The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears boys and girls basketball teams mirrored each other again in the third round of the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic, but the winning ways of the first two rounds didn’t extend to Friday’s games. Both Crimson Bears teams lost to their respective opponents in the last round of the tournament held annually at JDHS.
The JDHS girls played first against Anchorage Christian School with the boys following after against Fairbanks’ West Valley High School. While both games would ultimately not work out as victories for either JDHS teams, coaches and players alike said it was a valuable opportunity that can only make them better moving forward into the regular season.
JDHS girls head coach Tanya Nizich said after the 75-40 loss to ACS, the team’s mindset remains positive and focused on what needs to be improved.
“We pushed as hard as we could push, and that’s only going to give us growth after a game like this to basically just see what we need to work on throughout the season,” Tanya Nizich said. “So it was great to have such an athletic, quick team early on in the season so that we can learn from it now and carry on in practices and focus on things we need to work on.”
The JDHS showed a lot of determination against an aggressive, fast-paced ACS team in the first quarter with senior guard Kiyara Miller making one of two free throws, while senior guard Skylar Tuckwood put down four out of four of her free throws, with freshman guard Gwen Nizich following for two-points and junior point guard Mila Hargrave scoring one out of two free throws, ending the first quarter with ACS in the lead at 20-8. In the second quarter, Skylar Tuckwood showed up big with six-points and three free throws, with senior point guard Ashley Laudert scoring both of her free throw shots for a combined score of 19 against Anchorage Christian’s 48 points.
In the third quarter, Skylar Tuckwood sank two free throws while also making a 3-pointer, as would Gwen Nizich with a 3-point shot of her own, and Hargrave with four points, making the score 70-31 at the end of the third quarter, ACS still in the lead. In the fourth quarter, Skylar Tuckwood continued to stay busy with four-points and one free throw, as did Hargrave with two out of four free throws and Laudert with two free throw points.
After a dominant performance from ACS, in reflection Hargrave said there was no other way to see it but as a learning experience.
“I think it was good for us to play that game, I think it will help us know what we need to work on for the rest of the season,” Hargrave said. “They’re a really good team, they’re like number one in the state, so I think it was a fun game to play against them.”
Skylar Tuckwood, who played a strong game and managed to score throughout all four quarters for a total of 23 points said that while ACS was tough, it ultimately helped her team rise to the same level.
“It was fun, though, good competition,” Skylar Tuckwood said. “We definitely just need to talk more and communication is a really big thing and just pushing the ball up and looking for open people, taking shots when needed; we can always get better, so just focus on taking little steps.”
For the final game of the tournament, the JDHS boys played West Valley High School, who came away on top with a final score of 63-43. Though the Crimson Bears boys were unable to see their way to a win, head coach Robert Casperson said he’s proud of the maturity the team showed in approaching the lessons and areas that need improvement.
“We came out with a lot of lessons from this game,” Casperson said. “It’s just a matter of making sure we’re executing consistently. If we want to be there at the end of the season we’re going to have to improve a little quicker. I’m really proud of the guys and the way they’re approaching it and the way they want to learn from it and get better.”
JDHS managed to keep the score close through much of the first quarter; junior guard Alwen Carrillo had two points, junior guard Sean Oliver made three-points from two free throws, while seniors forward Orion Dybdahl, guard Joseph Aline and forward Kai Hargrave each put up two-points, as well. First quarter ended with West Valley up 17-11. In the second quarter, Carrillo made one-point from his free throw, Oliver had two points and Dybdahl had four points, ending the second quarter with West Valley still in the lead at 34-18.
In the third quarter, Carrillo and junior forward Jhowel Estigoy scored two points each, while Oliver sank a three-point shot with four-points to follow, wrapping up the third quarter at 47-29, West Valley’s lead. In the fourth quarter, sophomore guard Gavin Gerrin sank a 3-point shot, junior forward Alex Mallott scored two points, Dybdahl made two of three free throws, Aline had two points and freshman guard Brandon Casperson made both free throws while also putting down a 3-point shot.
Afterward, Robert Casperson said the main takeaway he saw was the execution isn’t yet where it needs to be on either side of the ball.
“We didn’t take care of the ball like we needed to against a quality opponent like that,” Casperson said. “They made us pay for every single turnover that we had, they definitely put the pressure on us and we’re going to have to learn from that. We’re going to tighten things up with getting people into the right places to execute on offense.”
Casperson also noted how the Juneau home crowd really came out and showed their support, which Casperson said never goes unnoticed, adding that the teams appreciate the encouragement and always love the opportunity to play for the hometown fans.
Carrillo, who had to leave in the third quarter due to a sprained ankle, said he along with his teammates are optimistic after the tough loss and only see it as a means of improving.
“Mostly I think after a game like that, we can just improve from there, no matter if we lose or win,” Carrillo said. “Even though we lost the tournament it’s a learning lesson for us and I think we’re definitely going to succeed throughout the season. We built a lot of chemistry throughout this tournament for sure.”
Oliver, who during the awards ceremony after the game won two awards for 3-point shooting as well as the dunk contest, said that while he wished the team could have won the tournament, the overall bonding the team gained was even more important.
“I think we came together and molded pretty well,” Oliver said. “We’re going to take away from this, that’s for sure, that’s all that counts. We played as a team, did what we could, we’ll get them next time.”
Brandon Casperson also won the award for the boys free throw contest, with Oliver, Carrillo and Dybdahl each earning all-tournament honors. For JDHS girls, Skylar Tuckwood, Hargrave and Gwen Nizich also made the all-tournament selection.
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at email@example.com.