The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team left no room for an upset to Thunder Mountain High School on Friday, beating their crosstown rivals by a 19-point margin for the Region V 4A title and a trip to the state tournament.
The Crimson Bears won 67-48, leading from the opening minute to the final buzzer in a game where the Falcons couldn’t generate much offense. The state’s No. 1-ranked Crimson Bears resolved to play their best defense in the title match, according to head coach Robert Casperson.
“The teammates want to focus on each other, which is what I tell them because that allows them to forget about the crowd or the situation; whether it’s rotating on defense, setting screens, that’s been our focus for the last couple of weeks,” he said, adding that the “comradery with this group is second to none. They’ve come a long way.”
JDHS was led by senior Kaleb Tompkins with 21 points. Junior Bryce Swofford followed Tompkins with 14 and senior Treyson Ramos added 12.
TMHS was led by junior Chase Saviers with 19 points. Saviers was TMHS’ focal point on offense, as no other Falcon scored more than seven points.
“Everybody knows he’s our go-to guy this season,” Falcons coach John Blasco said. “He’s a fierce competitor and doesn’t want to lose. He hit a three in the second and he knew he had the green light to try another. He ended up with three in the quarter. That was huge for us.”
TMHS earned their only lead off a Saviers free throw to open the game. JDHS established a 27-10 lead in the second, but the Falcons would trim that to 33-23 by half off the hot hands of Saviers.
The Crimson Bears have let leads dwindle in the third and fourth quarters this year, letting Ketchikan, Thunder Mountain and Mt. Edgecumbe back into regular-season games they should have put away. JDHS had no intentions of jeopardizing their lead in the region title game, however, as Bryce Swofford deflected an inbounds pass, stormed down the court and scored on an and-one play to start the third quarter.
“That really set the tone for us in the second half, and our guys fed off that initial play with our defense,” Casperson said.
JDHS would hold Thunder Mountain to nine points in the third while scoring 17 of their own to go up 50-32 by the start of the fourth quarter. The Falcons closed the game with their best scoring period, putting up 16, but couldn’t slow down JDHS, who scored 17 in the final period.
The Crimson Bears earned the right to play in the March Madness Alaska State Championship starting March 24. Eight teams will converge on Anchorage to find out who is Alaska’s best 4A squad.
Casperson said his team isn’t finished yet.
“One of their goals this season was to win the region and get to state,” he said. “Some groups get really excited, and these guys really enjoyed this win, but they’re still looking forward. They know there’s more out there and more available to them. They’re still hungry.”
TMHS coach John Blasco wished JDHS luck.
“We wish them all the best up in state,” he said. “We’re excited for them to go in as a top seed.”