As far as basketball in Southeast is concerned, the past three months don’t matter.
Sure, the practices matter. And games do, too.
But to some degree, each game becomes like a glorified practice. And the goal is to win that day’s practice.
There are fans there, as well as another team.
But the moments and teaching points, and each individual’s growth in the sport — or basketball I.Q. — is all built up toward how the team performs in the postseason.
The rollercoaster cliché of “ups and downs” is true over a three-month span.
But it’s that fourth month of the season that people remember — March.
And when the season’s on the line, madness can ensue.
There’s bound to be some of that magical madness at Juneau-Douglas High School this week.
Teams from across Southeast in the 4A, 3A and 2A classifications will travel to the capital city for their Region V tournaments.
And despite being the defending Region V 4A champions, both the Ketchikan High School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams know the pressure isn’t on them.
The hosting teams carry that weight.
As the No. 2 seeds in both their respective brackets, the Kings and Lady Kings can just play ball, and let their talent take over in the moment.
“It’s just less pressure on us. It’s more on (Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain),” Ketchikan Kings’ senior Kristian Pihl said. “Even more reason for us to just go out there and play.”
The Kings (12-9) will square off against the No. 3 Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears in the opening round of the 4A bracket at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday.
It will be the third straight meeting between the two teams. Juneau-Douglas swept a two-game series in Juneau on Feb. 28-29.
“We’re really hungry,” Pihl said. “... After not playing very well the last few weeks, I think we’ve got a lot of people doubting us. I think we got a lot to prove this week.”
The Thunder Mountain High School Falcons (17-6) hold the top seed in the boys’ 4A bracket. Tuesday’s winner will play the Falcons at 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Kings are the only team to beat the Falcons on their home court.
Despite the entire region tournament taking place at Juneau-Douglas, Thunder Mountain’s only been beaten once in its home city, and that came in a 67-42 victory via the First City in January.
Likewise, the Lady Kings (13-9) closed out their regular season handing Juneau-Douglas its only conference loss this year — a 44-37 victory on Feb. 29.
The girls’ 4A top-seeded Crimson Bears will face the winner of the Lady Kings-Falcons matchup on Wednesday.
The Lady Kings and Falcons are scheduled to jump start the tournament at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The Falcons hold the No. 3 seed in the girls’ bracket.
“We’ve got a target on our back, but I feel like Juneau’s got the pressure,” Lady Kings’ head coach Kelly Smith said. “(Juneau-Douglas is) the one seed, been the one seed in state this year at times. So we’re going to go in, and we’re going to play as hard as we can and see what happens.”
And the vibe Smith has had at practices has been pointing in the right direction.
“Practices have been loud and energetic,” he said. “There is some genuine excitment.”
And this time of year, that’s what the Lady Kings need.
“We’ve been talking on defense a ton,” he said. “Those little transitions in switching screens, and talking through things — talking on defense. From all my experiences, if kids are talking on defense, they’re in the right spot. When they stop talking is when you tend to get lazy or drift — (are) wrong. So we’ve got a lot of talking in practice this week.”
Likewise for the Kings.
“(Practices) have been good,” Pihl said. “I think we’re starting to pick it up.”
And with the weight of the pressure off, maybe that will help give Ketchikan’s teams the lift they need.
“We’re young; our record’s not great,” Smith said. “Juneau beat us up there by a lot. Only the people in our gym probably are the ones that think we have a chance this week. And that’s all we need.”
Metlakatla jump starts 2A
The Metlakatla High School Chiefs enter the Region V 2A tournament in search of their third straight champoinship.
The Chiefs carry the No. 2 seed, and will square off against the No. 3 seeded Haines High School Glacier Bears at 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday at Juneau-Douglas High School.
The winner will automatically bounce to the title game, set for 4:45 p.m. on Friday.
The Miss Chiefs have the top seed in the girls’ Region V 2A bracket.
They receive a bye, and will play either Craig High School or Haines at 8 a.m. on Thursday.
Just like the boys’ bracket, the winner of the girls’ game will bump into the championship, slated for 3 p.m. on Friday.
The Region V 2A bracket is double-elimination. So regardless of their first games, both Metlakatla squads will have two shots at a state tournament berth.
Craig competes at regions
The Craig Panthers boys’ squad holds the fifth seed in the Region V 2A bracket.
They’ll square off against the No. 4 seeded Wrangell High School Wolves at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, with the winner advancing to play the top-seeded Petersburg High School Vikings at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday.
On the flipside, the Craig Panthers’ girls’ team is listed with the No. 4 seed. They’ll lock up with No. 5 Haines on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
The winner of that game will advance to play the Metlakatla Miss Chiefs.