The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team suits up for their first game of the season Friday night against North Pole.
A week ago though, they were playing the role of officials, as Alyxn Bohulano, Skylar Hickok and other varsity players whistled younger teammates and middle schoolers for blocking fouls and charges during a series of scrimmages for up-and-coming girls hoopsters.
JDHS head coach Lesslie Knight moved along the baselines, splitting her time on either side of a giant red curtain separating the court as two games played out simultaneously, occasionally chiming in with a comment.
The future of Juneau girls high school basketball appears to be bright, according to Knight, who hosted a one-day middle school clinic with WNBA champion Talisa Rhea (Oregon State, Seattle University) and other JDHS alumni like Maria Weyhrauch (Pomona College) and Nicole Fenumiai (Yakima C.C., Hawaii Pacific) this winter.
The present JDHS girls basketball team is still striving to reach their full potential. Bohulano and fellow seniors Hickok and Caitlin Pusich have yet to lift the Region V Championship trophy, awarded the past five seasons to the Ketchikan Lady Kings.
For three decades, from 1984-2014, JDHS was the only Region V (Southeast) Class 4A school to three peat. Now, this season, the Lady Kings can go for a six-peat.
“Obviously, we’ve lost all regions against Ketchikan and that pushed me to become more confident and go hard all game,” Bohulano said. “I want to win regions this year, hopefully we will. That just pushed me to lead the team.”
Who’s excited for the JDHS girls basketball‘s season opener tomorrow against North Pole?! Tip-off at 6 p.m. pic.twitter.com/pOoOzuMi9w
Weyhrauch, Fenumiai and Rhea ruled Southeast — and the state — with an iron first in their days. All have been in the gym offering inspiration to players over the first two weeks of the season. Weyhrauch and Fenumiai are new assistant coaches; Rhea attended several practices.
The team graduated just two seniors, Cassie Dzinich and Morgan Balovich, but the impact of one is already sorely missed by some.
“I think it’s pretty big shoes to try to fill for Cassie’s spot from last year,” junior Chloe McAdams said. “It’s sad she’s gone but I think we’re going to do good.”
How the Crimson Bears replace Dzinich’s offense and leadership is not yet clear. McAdams will have more playing opportunities with Dzinich gone, and could be an “x” factor. The tall junior played backup center last year but didn’t see much playing time with Dzinich logging heavy minutes.
The team will have some depth on the perimeter, with five returning guards: Bohulano (senior), Caitlin Pusich (senior), Sadie Tuckwood (junior), Jenae Pusich (sophomore) and Kiana Potter (sophomore). The first three are all 3-point shooting threats, while Jenae Pusich and Potter do a little bit of everything.
“I think we’re strong on the perimeter, I think we’re a little inexperienced on the inside,” Knight said. “And so we’re not so sure what we’re going to do, who’s going to be inside. I think that’s going to be interesting to see what happens.”
2018-19 season schedule
(Home games in bold)
Dec. 14- 15 North Pole*, 6 p.m.
Dec. 27 Sitka*, 5 p.m. (Capital City Classic)
Dec. 28 Barrow*, 5 p.m. (Capital City Classic)
Dec. 29 East Anchorage*, 5 p.m. (Capital City Classic)
Jan. 10-12 West Valley Tournament (Fairbanks)
Jan. 18-19 at Ketchikan
Jan. 25-26 Sitka*, 6:15 p.m.
Feb. 1-2 at Thunder Mountain, 6:15 p.m.
Feb. 6-9 Lady Lynx Prep Shootout (Anchorage)
Feb. 18-19 at Mt. Edgecumbe
Feb. 22-23 Ketchikan*, 8 p.m.
March 5-9 Region V 4A Tournament (Sitka)
*All home games will be played at the JDHS main gym.