It was definitely Groundhog Day for Juneau’s boys basketball teams.
While “I Got You Babe” wasn’t part of the pep band’s repertoire, for the second day in a row, the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears were able to secure a comeback win against the Thunder Mountain High School Falcons Thursday in a game that was up for grabs through the very last second of play.
“What a battle, what a battle” said JDHS coach Robert Casperson. “It’s good to come out on top of those. We know that’s what it’s going to be like in all of our conference games. Ketchikan’s coming up the next, and it’s going to be the same.”
The win didn’t come easy. The Crimson Bears went into the fourth quarter facing an 11-point deficit, but outscored the Falcons 22-9 to get the 54-52 win. The late push came after JDHS had already erased one TMHS lead and tied the game in the third quarter. However, the Falcons went on a run to close out the third and build a formidable advantage heading into the game’s last quarter.
“As long as there’s time on the clock, we’re going to keep playing hard, and that’s what this team has shown all year long,” Casperson said. “That’s worked out for us so far.”
TMHS put that ethos to the test with a late 3-pointer from junior Samuel Lockhart that cut a 4-point JDHS’ lead to a single point with 8 seconds remaining. Following the shot, Casperson had a broad grin on his face. What was he thinking?
“I was thinking how fun is this? What a great game,” Casperson said. “I’ve known Samuel since he was born, and of course he’s going to make that shot…I just knew that now we have a new opportunity to figure out to finish this game.”
On the next possession, TMHS fouled JDHS junior Alwen Carrillo, who was able to sink one of two free throws, and a 3-point shot from TMHS junior Thomas Baxter for the win didn’t fall as the final buzzer sounded.
The Crimson Bears’ fourth quarter success was fueled by a balanced scoring attack with junior Sean Oliver and seniors Orion Dybdahl and Joseph Aline each scoring 6 points and senior Kai Hargrave adding 5 points in the quarter. Dybdahl led JDHS in scoring with 17 points, including four clutch free throws to tie the game and build a precarious lead.
“When you talk about a kid just getting better and believing in the system, OJ is the kid,” Casperson said. “He epitomizes what we’re looking for in a kid. From his freshman year, he was about 5-9, and he was upset he wasn’t getting a whole lot of playing time on C team, and he had two options. He could make excuses and blame other people, or he could dedicate himself to the work. He decided to work. By the end of the season he worked himself into some more minutes.”
Dybdahl, now nearly a foot taller, also had the tough task of slowing down TMHS junior Thomas Baxter, who led TMHS and all scorers with 18 points.
“Thomas is an incredible scorer,” Casperson said. “He’s a tough match up for anyone, let alone a 6-7 kid. That’s an assignment that he’s willing to try and do what he can for his team, and I’m proud of him.”
Two other Crimson Bears —Carrillo and Oliver —reached double digits in scoring with 11 points each. For the Falcons, both senior MJ Tupou and junior James Polasky cracked the 10-point barrier with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
With the win, JDHS’ record improves its conference record to 2-0 and overall record to 11-7. TMHS’ conference record is now 1-3 and 4-11 overall.
The Falcons have now played four straight conference games decided by a single score after leading at some point in the fourth quarter.
“I believe in these guys, and we just have to make sure we come together to close out games,” said TMHS coach John Blasco. It’s tough to swallow when you lose the way we did the last two nights, but I’m definitely really behind these guys in terms of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. To have the lead in four straight games, shows us we’re in the right place, it’s just a matter of making sure we can close it out together at the end.”
Next up, the Falcons have a daunting road trip with Monroe, North Pole, Lathrop and West Valley on their schedule for Feb. 8-11. Meanwhile, the Crimson Bears are set to host the Ketchikan High School Kings Feb, 10 and 11. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.