This story has been updated to include additional information.
Within a matter of seconds, the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boys basketball went from facing an elimination game to securing a berth in the state championship tournament.
The Crimson Bears snatched the Region V 4A Tournament crown from the Ketchikan High School kings late in the fourth quarter of a tense Friday night game played in Ketchikan.
Orion Dybdahl, a junior, scored the last four points of the night for JDHS, including a shot with seconds remaining to tie the game and one just ahead of the final buzzer to secure the 59-57 comeback win. Senior Tias Carney set up the shot in the game’s waning moments by getting a steal in the backcourt and quickly firing a shot that allowed Dybdahl to score on a putback.
“It was something special that’s for sure,” said coach Robert Casperson. “The group has come a long way from the beginning of the season and their development. Their mental approach to the game. Their toughness. Their willingness to work together.”
Dybdahl tied for the team lead in points with sophomore Alwen Carrillo with 15.
JDHS beat Kayhi 60-53 earlier in the tournament to set up the elimination game, but Friday’s contest appeared to be heading toward a different outcome for most of the game.
The Crimson Bears fell behind 19-13 at the end of the first quarter and 33-24 at the half. However, the third quarter saw the Crimson Bears and Kings exchange leads, and finished with JDHS in a 48-41 hole. JDHS outscored Kayhi 18-9 in the fourth quarter to complete the dramatic comeback.
Casperson praised the team’s poise in a raucous environment and play as a group. He noted that of 11 players who played on Friday, 10 scored.
“I was really proud of them for being able to do that and just stay in the moment,” Casperson said. “It was a complete team-first effort.”
With two wins in the tournament, JDHS finishes the season with a 9-18 record overall and a 6-4 in-conference record.
Casperson said he’d received dozens of congratulatory texts and calls following the game with many coming from alumni. He said he appreciates knowing the basketball program has had a lasting impact on former players.
“It helps me to see what we’re doing with these guys, it’s not just a team for a season, but they’re part of a program,” Casperson said.
He also expressed appreciation for support from the community in general.
“This doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Casperson said, mentioning local business sponsors and fans among other supporters. “We appreciate everything they do to support us.”
The Alaska School Activities Association March Madness 3A/4A State Championship Tournament is set for March 23-26 at the Alaska Airline Center in Anchorage.
Process of tournament elimination
The Thunder Mountain High School boys and girls teams and JDHS girls team were all eliminated from the tournament earlier on Friday —but the JDHS girls’ season might not be over.
After the tournament, the JDHS girls have an 18-8 record, going 6-6 in conference games and could receive an at-large bid for the state tournament.
In a Saturday interview, coach Steve Potter said that’s something the team will find out on Sunday, March 20. With losses only coming at the No. 2, 3 and 4 girls teams in the state, Potter said being selected for the tournament seems like a strong possibility.
“We’re going to practice like we have games,” Potter said, adding that there’d at least be one game off following a tough tournament. “We’ll practice and try to get ourselves in a position to win a couple more games.
The Juneau-Douglas girls won a game and lost a game on Friday.
The TMHS girls fell 43-18 to the JDHS girls in an early game. Thunder Mountain finished the season with a 7-18 record and a 0-10 in-conference record.
TMHS coach Andy Lee said his team showed signs of growth throughout a season that featured games against most of the state’s top teams as well as a tournament game against Sierra Canyon School, one of the top teams in the nation.
Lee said games would not have been as competitive without Thunder Mountain’s seniors who bought the program’s younger players time to grow.
“We overcame a lot of adversity as a young team, and I thought we showed a lot of resilience and mental toughness at the end of the season to keep going and look at every game as an opportunity to grow,” Lee said.
Additionally, he said none of Juneau’s high school teams would have successful seasons without support from the local business community, parents and fans.
After the win against TMHS, JDHS lost a hard-fought nighttime rematch with Kayhi. The game was close, but Ketchikan was able to grind out a 32-24 win in the Region V 4A Tournament championship game.
“I don’t think we could have played any harder,” Potter said.
Skylar Tuckwood paced J-D in points with 10. Kayhi’s Jenae Rhoads led all scorers with 13 points. No other scorers cracked double digits.
Potter said Tuckwood, who is a junior, is poised to be one of the best players in the state next year, if she isn’t already among them.
Earlier in the day, the TMHS boys were eliminated by Ketchikan in a Friday afternoon game.
Thunder Mountain enjoyed a six-point lead — 15-9 — at the end of the first quarter and a seven-point lead — 33-26 — at the half behind hot shooting from sophomore Sam Lockhart. However, in the second half, the Falcons cooled off from deep, and the Kings were able to pull out a 50-45 win.
“We did have some looks, shots didn’t fall, and I can’t say there’s been any half this season where Sam (Lockhart) and Thomas (Baxter) only combined for two points,” said TMHS coach John Blasco. “It felt like there was a lid on the hoop.”
Thunder Mountain finished the season with a 13-12 record overall and a 4-6 in-conference record. Blasco said he was proud of the growth the Falcons’ have shown over the season.
“I’m very pleased with the guys and the performance for the season,” Blasco said. “I think from where we started and where we ended, we made significant improvements.”
He also thanked the team’s seniors for their leadership on a team that skewed young.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a senior group in terms of the leadership they provided to this young group on and off the court,” Blasco said. “I think it’s just going to speak volumes to the future of our program.”