Two high school basketball teams are off to hot starts, but the most impactful stretch of the season is just getting started this week.
The Thunder Mountain High School boys and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé girls will each host Ketchikan for games Friday and Saturday to start conference play for the season. Conference games have extra importance because a conference win comes with a state tournament berth.
“The record goes out the window when you start looking at conference play,” said Thunder Mountain boys basketball coach John Blasco in a phone interview. “Our record is at 0-0 right now.”
While the metaphorical records might be zero wins and zero losses, both Blasco’s Falcons and the Juneau-Douglas girls have started the season strong. The Falcons have a 9-4 record entering conference play, and the Steve Potter-coached Crimson Bears boast a nearly perfect 10-1 record.
“I think we’re exciting to watch,” Potter said in a phone interview.”We go pretty hard and something happens. It’s not always the best, but something happens.”
While the Juneau-Douglas girls and Thunder Mountain boys are the two teams with conference games this week, every local team has big games coming up. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the action.
Thunder Mountain Boys
Who’s coming up: Ketchikan, 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24 and 6:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 (home).
Keys to success: “We’ve had a nice start to the season,” Blasco said. “ … We’re all starting off this weekend. Ketchikan is a very, very strong, disciplined team. They’ve got Chris Lee, who’s arguably the best player in the state. They also have a lights out shooter in Kristian Pihl. We have to make sure we’re defensively focused for this weekend.”
Players to watch: “My point guard Bryson Echiverri and shooting guard Brady Carandang are off to good starts this season,” Blasco said. “They’re our leading scorers.”
Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Girls
Who’s coming up: Ketchikan, 8 p.m. Jan. 24 and 25 (home).
Keys to success: “For us, we try to defend first and make it as difficult for our opponents to score as possible,” Potter said.
Players to Watch: “We’ve got two seniors Kendyl Carson and Sadie Tuckwood,” Potter said. “Kendyl is definitely our leading scorer, and Sadie Tuckwood is probably our second leading scorer. Kendyl is fun to watch, she’s a pretty dynamic scorer.”
Thunder Mountain Girls
Who’s coming up: The Thunder Mountain girls will be off this weekend. Ketchikan Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 (away).
Keys to success: “I’m a new guy, so it’s a learning curve,” said girls basketball coach Andy Lee. “The other two coaches are experienced and successful, so I’m playing a little bit of catch-up. I’m learning both about my team and their teams. Quite a bit of depth is our strength, so I’m trying to figure out what combination of players work best together. We feel really good about where we are right now. I think, right now, our chemistry is our biggest asset.”
Players to watch: “I would start with my seniors Tasi Fenumiai; Taz Hauck, Kira Frommherz,” Lee said. “They’ve all been in the program four years. They’ve shown a great deal of improvement. They’re leaders, they’re great students, and they anchor the team.”
Juneau-Douglas High: Yadaa.at Kalé School Boys
Who’s coming up: The Alaska Airlines Classic Tournament* Jan. 23-25; Thunder Mountain High School, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 (home).
Keys to success: “We’re just going to focus on this opportunity right now,” said coach Robert Casperson, who said he’d rather not look ahead to conference play in light of the tournament. “The teams always seem to play a little bit harder against each other. Right now, we’re just focused on West Anchorage.”
Players to watch: “Austin McCurley has been doing a great job for us at point guard. Cooper Kriegmont is our leading scorer right now. Malakai Nichols has been doing a great job for us.”
*Out of conference
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.