Emotions filled the gym even before the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boys basketball team secured one of its wildest wins of the season.
The Friday night home game against Ketchikan, which the Crimson Bears won in a 55-54 nail-biter, was also Sock It To Cancer night, which raised funds for Cancer Connection in memory of the late Kevin Guimmayen, a former JDHS athlete, who lost his battle with leukemia Aug. 28, 2017, at the age of 21.
“I still get emotional about it,” said JDHS coach Robert Casperson in a post-game interview. “I didn’t realize I would. We were talking about it this week at practice and in practice. I was telling the guys about Kevin. I felt myself getting choked up. I love that kid. He played his butt off for us. He was 5-foot-nothing, and he just battled. He always smiled. Win, lose or draw.”
The student section was filled with students wearing orange, which is the color of leukemia awareness. A video tribute to Guimmayen was played on the scoreboard before the game, and special socks adorned with Guimmayen’s No. 10 were sold for a suggested donation of $20. All proceeds went to Cancer Connection, a nonprofit that helped support Guimmayen’s family when he was battling cancer.
Before tip-off the donation jar already included several $100 bills.
“He was a special kid,” said school counselor Jennifer Knaggs, who helped take donations. “He was always nice. He always had a smile.”
A wild one
The Crimson Bears jumped out to an early lead Friday and needed every last point to hold off Ketchikan.
JDHS led 12-8 at the end of the first quarter, 26-19 at the half and at one point in the third quarter the Crimson Bears were up by 14. However, Ketchikan standout Chris Lee poured in most of his game-leading 30 points in the final two frames, which led to a dramatic finish.
Brock McCormick, who paced JDHS with 19 points, put on a clutch performance, too.
He had a pivotal three-point play in the fourth quarter, and he sank two free throws with only seconds remaining to put the Crimson Bears up for good.
“Brock’s been one of our best free-throw shooters all season,” Casperson said. “He wasn’t worried. None of us were worried. What we talked about in our huddle was how we were going to play defense after he made it.”
Cooper Kriegmont added 12 points for JDHS, and Austin McCurley’s timely and smooth three-point shooting accounted for nine Crimson Bear points.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” Casperson said. “Part of the story for us this year is that we’ve had leads and lost them and just kind of accepted it. What I like in that situation is seeing that they’re starting to believe in each other, and they’re going to stick with it and keep working.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 907-523-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt