Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Unable to travel to the state basketball tournament over COVID-19 concerns, the Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears are hustling to play at a tournament in California as a club team this weekend.
The Crimson Bears won the Region V 4A boys title last weekend but amid concerns with COVID-19 case numbers in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which is hosting the state championships, Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss said the team would not travel to the state tourney.
Ben Kriegmont, an assistant JDHS coach and father of the Crimson Bears’ all-state player, Cooper Kriegmont, said the boys played the region title game "thinking they were going to get another chance to keep playing together."
“It just seems like they are going to miss out on a sense of closure in what has been a long series of relationships that will stick with them their whole lives,” he said. “I think it is just important for them to count down their final games so they know.”
A slot in the ExposureBasketball Swoosh Spring Invitational in Orange County California has been reserved for Juneau HoopTime.
JDHS coach Robert Casperson is unavailable to coach the team due to prior commitments. Kriegmont will oversee the games.
“I love the guys and am really excited and happy for the opportunity they have to play,” Casperson said. “Unfortunately I have prior commitments and as a coach, this is a transitional time for me. I have nothing against this opportunity and I am just overjoyed for them.”
The JDHS team had a scrimmage Monday night at which the roster invite was made available to each.
The team is hurrying to finalize preparations. Club teams cannot have affiliations to high school teams, aside from players and coaches whose high school seasons are over, so JDHS uniforms cannot be worn.
“I guess we could contact some of the AAU teams in town, HoopTime, and HoopRats, and see if they have any stock on hand we can borrow,” Kriegmont said. “The boys have their reversible practice gear so I imagine with some duct-tape we could cover up what needs to be covered up or indicate what needs to be indicated and we could probably go with those. These guys have played together so long I am just going to sign the scorebook and sit back and watch them play.”
JDHS won the Southeast championship last weekend in Ketchikan but players were notified Sunday they would not be allowed to represent their school and region at the state tourney in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
That decision, made by Weiss with school board backing, had been consistent throughout this school year - that if a region hosting the tournament was in a red, or high-alert, status, as designated by the state health department, travel would not be approved. High alert, according to the department, means there is widespread community spread. Weiss said she made that point clear several weeks ago and it was consistent with what other school activities followed.
Earlier in the year, the JDHS hockey team was not approved to travel to the state tournament, and other sports had reduced travel. Other activities, such as the Drama Debate and Forensics, and Cheerleading held virtual championships.
The health department, in a release Monday, showed the Matanuska-Susitna Region was among the areas of the state considered at high-alert status; Anchorage was in that category, too. Juneau was listed in the low-alert category.
The state of California strongly discourages travel from other states and recommends quarantine on arrival but doesn’t appear to mandate it.
The California Department of Health notes that traveling into California for tourism or recreation is strongly discouraged and if traveling into California, you should quarantine for 10 days after you arrive and limit your interactions with people in your household. If you are traveling into California for essential purposes, you should still self-quarantine for 10 days and ensure you do not mix with others outside of those necessary to conduct your essential work. The only exception to the quarantine period is if you are in California to meet urgent critical healthcare needs or any other emergent response. In these cases, strictly adhere to face mask and physical distancing guidelines.
A parent group headed by Alice Nichols and Melissa McCormick is looking into COVID-19 travel issues.
“We are anticipating having the same sanctions as a regular high school event,” McCormick said. “We know it is a red zone. Is it more of a risk, yes. We would rather stay in the state but that was not an option.”
This is JDHS’s spring break so no class time will be missed, and the following week is remote schooling.
“That is one of the reasons we thought any kind of quarantine issue wouldn’t have been an impact to the kids learning,” Kriegmont added. “These guys have played together so long I am just going to sign the scorebook and sit back and watch them play.”
Messages to tournament contact Mike Alexander had not been returned by press time.