The Juneau-Douglas High School girls basketball team slugged it out with visiting Kenai Central on Tuesday in a defensive duel, but the Crimson Bears made the shots it needed down the stretch to remain undefeated during day two of the Capital City Classic.
Freshman Caitlyn Pusich nailed a 3-pointer with just three minutes remaining to tie the score after trailing most of the fourth quarter. Sophomore forward Cassie Dzinich then made a layup on a fastbreak to get JDHS the lead, and freshman guard Erica Hurtte added two free throws to give JDHS (5-0) the 31-27 win.
“I wasn’t shooting very well so it felt good when I started hitting them,” Pusich said.
Kenai threw out multiple zone defenses, using 1-2-2 and 1-3-1 schemes that gave JDHS fits in second half, but neither team was able to muster many points after entering the break tied at 19.
“It was a frustrating game and we never got into the flow of things,” JDHS coach Lesslie Knight said. “We talked about it and watched video. It’s just unfamiliar. We’re going to spend a lot of time over the break breaking down zones.”
Kenai junior forward Lara Creighton led the Kardinals with a game-high 12 points. Creighton was a dominant presence in the first half, scoring 10, but the Crimson Bear’s defense was able to keep the ball out of her hands in the second half.
“The difference of the game was Juneau’s defensive pressure,” Kenai head coach Craig Jung said. “The looks we want were in the paint and our post (Creighton) wasn’t touching the ball enough. Our offense is set for inside-out and we forget that sometimes. But that’s a credit to Juneau when they put so much pressure on our ballhandlers.
“Our kids are getting better and better,” Jung continued. “I was happy with everything they did effort-wise. Any time you hold a team to around 30 points you have a chance.”
Dzinich led JDHS with eight points, followed by Kallen Hoover and Pusich with five each.
JDHS was only able to score one point in the first three minutes of the third quarter, allowing Kenai to jump out to a 20-23 lead. Dzinich made a field goal from the post and Hurtte put in a layup to give JDHS its first lead of the half. Kenai then nailed four consecutive free throws to for a 24-27 advantage.
JDHS missed several opportunities, free throws and layups, in the second half.
“I’m a little hard on my seniors,” Knight said. “I expect them to contribute more on the offensive end.”
Tough defense limited Kenai’s opportunities to retake the lead as the clock dwindled.
“Our defense is intended to wear teams down,” Knight said. “Defensively, Kenai played hard and are very physical.”
JDHS shot 8-of-23 from the charity stripe, with Kenai making 13-20.