The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boys’s basketball team rode a winning regular season to victory at the Region V title game as the Thunder Mountain High School girls team was defeated in the same weekend.
The Crimson Bears won 87-68, while the Lady Falcons were defeated 51-29. Both teams played Ketchikan High School in Ketchikan.
“I feel great about the way the guys played down in Ketchikan. We really came out and executed our game plan,” said JDHS coach Robert Casperson. “We were hyper-focused on rebounding. We had 19 offensive rebounds as a team.”
Cooper Kriegmont led with a Herculean effort, Casperson said, scoring 42 points in what Casperson said could have been the third-highest score for a player in a single game for the region.
Garrett Bryant, returning from an injury, also had a great game, playing thirty minutes of the game, Casperson said. Lope Elizarde, Malakai Nichols, and Raekwon Razor also turned into solid performances against a competitive Ketchikan team.
“We played real consistently each quarter. (Ketchikan) had a big fourth quarter for them,” Casperson said. “They had 37 points going into the fourth quarter and scored 31 in the fourth quarter, but the damage was done by then.”
While JDHS won, they won’t be representing Region V in the state tournament this weekend, as school district policy precludes traveling to regions with high levels of coronavirus risk. The Matanuska-Susitna Valley region, where the tournament was moved from Anchorage, is at a risk level prevents the Crimson Bears from traveling there, Casperson said. Ketchikan, which no longer has such a policy, will represent Region V instead.
“We knew to take every opportunity and play like it was our last. It’s just so unfortunate that that’s exactly what happened. We hoped against hope that the policy could be revisited or revised,” Casperson said. “I believe Dr. (Bridget) Weiss to be a great supporter of activities and sports. I know she wishes we had the chance to go. She’s just applying the policy as it’s given to her. This is the proper and unfortunate application of the policy.”
The team had received broad support from within and without the community, Casperson said, and would be ready to participate if the policy was changed before the tournament, which begins at the end of the week.
Last flight of the Falcons (for now)
“Ketchikan, you got to give credit to them. I think they’re one of the two best teams in the state. I think the level of competition in our league speaks to the closeness of the games,” said TMHS coach Andy Lee. “We know each other so well. There’s no time between games to change anything. You are what you are.”
A bruising travel and game schedule against physically larger teams in the form of Ketchikan and JDHS wore down TMHS, Lee said.
“I think the size wore us down a little. You’re not seeing other styles like Anchorage or Fairbanks teams,” Lee said. “I thought we just wore down a little at the end. I’m really proud of the kids and the seniors.”
Region V is a very competitive one for girls basket, Lee said.
“We would have been in the running for one of those (tournament) spots,” Lee said. “I’m disappointed the girls didn’t get that opportunity. We’re going to take a deep breath, honor our seniors, let our wounds heal, support our spring sports, and get back to work.”
The Falcons will look forward to a positive future, Lee said, with emphasis on long-term team building and player development.
“I’m excited for the future. But I recognize that we’ve lost some players that we’ve depended on for years. We have our work cut out for us if we want to match this year. If we’re going to move up, we’ve got work to do,” Lee said. “We’re making some strides in some areas for program building. My coaching staff is really strong this year.”
Reduced community risk will also help, as players will be able to focus on practice and development over the summer, Lee said.
“Hopefully we can have a normal summer, with basketball camps and open gyms,” Lee said. “That’s the component we missed this summer. We need a good July.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.