The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and Thunder Mountain High School girls basketball teams split a pair of weekend road games with the Crimson Bears winning 42-40 at the Falcons’ Thunderdome on Friday and the Falcons winning 42-28 at the Crimson Bears’ George Houston Gymnasium on Saturday.
JDHS (11-7 overall, 3-1 in the Southeast Conference) gave TMHS (13-1 overall, 3-1 SEC) their first loss of the season on Friday with a last-second overtime shot by Crimson Bears freshman Layla Tokuoka.
“It was exciting,” Tokuoka said. “Very exciting. We just played more as a team and didn’t go in thinking it was going to be an easy game.”
TMHS led 10-8 after the first quarter behind six points from junior Cailynn Baxter while JDHS was led by four points from senior Mila Hargrave.
The Falcons would push the lead out to 26-17 at the half behind a pair of deep shots from senior sisters Jaya and Mikah Carandang while the Crimson Bears had five points from senior Rayna Tuckwood and a deep shot from sophomore Gwen Nizich.
Nizich also had a tough defensive assignment on the night trying to limit touches and block out Falcons junior force Kerra Baxter. Crimson Bears senior center Mila Hargrave was crucial to slowing down the Falcons’ interior game and her teammates provided off-ball help.
“Defense was my primary job that game,” G. Nizich said. “We worked really well rotating on defense, our help side came down, we were in a zone for a little bit and did a really great job communicating and rotating down to help, which is a huge key.”
TMHS held a 35-28 lead after three quarters, but JDHS increased their defensive pressure in the final eight minutes allowing just five points.
JDHS’ Tokuoka would tally eight points in the final stanza and senior Chloe Casperson five to force overtime. Tokuoka would get the only basket in the added time, scoring with just 4.6 seconds remaining in the extra period to secure the win.
“It wasn’t planned at all,” Tokuoka said of the shot. “I picked up my dribble and I almost got another turnover, but then I picked it up and went up and it was the game. My first thought was that there were still four seconds left though.”
Tokuoka led the Crimson Bears with a game-high 16 points, Nizich added nine points, Tuckwood seven, Casperson six and Hargrave four.
JDHS hit 11-14 at the charity stripe, TMHS went 4-8.
C. Baxter led the Falcons with 10 points, J. Carandang seven, M. Carandang and senior Ashlyn Gates six apiece, K. Baxter four, sophomore Cambry Lockhart three, and seniors Jenna Dobson and Kara Strong two apiece.
“I just think we didn’t run our offense very well,” M. Carandang said. “I think we had good defense but it was our offense we didn’t capitalize on.”
On Saturday TMHS ran their offense very well, with K. Baxter earning all 10 of the Falcons first quarter points while JDHS’ Casperson and Tuckwood totaled six.
“I think our enthusiasm was key, not getting down on each other and rebounding a lot,” M. Carandang said. “We capitalized on the little things. I think Friday was a really big wake-up call. I think it is a good competitive league.”
In the second quarter TMHS would get shots past the arc from Lockhart and M. Carandang, two tough baskets by Gates and scores from the Baxter sisters for a 24-10 lead at the half and control of the game.
“I definitely would say we ran our offense a lot better,” Gates said after Saturday’s win. “We were a lot more under control. I think just Friday being the second home game really got to us a little big yesterday. We were a little rattled. We settled down today. We really pulled through like we know we can.”
TMHS senior Kara Strong provided two baskets inside in the third quarter, and Lockhart and junior Addison Wilson each had a bucket and two free throws while JDHS’ G. Nizich hit twice past the arc and Casperson and Hargrave added a basket each to keep the Crimson Bears within striking distance at 36-20.
TMHS managed just six points in the final stanza but JDHS tallied just eight, including two past the arc late by Tuckwood and the Falcons held off the Crimson Bears 42-28.
K. Baxter led the Falcons with a game-high 12 points, M. Carandang and Lockhart added seven points apiece, Gates, C. Baxter, Strong and Wilson four each.
TMHS hit 8-10 from the charity stripe, JDHS 0-2.
Tuckwood, Casperson and Nizich led the Crimson Bears with eight points each, and Hargrave added four.
“Our focus was on defense,” JDHS coach Tanya Nizich said of the weekend. “They (TMHS) were comfortable with their schedule this far and putting up big numbers against their opponents so we wanted to make sure our key focus was defense and I think we did that both nights. The difference was offensively tonight we did not attack the basket like we did last night. Some of the points we scored easily were off of screens and June (freshman June Troxel) was a big factor in that. She came in off the bench and she is a screening machine, and she was able to get us open for a couple really nice looks in the fourth quarter to get us going, but it takes all five of us to do that. Instead of expending energy cutting, we just need to be sharp and go find somebody to screen.”
TMHS will host Ketchikan (4-11 overall, 0-4 SEC) next weekend. JDHS will host Colony on Feb. 15 before traveling to Kayhi on Feb. 16-17.
“You lose some, you win some,” G. Nizich said. “We just have to take the lessons learned in the loss and from the win and apply them in our practices next week. Work on our communication and look into the basket. Our screens really helped tonight on offense and opened up the availability for some shots.”
JDHS and TMHS will play their final home games against each other on Feb. 23-24.