Crosstown matchups this weekend brought the high school varsity basketball season closer to the Region V tournament in an unforgettable season that has included COVID-19 mitigation measures, a delayed start, virus-related postponements and a condensed schedule.
In Friday and Saturday play, the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boys team clinched two wins.
The girls’ teams produced a split result that saw JDHS and Thunder Mountain High School each claiming a victory.
On Friday night, JDHS put up 61 points to TMHS’s 53 at TMHS.
On Saturday, JDHS bested TMHS 67-45.
All eyes now turn to Ketchikan, where play will determine who will take on No. 1 seed JDHS in the upcoming regional tournament.
According to TMHS coach John Blasco, Saturday’s game was more competitive than the final score indicated.
“Saturday’s score did not reflect the competitiveness of the game,” he said in a Monday afternoon phone interview. “You never like to lose, but we learned a lot about ourselves from the first time we played JDHS. We were highly competitive. But, JDHS is a tough team.”
Coming out of the weekend, Blasco said the team is focusing on this week’s games in Ketchikan, where they will play Wednesday and Thursday. On Saturday, they will play to determine who will take on JDHS in the regional tournament. If TMHS wins, the rest of the tournament will play out in town.
Across town, JDHS coach Robert Casperson said that his team was excited to see more fans in the stands as they wrapped up the regular season with a record of 15-1. The team hosted senior night Saturday, so each player was allowed to have a few extra fans attend.
“It’s nice to be a part of that. It’s good to have some fans,” Casperson said in a Monday afternoon phone interview.
“There’s always some anticipation when it’s a crosstown rivalry,” Casperson said. “It was our last regular-season games before getting into the tournament, which will look a lot different with COVID.”
On Friday night, TMHS beat JDHS 52-45, cementing the Falcons’ first win against the Crimson Bears at JDHS.
On Saturday, JDHS earned a 54-35 victory against TMHS.
“It was a tale of two nights. Friday’s win was our best overall performance of the year. It was an emotional win for the team,” said TMHS coach Andy Lee in a phone interview on Monday. “We were a little emotionally flat on Saturday, and JDHS did a good job taking advantage of that,” he added.
Lee credits a good week of practice leading up to Friday’s win as positive for the team.
“We’re playing really good basketball,” Lee said. He added that the team had won six of their last seven games for an overall record of seven wins and six losses.
“We have eight seniors, and they are really focused on ending the season on a winning note,” Lee said.
On Friday night, the JDHS team celebrated senior night at their home game and welcomed more fans than they’d seen all season.
“On Friday, there were lots of emotions for the girls,” said JDHS coach Steve Potter. “The team was disappointed Friday but felt much better on Saturday,” Potter said.
The Crimson Bears’ record stands at 8-8. Potter agreed that a whole week of practice leading up to the games made a difference in the quality of the games last weekend.
“Everything has been so condensed,” Potter said. “ We started in January and have already played 16 games in a short amount of time. It was nice to have a full week of practice. We forgot how that felt.”
Gratitude for the season
All four coaches expressed gratitude that the season had gone smoothly in light of COVID-19 mitigation measures and a delayed start.
“When we saw volleyball not take off, the girls were worried, especially when our first trip got canceled. But, it’s worked out,” Potter said.
Despite mask-wearing requirements and fewer fans in the stands, the teams were still eager to hit the court.
“Our guys were willing to do whatever it took to get out on court If we had to play hermetically sealed bubbles, we would have,” Casperson said. “The kids just wanted to play.”
Blasco said: “I’m thankful these kids have had the opportunity to play the season we’ve had. If you had asked me in November how the season would go, I would not have guessed it this way.”
He added that the team’s schedule had only included other Southeast Alaska teams this year, as they did not travel to Anchorage or Fairbanks.
“We’ve had some games postponed and rescheduled because of COVID. However, I am very thankful for what these kids have done and that we’ve been able to travel,” Blasco said.