As the final buzzer sounded, Philip Gonzales couldn’t help but revel in the jubilation coming from the Juneau-Douglas High School student section.
After making a steal and dribbling out the clock, Gonzales jogged down the court and chest bumped a friend on the cheer team before making his way back over to his team.
“(Naysayers) thought that since we’re a small team, a bunch of guards, we couldn’t do anything, and we proved that we average double-digit rebounds every single game because we box out, we do the little things that get us the win,” Gonzales said.
JDHS defeated Maine-Endwell High School 66-61 in the championship game on Saturday night at JDHS, finishing out the tournament 3-0. It’s the second year in the row the team has won the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic, the annual holiday tournament at JDHS. The Crimson Bears took down Lathrop and Barrow on the previous two nights of the tournament.
Gonzales finished with 14 points and was one of five Crimson Bears in double figures. Cooper Kriegmont and Brock McCormick each had 12 points and Israel Yadao and Krishant Samtani had 11 points each.
Gannon Russell and Jack Coleman led the Spartans with 15 points apiece, and Santino Aybar scored 14.
JDHS led by as many as 14 in the third quarter before Aybar fueled a 13-3 Spartans run. Russell’s 3-pointer from the right corner brought the visitors within 55-54 with 4:50 left in the fourth.
“We had our backs up against the wall multiple times, trying to stop their runs, and the crowd’s going nuts,” MEHS coach Bill Ockner said. “But the kids got up every single time and answered the bell and just went back at it.”
The Spartans were over the foul limit midway through the final period, and struggled to get defensive stops without fouling and sending the Crimson Bears to the line. However, JDHS missed six free throws down the stretch, helping Maine-Endwell remain just a shot or two away from taking the lead.
“We had a couple of shots to take the lead, or cut it to one,” Ockner said. “We made good plays on some of them, we just didn’t finish, and that’s part of the game.”
Casperson said the team will have to clean up its foul shooting going forward.
“We’re going to have to get better at taking better of the basketball late in the game and make free throws late in the game,” he said. “I know that’s a lot more interesting for the fans, but if we can make it less stressful and maintain a 15-point lead through the fourth quarter, that would be awesome.”
The only Crimson Bear who made all his foul shots was Yadao, who was named tournament MVP after the game.
“That kid did everything we needed,” Casperson said. “He was a floor general, his defense was incredible, and he scored some buckets when we needed them and he made his free throws consistently.”
2018 Princess Cruises Capital City Classic Awards
Most Valuable Player — Israel Yadao (Juneau-Douglas)
All Tournament Team — Jhon Rones (Lathrop); Cooper Kriegmont (Juneau-Douglas); Mese Unutoa (Barrow); Anthony Fruean (Barrow); Santino Aybar (Maine-Endwell); Krishant Samtani (Juneau-Douglas); Jack Coleman (Maine-Endwell).
3-point champion — Stanley John (Lathrop)
Dunk champion — Kyler Hall (Lathrop)
Free throw champion — Mese Unutoa (Barrow)
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.