The 2019-2020 high school basketball season opens this week, with the first games for Juneau teams coming in just two weeks.
The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé boys head to Las Vegas for the third year in a row for the Tarkanian Classic Dec. 18-21. The three other capital city teams — the JDHS girls and Thunder Mountain High School boys and girls — begin play the next weekend at tournaments in Juneau, Ketchikan and Hawaii.
Here’s what to expect from all four squads this season.
THUNDER MOUNTAIN BOYS
Last season: 13-16, 4-4 Southeast
Top Players: Senior guard Bryson Echiverri, senior guard Brady Carandang
Outlook: The Falcons return an experienced senior class that includes its strongest offensive weapons from last year — Bryson Echiverri and Brady Carandang. Echiverri was named to the All-Southeast Conference team after averaging 14 points per game as a junior. The Falcons have been eliminated in the Region V Tournament four years running by Juneau-Douglas: Yadaat.at Kalé. Twice in the last four years, the Region V 4A champion — JDHS in 2016 and Ketchikan earlier this year — has gone on to win the state championship.
Coach John Blasco: “I really am pleased with my senior class and how much work they’ve put in this offseason. I think we’ve got some good returning talent — several starters and some key players from last year. They’ve got a close camaraderie that early in the season is valuable and hopefully they stay strong throughout the year. They’ve been playing together a long time and really hold each other accountable and I think that’s important.”
Last season: 16-11, 6-2 Southeast
Top players: Senior guard Kendyl Carson, senior guard Sadie Tuckwood
Outlook: Kendyl Carson, who won an Oregon Class 3A state championship with Prairie High School in March, is set to make her return for the Crimson Bears after playing the last two years in the Lower 48. The senior guard will help fill the ball handling and scoring void left by Caitlin Pusich and Alyxn Bohulano, two all-conference guards that graduated in the spring. New head coach Steve Potter said the squad has more depth this season to apply full-court defense. With the return of Carson, Sadie Tuckwood, Jenae Pusich and Kiana Potter, JDHS will be the favorites to end Ketchikan’s six year run of Region V championships.
Coach Steve Potter: “I was disappointed with how we finished last year, but I still feel like the program has been getting stronger. When I started (coaching the girls team about five years ago), there were no decisions really on how who was going to play because you had just a couple kids that had really any idea what was going on. Now, there’s going to be competition for playing time.”
THUNDER MOUNTAIN GIRLS
Last season: 8-21, 1-7 Southeast
Top players: Senior forward Tasi Fenumiai, senior guard Taz Hauck
Outlook: Despite the valiant play of since-graduated Nina Fenumiai, the Falcons ended last season on an 11-game losing streak, with six of the losses coming against JDHS and Ketchikan. New coach Andy Lee will try to turn the ship around this season and has been encouraged by a strong turnout from open gyms. The Falcons will again be the underdog against Juneau-Douglas and Ketchikan.
Coach Andy Lee: “The challenge is maintaining that excitement level and a part of that is creating a fundamentally sound system so that they enjoy playing. If you don’t have skills and you’re not in shape, this is a very difficult game to play. If we can instill the self-discipline that it takes over the next six, eight, 10 weeks to enhance their skills, in February, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Last season: 13-15, 2-6 Southeast
Top players: Junior guard Cooper Kriegmont, junior forward Brock McCormick.
Outlook: Like conference opponents Thunder Mountain and Ketchikan, JDHS’ projected roster features several talented upperclassmen, namely Cooper Kriegmont and Brock McCormick, the Crimson Bears’ leading scorer and rebounder last season. Coach Robert Casperson is hoping the work ethic instilled by last year’s seniors will carry over to this year’s group. With possibly just two seniors on varsity — Austin McCurley and Tad Watson — the leadership duties will likely extend to the juniors as well.
Coach Robert Casperson: “Often people have asked me how good we’re going to be. That’s what everybody wants to ask when they see me around this time of year: ‘Hey coach, how’s the team looking? How good are we going to be?’ And honestly my answer is it really just depends on how hard they want to work. We have all of the right parts and pieces, I believe, but it really comes down to how hard they want to work.”
“Ketchikan, they’re coming off their state championship and they got a lot of pride, so they’re going to bust their tails to be ready for this season. Thunder Mountain is returning a ton of talent, they’re very loaded this year and probably coming off what I would surmise they felt was a disappointing end to last year’s season by not making it to the region championship game.”
JUNEAU BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Dec. 18-31 — JDHS boys at Tarkanian Classic (Las Vegas)
Dec. 26-28 — JDHS boys and girls at Princess Cruises Capital City Classic (Juneau); TMHS girls at Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic (Ketchikan); TMHS boys at Punahou Invitational (Honolulu, HI)u
Jan. 2 — JDHS girls vs. Colony, TMHS girls vs. Bartlett
Jan. 3-4 — JDHS girls vs. Bartlett, TMHS girls vs. Colony
Jan. 8 — JDHS boys at Wasilla
Jan. 9-10 — TMHS boys at Sitka
Jan. 11 —TMHS boys vs. Mt. Edgecumbe
Jan. 10-11 — JDHS girls at Sitka
Jan. 9-11 — JDHS boys at Alaska Prep Shootout (Anchorage); TMHS girls at West Valley Tournament
Jan. 15 — TMHS boys at Bartlett
Jan. 16-18 — JDHS girls at Palmer Tournament
Jan. 17-18 — TMHS boys at South O’Brady’s Invitational Tournament (Anchorage)
Jan. 23-25 — JDHS boys at Alaska Airlines Classic (Anchorage)
Jan. 24-25 — JDHS girls vs. Ketchikan; JDHS girls vs. Mt. Edgecumbe; TMHS boys vs. Ketchikan; TMHS girls vs. South Anchorage
Jan. 31-Feb. 1 — JDHS boys vs. TMHS, TMHS girls at Ketchikan
Feb. 6-8 — JDHS girls and TMHS girls at Lady Lynx Invitational (Anchorage)
Feb. 7-8 — JDHS boys at Ketchikan
Feb. 14-15 — TMHS boys vs. JDHS, JDHS girls vs. TMHS
Feb. 21-22 — JDHS boys at Mt. Edgecumbe, TMHS boys at Ketchikan, TMHS girls at Ketchikan
Feb. 28-29 — JDHS boys vs. Ketchikan; TMHS boys vs. Wasilla
March 6-7 —TMHS girls vs. JDHS
March 10-14 — Region V Tournament (Juneau)
March 26-28 — State Tournament (Anchorage)
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.