A short pre-season and limited conditioning and practice led to varied results against Ketchikan as basketball teams from both Juneau high schools competed over the week.
But it was good to be back.
“It was great. It doesn’t matter what the outcomes were,” said Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé boys coach Rob Casperson in a phone interview. “Seeing two teams out on the court, the cheerleaders going, the dance team, the pep band.”
Played against the backdrop of gyms empty of spectators, JDHS and Thunder Mountain High School boys and girls took on Ketchikan in a regional rivalry over four days. JDHS and TMHS will compete against each other beginning Friday.
“We’re excited about the weekend. The kids are working really hard. We’re providing a safe healthy environment for them to work in, to play in,” said TMHS girls coach Andy Lee in a phone interview. “There’s been a noticeable improvement in their mental approach. There’s a spring in their step. I’d say that about the band and cheer kids, too. The kids who were in the building were ecstatic.”
TMHS boys coach John Blasco was also grateful that they were able to get out and play some basketball.
“It’s good to have the first games,” Blasco said. “And we were out there playing basketball. It’s good to compete.”
“I think the games were played a little lower level than this time last year,” Lee said. “We took some things we learned on the first night and put them into play the second night. Our performance steadily improved.”
THMS girls team lost a game and won a game against Ketchikan, led by returning upperclassmen, Lee said, as the team looks to learn and apply lessons.
“(Senior) Avery Kreisher and (junior) Sydney Strong were consistent for us both nights,” Lee said. “We’re not concerned as much about the historical as we are about improving from game to game.”
Senior Samantha Dilley and Junior Riley Traxler also brought good energy to the game, Lee said.
The JDHS girls had a rougher go, said Coach Steve Potter, as the team looks to this year to build experience without last year’s powerhouse players.
“We knew it was going to be tougher for us to score. Sometimes it’s tough to step in and take all those points,” Potter said in a phone interview. “We corrected some of our mistakes from Friday to Saturday and then made some new ones.”
While the JDHS girl’s team lost both of their games, Potter said, it was instructive for what they’re going to focus on moving forward.
“I thought we played pretty hard,” Potter said. “Obviously we hope to be on a higher level by the end of the season. I think it was a big attention getter that we need to be more focused on what we’re practicing and translating that into the games.”
The JDHS boys team, led by Cooper Kriegmont, pushed to win both games. Kriegmont himself entered rarefied heights on Saturday as he scored his 1,000th point.
“Cooper Kriegmont gave us a great weekend. He finished with 31 on Friday and 23 on Saturday,” Casperson said. “He crossed the 1,000-point threshold. That’s a pretty elite group of players that have been able to achieve that.”
Casperson said that Kriegmont credited his teammates with the points, as they worked hard to get the senior the ball.
“We’re gonna have to get ready for Thunder Mountain,” Casperson said. “They keep running wave after wave of big bodies in their front line. We just have to be ready to adapt.”
TMHS boys, which won one and lost one against Ketchikan, is having a good season, Blasco said, with a standout performance from an underclassman.
“Thomas Baxter, a freshman, had a good first game of high school basketball,” Blasco said. “He had 10 points.”
The shortened preseason means that the teams are immediately playing games that will count, Blasco said.
“I was talking with the guys about that. In a normal year, you would have practiced for two whole weeks and then played nonspecific tournaments and nonconference games,” Blasco said. “This season, we’re jumping right in. Seven or eight days and we’re playing conference games.”
TMHS boys will play at JDHS on Friday and Saturday, with JDHS girls playing at TMHS. JV will play at 5 p.m. and the varsity teams will begin at 7 p.m. Spectators are not allowed at the games, but details for watching the games live will be announced soon.