his failing health. "I wanted to make (school administrators) look stupid and embarrass them. ... I'm not this person."

• The Juneau Empire sports department can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com.

Touchdown run: Juneau senior C.J. Keys returns a punt 81 yards for a touchdown during an Aug. 8 game against Ketchikan at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Pursuing Keys is Kings defender Jimmy Martin. The Crimson Bears beat the Kings 64-0 in the first game of the season, and went on to success unprecedented for the program. Juneau made it to the state title game before falling to East Anchorage.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Driving to the hoop: Cleveland Cavaliers forward Carlos Boozer Jr., right, drives the baseline past Seattle SuperSonics defender Predrag Drobniak in a Jan. 12 game at Seattle's KeyArena. Boozer is a graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, and a contingent of Juneau fans traveled to Seattle to watch him play. Boozer scored eight points and had eight rebounds as the Cavaliers beat the Sonics 87-79.

JUNEAU EMPIRE



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