High school basketball will see the boys Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and the girls of Thunder Mountain High School square off against Ketchikan beginning Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

High school basketball will see the boys Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and the girls of Thunder Mountain High School square off against Ketchikan beginning Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Back in battery: JDHS coach talks return of boy’s team to court

JDHS’ boys team and THMS girls will play Ketchikan beginning Friday evening.

Friday marks the return of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s boys teams, as well as the Thunder Mountain High School’s girls teams, to the basketball court against visiting Ketchikan.

So how does at least one coach feel about it?

“In a word: thankful. That’s the bottom line. It was almost emotional watching the girls get to play their game last night,” said JDHS boys basketball coach Rob Casperson in a phone interview. “That excitement, that anticipation, that vibe was there.”

A truncated season is better than none, Casperson, letting the students have a chance to get on the court and compete.

“It was great to see the kids getting out there and return to normalcy,” he said. “I’m grateful for the people who’ve allowed us to do this, to get the chance to play, to do something. It’s all in an effort to give the kids the chance to participate.”

While the JDHS girls coached by Steve Potter played their matches against Ketchikan on Wednesday and Thursday nights, Casperson’s boys will get their chance Friday night. Casperson said the moments he caught observing the girl’s games were inspiring, even if fans haven’t been allowed to return under Alaska School Activities Association guidelines.

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“The sounds of the gym — the cheerleaders are back in the gym, and it sounds amazing. The dance team was supposed to perform,” Casperson said. “The pep band was there. It was good to see, it was heartwarming.”

The coming bout with Ketchikan isn’t something anyone can call at this time, Casperson said. There are a number of factors to balance on both sides.

“Ketchikan is a tough opponent. They were able to do things like practice and have open gyms because their city was in a different status,” Casperson said. “We are senior-heavy this season. I anticipate that will benefit us in the sense that a lot of them have played in games.”

The players are ready to get after it, Casperson said.

“They’re really excited. It’s palpable,” Casperson said. “Especially coming in this week, it’s been a different vibe at practice. They’re dialed in right now.”

Factors like empty stands and wearing masks while competing shouldn’t affect players, Casperson said.

“It’s because it’s how we’ve practiced. We’ve been practicing with masks on since day one. It was uncomfortable at first, but they adapted quickly. They understand that’s what they have to do if they want to be in the gym,” Casperson said. “We don’t have fans in practice. It’s just the guys, just working hard.”

A number of returning seniors form a hard core of leadership and experience for the Crimson Bears, Casperson said, including returning captains Cooper Kriegmont and Brock McCormick.

Seniors Garret Bryant, Lope Elizarde and Malakai Nichols round out a squad looking for victory. They couldn’t do it without the support of the community, Casperson said, even if that community can’t express it at the games in person.

“We absolutely appreciate their support in these times,” Casperson said. “I hope they tune into the livestream and that they get some enjoyment knowing that the kids are getting to play.”

Watch it here

JDHS Boys vs. Ketchikan

JV: 5 p.m.

Varsity: 7 p.m.

TMHS Girls vs. Ketchikan

JV: 5 p.m.

Varsity: 7 p.m.

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