Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - It was a tale of two halves as the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears and the Thunder Mountain Falcons tangled for the first time this season in the Princess Tours Capital City Classic on Tuesday at JDHS Yadaa.at Kalé gymnasium.
While the Thunder Mountain girls held a 23-21 first half advantage, the Juneau-Douglas girls flipped the script in the second half for the 46-36 win.
“I was disappointed at how tentative we were on defense in the first half, which led to fouls,” JDHS coach Steve Potter said. “I thought we were much more aggressive in the second half, which led to more forced turnovers and fewer fouls.”
Thunder Mountain opened, and primarily used a 2-3 zone, while JDHS held to their man-to-man pressure.
“I thought their key players have a quickness and speed advantage that I thought the 2-3 could slow down,” TMHS coach Andy Lee said. “And then we could easily identify their shooters, and for a half we did that and did it well. We didn’t have the quickness and we haven’t had the chance to really teach guarding out on the floor or the full court press. We pressed but simply because I wanted them to experience it. Sometimes experience is the best teacher.”
The Falcons took a 13-7 lead after eight minutes of action behind baskets by senior Jo Passion, freshman Cailynn Baxter and junior Kiara Kookesh.
Crimson Bears junior Ashley Laudert scored in the opening seconds of the second quarter and then blocked two shots for a momentum boost.
Baskets by juniors Kiyara Miller, Skylar Tuckwood and Laudert gave the Crimson Bears an 18-15 lead.
The Falcons battled back with a basket from sophomore Kaidree Hartman, and a string of free-throws from freshman Breanna Eakes, C. Baxter and Kookesh for a 23-18 lead with just eight seconds remaining.
Crimson Bears senior Trinity Jackson gave JDHS a morale boost with a last second heave from a step inside half court to pull within two points, 23-21, and set the stage for a strong third quarter.
“We got the game to move more at the speed we wanted to move at,” Potter said. “They scored a lot of points in the first half, from my perspective, and about what our goal is to hold people to in the second half. I can’t say that we met our goal performance-wise but we definitely played better in the second half.”
Senior Grace Sikes gave the Falcons the first second half points but the Crimson Bears struck back with Laudert scoring inside and Tuckwood nailing back-to-back shots from beyond the arch for a 29-25 lead.
JDHS’ Miller hit a free-throw and senior Rebekah Grube stole a pass and drove for a score. Senior Gabby George-Frank stole the next pass and fed Miller for another basket and Miller stole another ball for a basket and a foul, hitting the freebie for a 36-25 lead.
The Falcons had seven turnovers in the stanza and their second basket came with time running down as freshman Kerra Baxter scored inside to close within 10 points, 36-27 with one quarter remaining.
“I think that all of our guards have the ability to be extremely effective on defense,” JDHS coach Potter said. “And I think that we have enough size behind us that they can gamble a little bit more than maybe we have in the past because there is some more experience with that size. I am happy with our bigs. We’re going to do it until somebody’s makes us look bad, then we’ll get out of it. We changed the tempo for the end of the game. Ideally we would be trapping out of that but we are just not ready yet. Our universal theme is that we need to talk on the defensive end and be one unit instead of five different things. As soon as our talking gets better we’ll be pretty good but we are not where we need to be with that yet.”
Tuckwood scored two quick baskets to open the fourth quarter for a 40-27 Crimson Bears advantage and senior Sydney Strong answered for the Falcons but a steal and layup by JDHS’ Jackson kept TMHS at bay.
The Falcons closed to within eight points, 42-34, on a basket by Sikes with under four minutes to play but could not get closer down the stretch.
Tuckwood led JDHS with 16 points, Miller added 12, Laudert eight, Jackson five, senior Mackenzie Nichols three and Grube two.
C. Baxter led TMHS with 10 points, K. Baxter six, Strong and Pasion five apiece, Sikes four, Kookesh and Hartman three apiece.
“We had some attrition but rather than talk about who we lost, it’s the kids that stepped up,” TMHS coach Lee said. “We played some kids that had never played in a junior varsity game. If they are freshmen they have never played middle school. So tonight was a baptism under fire. I am so excited about our performance because we had freshmen and sophomores all across the floor but I’m also excited about our senior leadership. My seniors could have moaned and groaned and complained and they held us together. I don’t have to be the first one in the huddle because they control the huddle. I don’t have to be the first one in the locker room because they run the locker room. We now have a program. We’ve moved beyond having a team, now we have a program. We have senior leadership and there’s a bar, there’s a standard. Even though we lost we see the silver linings. In the last 12 days we’ve played in an atmosphere of the number one team in the nation and tonight. We’ve had 17 girls playing varsity games this year. So it’s not the few the two or three or four that didn’t play, it’s the five or six that got the opportunity to play. I’m nothing but excited. It was a choppy game, a physical game and we didn’t back down. What more can you ask for from a kid.”
The Falcons shot 11-19 from the charity stripe and the Crimson Bears 3-8.
“Our goal is every game is for us to make more than you attempt,” Lee said. “We made 11, they attempted eight. We achieved that goal. That goes to our assertiveness and aggressiveness statistically. We’re getting more confident and trying things we haven’t done before, and they are disciplined. We played complimentary basketball. Things we did on offense happened because of good passes. Things on defense happened because of ball pressure.”
TMHS next plays Kotzebue at 1 p.m. Thursday, and JDHS plays Eagle River at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Above - JDHS junior Kiyara Miller (4) shoots under pressure from TMHS freshmen Cailynn Baxter, left, and Kerra Baxter, right, during Tuesday action at the Capital City Classic. Below - TMHS junior Kiara Kookesh (14) defends a shot by JDHS senior Gabi George-Frank (22) during Tuesday action at the Capital City Classic. (Klas Stolpe)