Call it December Madness.
All four of Juneau’s prep basketball teams will be kickstarting their respective seasons over the coming week and a half, dispersing between three states for five different tournaments.
The Juneau-Douglas High School boys are in Las Vegas this week for the Tarkanian Classic, a four-day bonanza of a tournament with over 70 teams represented from all around the country.
For the remaining three teams — the Juneau-Douglas girls, Thunder Mountain boys and Thunder Mountain girls — the fun begins next week. The JDHS girls and boys will both appear in the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic in Juneau beginning next Thursday. The tournament, now in its 27th year, includes six visiting teams from around the state and country.
The Empire will be livestreaming all of the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic games on its website, juneauempire.com.
Rather than playing the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic, the Thunder Mountain boys play in the Franklin High Schoool Tournament of Champions in Seattle. That tournament will feature a 16-team bracket, and like the Tarkanian, include opponents from Canada. TMHS kicks off the tournament against Stanwood High School (Tacoma, Washington) next Wednesday night and will get to play four games.
Thunder Mountain girls will take part in the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic in Ketchikan. The Clarke Cochrane Tournament will include girls teams from Metlakatla, Craig, Lathrop, Soldotna, Palmer and Chino, California.
In Vegas, the Tarkanian Classic tipped off on Wednesday as the Crimson Bears took on Vegas’ own Shadow Ridge High School. JDHS, who plays in the “Orleans Bracket,” will be given three more games after Wednesday. The “Orleans Bracket” features 16 total teams from six U.S. states and Alberta, Canada.
JDHS coach Robert Casperson said the tournament provides everyone with new experiences and opportunities to gel.
“It gives us more of an opportunity to be together as a group away from the confines of our home state,” Casperson said. “Try to experience a lot of different things that we wouldn’t get to otherwise. Like, right now, we’re experiencing 65-degree weather, and these guys, the ones who weren’t here last year, they got some big eyes as they’re walking through the casino and seeing all the bright lights and the glitz and the glamour.”
The Crimson Bears suffered two of their worst losses of the season at last year’s tournament. JDHS lost to Campbell Hall (Los Angeles) 67-35 in Game 1 and Layton Christian (Layton, Utah) 67-40 in Game 3. They were able to figure things out though in Games 2 and 4, knocking off La Salle Prep (Milwaukie, Oregon) 73-67 and Western (Las Vegas) 60-48. The brackets are designed to provide programs a proper level of competition, but as last year showed, it’s not a perfect system.
“It’s got to be incredibly hard to put teams in the appropriate brackets based on talent when you got 80-something schools coming in,” Casperson said. “We didn’t feel particularly over matched in those games that we got blown out in, but certainly those teams were better and they executed a lot better. In any case, we love that this tournament gives us an opportunity to come down and get four games under our belt early in the season against quality opponents.”
All the JDHS games at the Tarkanian Classic will be broadcast over KINY radio. Track JDHS’ progress at the tournament at tarkanianclassic.com/2017home.html.