Crimson Bears Varsity Girls basketball team leaps ahead in Capital City Classic

By Jasz Garrett and Jordan Lewis

JDHS senior Chloe Casperson (#11) shoots for the hoop while Haines junior Emma Dohrn (#5) tries to block her. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – Wednesday marked the start of the Coach George Houston Capital City Classic, the three-day basketball tournament hosted at Juneau-Douglas Kalé High School. Before the boys’ game on Wednesday night, an announcement was made that the JDHS gym has been renamed after former coach George Houston who passed away earlier this year.

JDHS Boys Head Coach Robert Casperson said the Capital City Classic tournament is the first game played in the officially re-named George Houston gymnasium. Houston coached for 32 years and was Head Coach for the Crimson Bears for 14 years.

A public memorial will be held for Houston on Jan. 8.

“It’s open to all those that knew and loved him, friends and family and community members that want to pay their final respects,” Casperson said. “Back to his basketball camps when I was 6 years old…I found a picture of Coach Houston working with me at the camp, helping me with some drill works through that avenue and then I played for him. I coached with him and then he continued to serve as a mentor even after I became the head coach.”

JDHS Girls Head Coach Tanya Nizich said she always knew who Coach Houston was since she was young.

“More so in middle school, when I started attending the open gyms at the high school, I mean, he’s always there. He was very close friends with who was my coach at JD at the time,” she said. “Just being around the school, having him as a teacher. Always, he was in the gym, before and after our practices.”

A banner recognizes former JDHS coach George Houston’s passing in the George Houston gymnasium. (Photo credit Jordan Lewis/KINY)

Thursday’s game saw the JDHS Crimson Bears Girls go against the Haines Lady Glacier Bears, while the boys faced off with the Eagle River Wolves.

In the battle of the Bears, the Glacier Bears were defeated by the Crimson Bears, 60-26, the JDHS Girls second win of the Capital City Classic basketball tournament. They claimed victory against Anchorage’s East High School on Wednesday night with a win of 56-14.

The boys continued that momentum, beating the Eagle River Wolves 63-57 in a tightly contested game, making a comeback after their loss to Auburn on Wednesday night, 63-31.

The tournament is taking a pause Friday and will resume Saturday night with games against Albuquerque High School for the final games. The girls’ game is at 5 p.m. and the boys’ is at 7 p.m. in the George Houston gymnasium. An awards ceremony will be held at 8:30 p.m.

The Crimson Bears Girls winning two games in a row is just the boost they need for Saturday night’s game.

Nizich said the Crimson Bears girls will remain unphased by Albuquerque.

“We’re going to be calm and that works well for us,” she said. “Just not be in a panic and just play our game, instead of allowing somebody to make us do different.”

She said the team is meshing together well, a sight she likes to see, especially this early in the season.

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

Nizich said that teamwork ‘synergy’ has given them strong leads.

“We have some great leadership by our three starting seniors that helps us on the court and gets us in our groove. We have some freshmen and sophomores that are doing great things out there,” she said. “Layla Tokuoka, she’s stepping up and playing every bit as an upperclassman style. Gwen has been on Varsity her freshman and sophomore year. So, she understands the role that she needs to play and it’s nice that everybody’s meshing together.”

JDHS freshman Layla Tokuoka (#14) dribbles the ball to Haine’s side of the court. By the end of Thursday’s game, she had scored 19 points. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)
JDHS senior Rayna Tuckwood (#4) watches her ball go through the hoop Thursday night. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)

Nizich added that she was glad to see the girls play to their strengths.

“Brenda William-See, she’s key for us. You can always count on her to hit a couple of quick shots right off the bench for us,” she said. “Kenzie Simonson, we focus on her getting us rebounds and she does a really good job and is steady with that. June Troxel, freshman, she’s very quick in playing a bigger role for us as well.”

Casperson said the boys’ season so far has taught them lessons that they are taking into the Capital City Classic.

“I know that there are some quality teams on the boys’ side of this tournament, and they’re going to present some challenges with their size and athleticism,” he said. “But we’re just working on ourselves at this point of the year.”

JDHS senior Alwen Carrillo swipes the ball from Auburn on Wednesday night. (Photo credit Jordan Lewis/KINY)