A Season in Review: Juneau-Douglas boys basketball

A Season in Review: Juneau-Douglas boys basketball

To mark the end of basketball season, the Empire is highlighting all four high school basketball teams. Read the TMHS girls’ season review here; the JDHS girls’ season review here; and the TMHS boys’ season review here. You can also find the season summaries in the print newspaper in the following editions: April 5 (JDHS girls), April 6 (JDHS boys), April 7 (TMHS girls) and April 9 (TMHS boys).

“Cardiac Kids”

That’s the nickname Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team earned last season. It wasn’t just that they brought the first state title to Juneau in seemingly forever, it’s how they did it. (Kaleb Tompkins’ semi-final buzzer beater ring a bell?)

Fast forward to this season, and what surprises (if any) did the Crimson Bears have in mind? Would parents and fans have to settle on a new, albeit less catchy nickname for their team?

Nope, “Cardiac Kids” fit just as well for this year’s bunch. How else can you explain the counter-punches this team was so fond of throwing this season.

Thunder Mountain High School sweeps you on your home court? Go to their place in a month and repay the favor.

Lose by 16 points in the first round of the Region V tournament? Win the next three games and take the region while becoming the only team in tournament history to win the championship as the lowest seed.

Get to the state tournament only to get blown out by 32 points to East Anchorage? Come from double-digit second half deficits to win the next two games by just one point. As Coach Casperson rightly noted of that final 65-64 win over Bartlett: “We were one of only three teams to end the season with a win.”

Without a pure scorer, the Crimson Bears instead won games through defensive fundamentals: boxing out, help-defense, etc. Over the course of 29 games this season, JDHS out-rebounded their opponents by an average of seven per game. Erik Kelly, a model rebounder and occasional dunker, played a important role in every Crimson Bear win this season. Same can be said of Bryce Swofford, who turned it his play in the last month of the season. Kolby Hoover returned to form after breaking his leg in the off season and Ulyx Bohulano finished his high school career with some high-scoring games.

Roster

Sebastian Bradley

Kolby Hoover

John Hamrick

Kasey Watts

Hunter Beelitz

Ulyx Bohulano

Bryce Swofford

Marshall Shapland-Murray

Jordan Milligan

Erik Kelly

Krishant Samtani

Luke Mallinger

Tristin Eidsness

Luis Lozada

Coach: Robert Casperson

Assistant coaches: John Sleppy, Ben Kriegmont, Brice Searles

Managers: Caitlynn Rich, Alison Ford, David Timothy

Season Record: 18-11

Q&A with Coach Robert Casperson

(This interview has been edited for length.)

What were the biggest challenges your team faced this season?

Starting the year without Kolby (Hoover, who had broken his leg) was a significant challenge. … We had a pretty challenging stretch in the middle of the season where we lost seven out of eight games. We had to figure out what we needed to do different/better. After some soul-searching, we revamped our entire offense and defense at the start of February. The players never quit during that time and they were willing to make the changes the coaching staff believed were necessary to play to our strengths.

What’s one interesting or surprising thing about your team that most people don’t know about?

Hunter Beelitz loves to sing Happy Birthday to people in a crowded area. Once he starts, the team will gladly join him. They got me a couple of times on road trips this season.

What was the most fun game to coach in this season?

Needing to win three games in a row with our season on the line was exciting. We knew we had to win our elimination game versus Thunder Mountain and then take two in a row versus Ketchikan to make it back to the state tournament this season (our Winning Percentage Index was not high enough to earn an at-large bid). Being able to pull off that feat in front of the home crowd was especially rewarding.

How did you see your boys’ confidence grow over the course of the season?

One of the defining characteristics that will stick with me from this year’s team was their resiliency. They never got down on each other and never gave up, no matter what the odds were. They stuck together and worked to overcome the obstacles in front of them.

What areas of the game will you try to better next season?

Our post-season talks with the returning players focused on explicitly on getting stronger, improving ball handling, and increasing shooting range.

Team captains

Bryce Swofford

Kolby Hoover

Statistical Leaders

Points: Kelly (14.7)

Rebounds: Kelly (10.7)

Juneau-Douglas’ Kasey Watts shoots against Ketchikan’s Jake Smith during the Region V Basketball finals at JDHS on Friday, March 10, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ Kasey Watts shoots against Ketchikan’s Jake Smith during the Region V Basketball finals at JDHS on Friday, March 10, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas hosts Haines in the Capital City Classic at JDHS on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas hosts Haines in the Capital City Classic at JDHS on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ head coach Robert Casperson yells out instructions as his team plays against Dimond High School in the Capital City Classic at JDHS on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ head coach Robert Casperson yells out instructions as his team plays against Dimond High School in the Capital City Classic at JDHS on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ Erik Kelly dunks the ball against Lathrop at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. JDHS won 50-43. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ Erik Kelly dunks the ball against Lathrop at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. JDHS won 50-43. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas competes against Lathrop at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. JDHS won 50-43. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas competes against Lathrop at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. JDHS won 50-43. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ Kasey Watts, right, drives against Ketchkan’s Jake Smith at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Ketchikan won 66-47. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ Kasey Watts, right, drives against Ketchkan’s Jake Smith at JDHS on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Ketchikan won 66-47. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ Kolby Hoover pass under pressure by Ketchikan’s Chris Lee, left, and Shakim Bauer during the Region V Basketball finals at JDHS on Friday, March 10, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau-Douglas’ Kolby Hoover pass under pressure by Ketchikan’s Chris Lee, left, and Shakim Bauer during the Region V Basketball finals at JDHS on Friday, March 10, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

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