Wallace Adams goes up for a layup during practice at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Wallace Adams goes up for a layup during practice at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Crosstown showdown: Juneau’s high schools square up

JDHS and TMHS will take to the basketball court.

Roughly a dozen games into the season, the Thunder Mountain High School boys and girls basketball teams will play their second and third home games of the season.

The Friday and Saturday games will come against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. The TMHS girls previously played Colony High School at home, and the boys fit in a game against Petersburg on Thursday.

TMHS boys coach John Blasco said his team’s excited.

“It’s been a long two months of the season,” Blasco said. “Eleven games on the road, four trips. We’re looking forward to it. It’s been a while since we played a home game.”

The Thunder Mountain boys’ record sits at 5-6 with their last action prior to the homestand coming last week on the road at Barrow High School in tournament play. Blasco said the lull has been helpful.

“Everybody’s healthy, (it’s been a) good time to kind of re-energize our bodies and heal up a little bit,” he said.

With about half of the season played, Blasco said he’s pleased with where the team is at and Thunder Mountain’s best basketball lies in the half-season and conference games ahead.

Wallace Adams goes up for a layup during practice at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Wallace Adams goes up for a layup during practice at Thunder Mountain High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

“I’ve enjoyed watching their growth over the last two months of the season on these road trips,” Blasco said. “I think that’s going to be strong for us down the stretch. I like the where the guys are at in terms of development, but it’s not done.”

JDHS is also ready to rumble, said Coach Robert Casperson; familiarity will breed competition here close to home, Casperson said. The JDHS boys’ wide-ranging season has taken them from Anchorage to Las Vegas this season, but this will be the first time they share a court with TMHS.

“Everyone is healthy and focused on the opportunity in front of them,” Casperson said in an email. “The players on both teams are very familiar with each other, so I’m sure it will be a very competitive game.”

Casperson said playing close to home, with the majority of JDHS’ games so far this season occurring in out-of-town tournaments, will be a pleasant change of pace. All of JDHS’ scheduled games until Feb. 25 will be in Juneau.

“It is nice to play at home in front of family and friends. I believe the crowds in Juneau are the best in the state and always provide us with a lift,” Casperson said. “Sleeping in our own beds doesn’t hurt, either.”

Girls games

The Thunder Mountain High School girls have faced a demanding schedule early, and their 4-9 record reflects it. Thunder Mountain’s faced road games against some of the best girls basketball teams in the state and a tilt against Sierra Canyon School, likely the most-talented team in the country, said coach Andy Lee.

The Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team poses for a photo ahead of mid-December practice. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

The Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball team poses for a photo ahead of mid-December practice. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

“We’ve played an incredibly tough schedule,” Lee said. “So, it’s not by accident that we’re getting better under fire.”

Lee said consistent improvement is evident to coaches on a daily basis, and he’s proud of the growth exhibited by the team’s freshmen and sophomores.

“I think we’re starting to peak, we’re starting to rise,” Lee said. “I’m excited to see what the next two or three weeks look like.”

Lee said he and his team are excited for the games against JDHS as well as the Lady Grizzly Hardwood Classic at Grace Christian School in Anchorage.

“There’s a lot of basketball to be played,” he said.

Additionally, Lee emphasized that while TMHS has a young team this year, seniors Sydney Strong, Grace Sikes and Jo Pasion are critical on and off the court.

“We’re still anchored by those three girls and the role that they play in the locker room as well as their on-court contributions,” Lee said.

The JDHS girls are ready to get after it as well, said coach Steve Potter.

“After the experience gained from both our Varsity and JV going 2-1 on our Fairbanks trip, I feel like we are starting to grow as a team,” Potter said in an email. “In the West Valley Tournament, a couple of the girls had their best games of the year. What I think that showed for us was that we don’t have to rely solely on our strongest players to be successful.”

Players on the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé girls basketball team practice on Dec. 15, 2021. The JDHS girls will play Thunder Mountain on Feb. 4 and 5. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

Players on the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé girls basketball team practice on Dec. 15, 2021. The JDHS girls will play Thunder Mountain on Feb. 4 and 5. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)

Potter said that the season has hardened both teams, and full rosters will make for a fierce match.

“That being said, with TM coming off a pair of tough losses at Ketchikan, I’m sure they are eager to get back on the court,” Potter said. “It is our job to make things difficult for them. Both teams had players out earlier this year when we met in the (Capital City Classic), hopefully both teams will be at full strength this weekend.”

Potter said that spectators are in for a show this weekend.

“I expect both teams to play really hard and it should be really exciting,” Potter said. “There hasn’t been a game yet this year where something interesting or entertaining hasn’t happened. I can’t imagine this weekend will be any different.”

Know & Go

What: Thunder Mountain High School v. Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé .

When: Boys tip off at 5:15 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday. Girls tip off at 7 p.m. Friday and 5:15 p.m. on Saturday.

Where: Thunder Mountain High School, 3101 Dimond Park Loop.

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