High school basketball games in Juneau will resume with empty bleachers on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 as local teams face off against Ketchikan. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

High school basketball games in Juneau will resume with empty bleachers on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 as local teams face off against Ketchikan. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Basketball teams get ready to rumble after shortened preseason

The audience will be at home, but basketball is basketball.

Juneau will play host to Ketchikan as a shortened basketball season kicks off Wednesday night.

Coaches say they wish there had been more preparation time, but players are excited to get back on the court, the coaches said.

“We had eight official practices before the game. When you’re only going two days a week, you can only get so much accomplished,” said Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball coach John Blasco in a phone interview. “You normally start your pre-season conditioning in October and you’re going five days a week with that. The kids did a lot of stuff on their own. They organized runs on the track. They did workouts at the Racquet Club.”

While coaches and students did what they could in the preseason to prepare, it’s hard to beat the conditioning and discipline from practice sessions.

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“We haven’t really taken a comfortable pace of getting ready for games,” said Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé girls coach Steve Potter in a phone interview. “We had a couple open gyms over the break. Some of the girls came, but not all of them.”

But the students are ready to rock, Blasco said, though some seniors may be disappointed in the truncated season enforced by the pandemic.

“These seniors, it’s hard. It’s hard finding an opportunity to play at the next level,” Blasco said. “They really are. There’s been a lot of fun energy this last week and half. It’s very positive, healthy steps in the right direction for these kids.”

Both teams graduated a number of talented students last year, leaving their rosters untested as yet. Potter said a number of girls are showing promising signs, though, including Kiana Potter, Jenae Pusich, Trinity Jackson and Skylar Tuckwood.

“We’re gonna try and do the same things we did before. But different people are in different roles,” Potter said. “One of the things about having extended practice time is practicing guarding on the whole court and digging in on defense.”

Blasco concurred, saying that until the team is tested, there’s no way of knowing their mettle. Several students, including seniors Meki Toutaiolepo and Oliver Mendoza and junior Wallace Adams have big potential.

“There’s no telling,” Blasco said. “You look at our roster, and we’re looking substantially different from last year. A lot of seniors graduated.”

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire 
Thunder Mountain High School senior Meki Toutaiolepo comes down with a rebound during practice on Monday, Jan. 19. 2021.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire Thunder Mountain High School senior Meki Toutaiolepo comes down with a rebound during practice on Monday, Jan. 19. 2021.

Ketchikan a’coming

Both coaches say that untested teams on both sides of the line should make this week’s games interesting.

“Ketchikan graduated their leading scorer also. But one of their freshmen was probably their most talented player by the end of the year,” Potter said. “There was another girl who had a broken leg last year who, word is pretty talented. I expect Ketchiakn to be disciplined and tenacious and give us all we can handle.”

Ketchikan’s boys team is also an unknown quantity, Blasco said.

“Ketchikan is bringing up a young group that they’re developing,” Blasco said. “We haven’t seen much of them. There’s no real knowing what will happen. I’m just glad they’re getting a chance to play.”

Times/locations

No spectators are allowed at the games, but plans are evolving to livestream the games.

JDHS Girls vs. Ketchikan

JV: 5 p.m.

Varsity: 7 p.m.

TMHS Boys vs. Ketchikan

JV: 5 p.m.

Varsity: 7 p.m.

Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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