The Juneau Monstarz Danielle Larson, Letasha Heumann, Joy Ribao, Nani Weimer, Mariah Simpkins, Megan Buchmeier, Maria Weyrach, Michaela Demmert and coach Taylor Larson stand together with their champion sweatshirts and trophy after taking the top spot in the women’s division of the Mt. Edgecumbe Invitational. (Courtesy Photo | Andrew Friske)

The Juneau Monstarz Danielle Larson, Letasha Heumann, Joy Ribao, Nani Weimer, Mariah Simpkins, Megan Buchmeier, Maria Weyrach, Michaela Demmert and coach Taylor Larson stand together with their champion sweatshirts and trophy after taking the top spot in the women’s division of the Mt. Edgecumbe Invitational. (Courtesy Photo | Andrew Friske)

Edgecumbe of glory: Juneau women find redemption at annual tournament

New-to-town MVP three-peats

A year after the narrowest loss possible, Juneau women stormed their way to the No. 1 spot in the Mt. Edgecumbe Invitational tournament.

The team, which goes by the “Space Jam”-inspired Monstarz moniker, lost the title game at last year’s tournament 46-45 to Southeast Thunder. Saturday, they topped the Thunder 57-31 to win the women’s championship at the annual invitational held at the Sitka high school.

“It was nice to have redemption,” said team member Danielle Larson in a phone interview. “It was a good team win, and we have a really fun team. We’ve been playing together up to 10 years in some cases.”

[Juneau women come in second at Edgecumbe Invite]

Despite the longstanding chemistry, a newcomer was a big part of the Monstarz win in the annual invitational. Mariah Simpkins, who moved to Juneau this summer, was named woman’s division MVP in the tournament, which is for adults and features much of the same talent that will come to Juneau for the annual Gold Medal tournament next month.

Mariah Simpkins holds her MVP award at the Mt. Edgecumbe Invitational. The Juneau Monstarz won the women’s division championship and Simpkins earned the top individual honor. (Courtesy Photo | Juneau Monstarz)

Mariah Simpkins holds her MVP award at the Mt. Edgecumbe Invitational. The Juneau Monstarz won the women’s division championship and Simpkins earned the top individual honor. (Courtesy Photo | Juneau Monstarz)

“I’ve always played against this team,” Simpkins said in a phone interview of the Monstarz. “It was bittersweet.”

Simpkins was previously part of the Southeast Thunder squad, which includes women from Sitka, Metlakatla and Ketchikan. This year’s tournament win gives her three-straight Mt. Edgecumbe championships.

While she took home top individual honors, Simpkins was far from the Monstarz only standout.

Nani Weimer and Larson were each named to the all-tournament team.

Mariah Simpkins, Danielle Larson and Nani Weimer hold their all-tournament plaques after the Mt. Edgecumbe Invitational. (Courtesy Photo | Juneau Monstarz)

Mariah Simpkins, Danielle Larson and Nani Weimer hold their all-tournament plaques after the Mt. Edgecumbe Invitational. (Courtesy Photo | Juneau Monstarz)

Larson and Simpkins said good team defense and turning turnovers into points was a big part of the championship run that included double-digit victories over Anchorage, 51-38; and Petersburg, 72-45.

“Our defense led to our offense,” Simpkins said.

Efficient three-point shooting was also part of the championship-winning formula.

“Our game against Petersburg was really good,” Larson said. “Nani had seven threes. Mariah, I think had five threes.”

Simpkins said she and Weimer are huge fans of Golden State point guard Steph Curry and call themselves “the Splash Sisters” in reference to the popular nickname for Curry and his backcourt partner Klay Thompson.

While the 26-point margin of victory looks lopsided, Larson said the game never seemed totally out of reach for Southeast Thunder.

“We thought that they could get back in the game at any time,” she said. “It sounds like a much bigger win than it was. We don’t like to let down until the game’s over. I think at points we didn’t realize how many we were up.”

All-tournament teams and division championships

Hydaburg beat Metlakatla 105-83 to win the men’s open championship. Vinny Edenshaw scored 43 for Metlakatla and was named the division MVP.

In the men’s 37+ division, Wrangell beat Metlakatla 83-65 in the championship game. Division MVP was Wrangell’s Dave Clarke.

In the men’s masters division, Fairbanks needed overtime to secure a 94-89 win over Klawock. Brent Stranger of Fairbanks was division MVP.

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt


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