Sean Oliver (11) of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and Mande Wanlemvo of Auburn Mountainview High School in Washington state fight for the tipoff at the start of their first Capital City Classic game Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Sean Oliver (11) of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé and Mande Wanlemvo of Auburn Mountainview High School in Washington state fight for the tipoff at the start of their first Capital City Classic game Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Tipoff of Capital City Classic goes in both directions for JDHS

Crimson Bears girls open hometown tournament with dominant victory, boys follow with lopsided loss.

This story has been updated with results from Thursday’s games.

Things got off to a lofty start for the hosts of this year’s Capital City Classic as the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé girls’ basketball team dominated their opening game 56-14 over Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School on Wednesday at JDHS. But the tables were turned in the boys’ game that immediately followed as JDHS finished on the short end of a 63-32 rout against Auburn Mountainview High School visiting from Washington state.

Both JDHS teams came out on top the following night, with the girls again winning dominantly in a 60-26 contest against Haines High School and the boys defeating Eagle River High School 64-57.

The eight-team tournament is scheduled to continue through Saturday, with the JDHS girls scheduled to play at 5 p.m. Saturday and the boys at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé cheer team performs a routine during a timeout at the Capital City Classic on Wednesday in the newly renamed George Houston Gymnasium, in honor of the longtime former JDHS basketball coach who died earlier this year. A banner, photos and other items honoring him were displayed in the gym during the evening, which also featured a tribute to him by current JDHS basketball coach Robert Casperson. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé cheer team performs a routine during a timeout at the Capital City Classic on Wednesday in the newly renamed George Houston Gymnasium, in honor of the longtime former JDHS basketball coach who died earlier this year. A banner, photos and other items honoring him were displayed in the gym during the evening, which also featured a tribute to him by current JDHS basketball coach Robert Casperson. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The annual tournament is the first major event since the main JDHS gym was renamed George Houston Gymnasium in honor of the longtime former Crimson Bears basketball coach who died earlier this year. Banners, photos and other items paying tribute to him were hung in the gym, and the JDHS boys’ game Wednesday was preceded by a speech by current boys’ coach Robert Casperson and a moment of silence from the crowd.

Girls: JDHS limits East to a single basket in each of the final three quarters

Offering a different sort of tribute to the state hall-of-fame coach was JDHS girls’ coach Tanya Nizich and her team, which controlled both ends of the floor during a game that got increasingly one-sided as it progressed. East scored half of their total points in the first quarter before being nearly shut down the rest of the game, as the Crimson Bears led 14-7 after the first quarter, 33-10 at halftime and 47-12 at the end of the third quarter before the final tally of 56-14.

Kenzie Simonson of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé looks to take a shot under the basket against Ella Church of Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School during their Capital City Classic matchup Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Kenzie Simonson of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé looks to take a shot under the basket against Ella Church of Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School during their Capital City Classic matchup Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“It’s always it’s always good to have a game to boost your confidence, so to speak,” Nizich said afterward. “And 60 points a game is a goal for us, because if you can score 60 and then play solid defense…those are good averages that you see in women’s basketball across the state.”

Gwen Nizich, a 5’9” sophomore guard for JDHS, outscored the entire East team with 15 points, including two three-pointers. Layla Tokuoka, a 5’5” freshman forward, scored 13 points and Chloe Casperson, a 5’6” senior forward, scored 10 points. East’s leading scorer was Alesandria Alesana with five points.

Last season JDHS finished fourth in the Alaska School Activities Association March Madness 2023 State Championship in Anchorage, a team with “six seniors and they were all veterans and been on varsity for years,” Nizich said. This season the Crimson Bears are 2-2 after Wednesday’s game, with a team of three seniors, but she said the players are already working well together.

Mila Hargrave of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé goes up for a shot against Dayzia Gonzalez-Velazquez of Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School during their Capital City Classic matchup Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Mila Hargrave of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé goes up for a shot against Dayzia Gonzalez-Velazquez of Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School during their Capital City Classic matchup Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“A lot of them have been playing together, whether it’s been middle school or a club team,” she said. “So they know where each other are on the court, there’s definitely some certain dynamics you can see with some of them. And just playing a lot of games together, I think that has definitely helped our starting five for sure.”

Even so, Nizich said there are some things the team can improve upon going into the rest of the tournament.

“I’d say getting in front of our defense and cutting them off,” she said. “And we used a lot of hands at times, so we got ourselves in a little bit of foul issue in the second quarter there, which you never want to see.”

Boys: Crimson Bears rebound after brutal first half

If one is looking for a silver lining, the JDHS boys’ team hung a lot tougher with their foe after getting badly outscored in the first half than the visitors from East Anchorage did during the preceding game.

The Crimson Bears found themselves down 15-8 at the end of the first quarter and 36-12 at halftime. But JDHS came back to outscore Auburn 11-9 in the third quarter, narrowing the gap slightly to 45-23 before going on to lose by the final score of 63-32.

Ahmir Parker (2) of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé takes the ball inside for a shot against Auburn Mountainview High School during their Capital City Classic game Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Ahmir Parker (2) of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé takes the ball inside for a shot against Auburn Mountainview High School during their Capital City Classic game Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“They are a really good team,” Casperson said afterward about the out-of-state visitors, who are 6-2 overall this season and 3-0 in their Puget Sound district. “They are better than us at this point of the year. They were shooting the ball really well, they were quick in their rotations defensively…so we’re not ready to face them at this point.”

Casperson said defensive communication and rebounding are two areas of emphasis for his team after the loss. But he said there were also encouraging things to build on.

“I thought Alex Mallott did a good job tonight, going to the glass offensively and disrupting things,” Casperson said, referring to the 6’1” senior forward. “And then he also got his hands on a lot of defensive rebounds — he probably only came up with maybe three or four rebounds himself, but he knocked that ball away and made things a little tougher for them.”

Casperson also singled out Jhowel Estigoy, a 6’3” senior forward, saying “it was nice to see him get comfortable and use his sneaky moves to get some baskets.”

Sean Oliver of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé looks to drive the ball against Sebastian Arius of Auburn Mountainview High School during their Capital City Classic game Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Sean Oliver of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé looks to drive the ball against Sebastian Arius of Auburn Mountainview High School during their Capital City Classic game Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Auburn had three players score in double figures, with Sebastian Arius, a 6’5” junior guard, leading all scorers with 18 points. Sean Oliver, a 6’4” senior guard, led JDHS with 12 points.

The JDHS boys won last year’s Region V championship but, as with the girls’ team, fell short of the state title. Casperson said he also feels he has a promising mix of returning and new varsity players on a team that is now 2-3 during a season that has yet to start conference play.

“Our guard play is pretty solid,” he said. “We have Alwen Carrillo (a 5’10” senior) and Sean Oliver (a 6’4” senior) who have logged a lot of minutes in their careers, and have seen a lot of basketball on these courts in Southeast and across the state. We see that leadership and the guys around them stepping up and starting to come into their own with their opportunities.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Layla Tokuoka (14) of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé faces off against Diamond Murphy of Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School during their Capital City Classic matchup Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Layla Tokuoka (14) of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé faces off against Diamond Murphy of Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School during their Capital City Classic matchup Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Alwen Carrillo (3) brings the ball up the court for Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé during its game against Auburn Mountainview High School in the Capital City Classic on Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Alwen Carrillo (3) brings the ball up the court for Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé during its game against Auburn Mountainview High School in the Capital City Classic on Wednesday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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