Thunder Mountain High School’s Thomas Baxter and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Alwen Carrillo embrace at their end of Saturday’s game at JDHS that may have been the final local game between the two schools due to a consolidation of them tentatively approved by the school board starting next year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Thomas Baxter and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Alwen Carrillo embrace at their end of Saturday’s game at JDHS that may have been the final local game between the two schools due to a consolidation of them tentatively approved by the school board starting next year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

In Juneau’s potentially final crosstown basketball showdown, both schools win

TMHS girls and JDHS boys prevail on night filled with dual-school spirit as consolidation looms.

Both the competition and the camaraderie were fierce between Juneau’s two high school basketball teams as they played each other for perhaps the last time in front of a home crowd Saturday, a day after school district leaders tentatively decided to consolidate the schools during the coming year.

The girls’ teams for Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and Thunder Mountain High School played first in a battle that came down to the final possession, with TMHS winning 44-41 at JDHS’s George Houston Gymnasium. The JDHS boys then delivered a victory for their school by defeating the Falcons 65-54.

A sense of both history and the future prevailed throughout the evening as equal numbers of supporters of both schools packed the bleachers along both sides of the court, with those in blue on the side of the Falcons’ bench and those in red surrounding the Crimson Bears’s team.

Cheer teams for Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé perform a joint routine between quarters of Saturday’s game between the girls’ basketball teams of both schools. It was possibly the final such local matchup, with all high school students tentatively scheduled to be consolidated into JDHS starting during the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Cheer teams for Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé perform a joint routine between quarters of Saturday’s game between the girls’ basketball teams of both schools. It was possibly the final such local matchup, with all high school students tentatively scheduled to be consolidated into JDHS starting during the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Cheer teams for both schools standing on the floors opposite the benches led cheers to the supporters behind them, tried to outshout the other school’s team at the far end of the court in back-and-forth exchanges — and on several occasions took to the court together for joint routines students said were spontaneously worked on just before the schools played each other the previous night at TMHS.

“I think it was just a very emotional weekend in general for the community and especially for our kids,” said Tanya Nizich, head coach of the JDHS girls’ team. She said there hasn’t been time to consider all the implications of consolidation for the basketball program next year, but “these kids are phenomenal. They get along. They obviously went to school with each other at some time. They adapt, and they’re going to adapt, because these kids are hard workers and they have lots of character.”

John Blasco, head coach of the TMHS boys’ team, said it’s difficult seeing what has been a spirited and often evenly-matched cross-town rivalry come to an apparent end.

“I think the town has enjoyed these for the last 15 years,” he said, referring to the length of the newer TMHS sports program. “We certainly have as a program and we have a lot of respect for the basketball program at Juneau-Douglas, and you can see how much we compete against each other. They leave it all out on the floor and then at the end of the day they’re friends in the community.”

Thunder Mountain High School’s Bergen Erickson tries to get a shot past Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Chloe Casperson and Layla Tokuoka (#14) during Saturday’s game at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Bergen Erickson tries to get a shot past Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Chloe Casperson and Layla Tokuoka (#14) during Saturday’s game at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The girls and boys teams for both schools also played each other Friday night at the Thunderdome, with the TMHS boys winning 83-73, which for them was their Senior Night and possibly last game on that court. On Saturday while playing at JDHS they watched — and sometimes joined — as the Crimson Bears seniors were similarly recognized.

“Our guys have a ton of respect for their players,” Blasco said. “You can see when they got called out for Senior Night, and a lot of our guys went out and joined them.”

If the consolidation occurs students in grades 9-12 will attend JDHS, while TMHS will be used for grades 7-8 and the HomeBRIDGE program. How some sports teams such as basketball and volleyball would be impacted are among the immense number of details that will have to be determined, although JDHS boys’ basketball coach Robert Casperson noted it would be costly to replace the floor, bleachers and other elements in the gym with the Crimson Bears name if the team’s name/mascot were to change.

Juneau already has teams that combine both schools, including the Crimson Bears hockey team that plays at Treadwell Arena in Douglas and the Juneau Huskies football team that plays in the valley at Adair-Kennedy Field.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Sean Oliver brings the ball up the court during Saturday’s game against Thunder Mountain High School at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Sean Oliver brings the ball up the court during Saturday’s game against Thunder Mountain High School at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Among the players who will find themselves amidst increasing competition for the varsity squad is Layla Tokuoka, a 5’5” freshman guard who was among the top players for JDHS this year. Earning a spot on the team likely won’t be in question, but she said there’s both promising potential and possible concerns about dynamics among players on a consolidated team.

“I don’t really want it, but it is what it is,” she said after Saturday’s game. She said she’s played with TMHS players before as part of a travel team and “I think if everyone is playing together this could be a really good team” if there is a single-school mindset.

Juneau’s two-team basketball history isn’t quite finished: the Thunder Mountain High School girls play North Pole High School on Friday and Saturday to close out their regular season, with the latter game being the girls’ senior night.

And, as TMHS girls’ head coach Andy Lee said after Friday’s game against JDHS, which his team won 49-35, “there are people that haven’t given up” on a solution to the district’s budget crisis that allows Thunder Mountain to remain a high school.

TMHS girls sweep JDHS, win conference title

Aside from second-ranked Colony High School, only one team has beaten the 18-3 Falcons this season — the Crimson Bears in a 42-40 nail-biter on Feb. 2. On Saturday night JDHS (13-10) took TMHS down to the wire again by staging a furious fourth-quarter rally that came up short just before the buzzer.

Thunder Mountain High School’s Kerra Baxter takes a shot amidst a crowd in Saturday’s game against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Kerra Baxter takes a shot amidst a crowd in Saturday’s game against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The Falcons led 15-9 after the first quarter, 28-22 at halftime and 38-27 after three quarters. That’s when Tokuoka took over for the Crimson Bears, scoring 13 of a game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter including two 3-pointers, with JDHS closing the gap to 41-40 with just over a minute left. But 6’1” guard Kerra Baxter hit two free throws for TMHS and JDHS was unable to score again before time ran out.

“There were moments of us being calm, taking care of the ball and looking for the opportunity to take the open shot,” Nizich said when asked about her team’s fourth-quarter rally. But while the game ultimately came down to a final possession, she said playing catch up at the end is because of key missed moments earlier during the game.

Lee said his team’s defense is what preserved the win when the offense struggled. He said the past two games also gave the full team a chance to play together again after injuries, illness and school-canceling blizzards that caused disruptions in recent weeks, which will be crucial looking ahead to North Pole next week and preparing for the regional tournament.

“Next week what is most important is we have four practices and two games,” he said. “We played 12 people (Saturday) and it took 12 to win it.”

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Brenda William-See takes a shot against Thunder Mountain High School’s Kara Strong during Saturday’s game at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Brenda William-See takes a shot against Thunder Mountain High School’s Kara Strong during Saturday’s game at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Kerra Baxter led the Falcons with 14 points while her twin sister Cailynn had 11.

TMHS leads the Region V 4A conference with a 7-1 record, with JDHS at 5-3 and Ketchikan High School at 0-8.

Both Juneau boys’ teams win at home, leave all conference teams tied at 4-4

The win-loss records show the teams are evenly matched, but the games themselves have been oddly inconsistent during the season.

The last time the JDHS and TMHS boys’s teams played home-and-away games against each other — 10 days before this weekend’s game — the visiting team won by about 20 points. The Falcons reasserted themselves at home on Friday with a 10-point win, only to see the Crimson Bears win at home by 11 points on Saturday.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Jhowel Estigoy drives for a layup against Thunder Mountain High School’s T.J. Guevarra during Saturday’s game at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Jhowel Estigoy drives for a layup against Thunder Mountain High School’s T.J. Guevarra during Saturday’s game at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

But the win didn’t come easy as the Falcons took a 17-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Crimson Bears closed with a rush just before halftime, including a dash down the court and shot at the buzzer by Alwen Carrillo to give JDHS a 26-21 lead. JDHS kept the Falcons at bay during the second half, leading 47-37 at the end of the third quarter and continuing to outscore them during the fourth.

“I believe that that game was a testament to how hard all these kids in Juneau had been working over the years,” Casperson said. “It was a good battle back and forth. There was talent on both teams. And I think the future of basketball in general is bright.”

Carrillo led all scorers with 24 points, while Sean Oliver had 16 and Jhowel Estigoy 12 for the Crimson Bears. Thomas Baxter led the Falcons with 16 points, with Samuel Lockhart also scoring in double figures with 11.

Going into the regional tournament at Mount Edgecumbe High School, all three Region V 4A teams are tied with 4-4 conference records. TMHS is 16-9 overall, JDHS 14-11 and Ketchikan High School 12-12.

“It’s a battle every night,” Blasco said. “You look at the last three years all three teams have been tied and everybody’s competing hard against each other.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Thunder Mountain High School’s Ashlyn Gates takes a running jump shot against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Ashlyn Gates takes a running jump shot against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Alwen Carrillo of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé is adorned with the traditional gifts of Senior Night by family and friends in-between the boys’ and girls’ teams of JDHS and Thunder Mountain High School at JDHS. Both JDHS teams had their senior night Saturday, the TMHS boys had theirs Friday and the TMHS girls will have theirs next Saturday in what may be the final basketball game at that school. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Alwen Carrillo of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé is adorned with the traditional gifts of Senior Night by family and friends in-between the boys’ and girls’ teams of JDHS and Thunder Mountain High School at JDHS. Both JDHS teams had their senior night Saturday, the TMHS boys had theirs Friday and the TMHS girls will have theirs next Saturday in what may be the final basketball game at that school. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s James Polasky goes up for a shot surrounded by all five players for Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé during Saturday’s game at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s James Polasky goes up for a shot surrounded by all five players for Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé during Saturday’s game at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School students and other supporters cheer for the Falcons during Saturday’s game against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School students and other supporters cheer for the Falcons during Saturday’s game against Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé students and supporters cheer for the Crimson Bears during Saturday’s game against Thunder Mountain High School at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé students and supporters cheer for the Crimson Bears during Saturday’s game against Thunder Mountain High School at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola and her daughter, Nora Nelson, a student at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, watch the JDHS versus Thunder Mountain High School boys’ basketball game at JDHS on Saturday night.(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola and her daughter, Nora Nelson, a student at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, watch the JDHS versus Thunder Mountain High School boys’ basketball game at JDHS on Saturday night.(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School boys’ basketball coach John Blasco and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé coach Robert Casperson talk following what may have been the final local game between the two schools due to a pending consolidation starting during the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School boys’ basketball coach John Blasco and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé coach Robert Casperson talk following what may have been the final local game between the two schools due to a pending consolidation starting during the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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