With several scorers in foul trouble, the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé boys basketball team relied on its defense to stay on the Soldotna Stars’ heels.
In the final game of the Princess Cruises Capital City Classic at JDHS Monday, the Crimson Bears’ heightened defensive effort slowed all but one Soldotna player: senior Jersey Truesdell. The tournament MVP scored a game-high 21 points and initiated the game-winning play for the Stars, who defeated the Crimson Bears 54-52 before a raucous crowd.
“That was our best game of the year by far with our defensive effort and intensity,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said.
JDHS (2-5) was looking for its third win of the season after splitting contests with Haines and North Pole to start the tournament.
The win gave Soldotna the boys tournament title. After a blowout victory Friday, the visitors from the Kenai Peninsula escaped a feisty Haines team 68-66 on Saturday after a potential buzzer-beater shot by their opponent missed the mark.
“We’re a veteran group, and we’ve grown a lot in the last couple of weeks,” Soldotna coach Nolan Rose said Monday. “In our home opener, we had a late lead against Anchorage Christian and we let that slip away. Kind of similar situation to our games with Haines and Juneau tonight. I thought we responded a lot better to the game pressure the last two nights and that’s what you want to see.”
“We don’t get a lot of environments like this in other parts of the state,” Rose added. “So it’s really fun to play with the (pep) band and raucous crowd.”
Cooper Kriegmont scored 18 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, while junior Brock McCormick added 12 points.
After Kriegmont tied the game at 52-all with 15 seconds left, Truesdell launched an overhead pass diagonally up the court to Tyler Morrison, who passed to a cutting Zach Hanson at the top of the key. Hanson then passed to an open Mekhai Rich underneath the basket for the go-ahead basket with just over two seconds left.
“I saw (Hanson) drive it, and I was like … ‘We practice this every day — a 2-on-1 opportunity to get a quick bucket,’” Rich said. “So I back cut and got the layup, and it was just so much adrenaline going through.”
“I had no idea how much time was left,” Rich added.
The play stood in contrast to other Soldotna possessions that lasted around 30 seconds due to strong JDHS defense.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a home crowd get fired up and just the roll of the applause for our defense,” Casperson said.
Even though the Crimson Bears finished the tournament 1-2, Casperson said it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.
“We definitely didn’t play perfectly, but we definitely gave our best effort of the year so that’s why we feel like we had a chance there at the end of the game,” he said.
Soldotna 10 17 14 13 — 54
JDHS 12 7 7 12 — 52
Soldotna — Truesdell 21, Rich 10, Sewell 10, Chumley 7, Morrison 3, Rosin 3.
JDHS — Kriegmont 18, McCormick 12, Nichols 8, McCurley 6, Elizarde 4, Watson 4.
All-Tournament team — Tyler Morrison (Soldotna), Ray Chumley (Soldotna), Cooper Kriegmont (JDHS), LJ Elizarde (JDHS), Mark Davis (Haines), Kirby Faverty (Haines), Joseph Campbell (North Pole). MVP — Jersey Truesdell (Soldotna).
Capital City Classic — boys scores
Friday — Soldotna 74, North Pole 19; Haines 83, JDHS 73.
Saturday — Soldotna 68, Haines 66; JDHS 73, North Pole 12.
Monday — Haines 62, North Pole 22; Soldotna 54, JDHS 52.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.