The Juneau Empire’s expanded coverage of the Juneau Lions Club 74th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament is made possible by Sealaska Corp. Thanks to this sponsorship, this article —and all of this year’s Gold Medal coverage — is available online without a subscription to the Empire.
Juneau went from a late addition to the 74th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament’s B Bracket, to champs following a Saturday night win against Hydaburg.
Juneau’s 86-62 win against Hydaburg Saturday night at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé concluded this year’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament, which marked a return after a three year hiatus due to the pandemic for the historic competition that draws together communities from around Southeast Alaska.
Juneau’s Chase Saviers said while the win feels good, he and his team are mostly just grateful they were invited to compete since they were a fill-in team.
“It was fun to come and compete in Gold Medal, especially after it hadn’t been around for the last few years, but it felt good,” Saviers said.
While Juneau ultimately came out on the winning side of a 24-point game, the win was anything but certain at the midpoint of the contest.
For a moment, a Hydaburg comeback seemed inevitable, but in the second half of the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament’s B Bracket championship Juneau went pedal to the metal while their opponents ran out of gas.
In the first half of Gold Medal’s premier game, crowd-favorite Hydaburg came within a score of erasing an early 17-point deficit for a score of 37-36 at the half.
But in the second half, Juneau found another gear and established a commanding lead.
“We kind of had a sloppy second quarter but we came out of halftime and put the pedal to the metal and came home with the win,” Saviers said.
Saturday’s game came the day after Hydaburg authored a double-overtime victory against Angoon to advance to the B Bracket title game. Juneau punched its ticket to the game with a Thursday win over the same Hydaburg team dispatched on Saturday.
The third and fourth quarters were all Juneau. Stewart Conn and Matt Seymour took turns adding points to the board to get the third quarter started while Hydaburg struggled to get momentum going. Vinny Edenshaw would score 2 points for Hydaburg from the free throw line but that would be the last points for Hydaburg for the quarter, 65-43 Juneau’s lead.
Despite the deficit, Hydaburg soldiered on through the fourth quarter with strong shooting from the Edenshaw brothers but as time faded from the clock, so did Hydaburg’s chances of catching up. With less than five minutes left in the game, Juneau had a 20 point lead that they would hold onto until the very end for the 86-62 finish.
For Juneau, Saviers and Mahina Toutaiolepo received All-Tournament honors. Juneau’s Conn led with 19 points with Seymour not far behind with 15 and Kaleb Tompkins had 14. Tompkins also received MVP honors and said it felt great to be back on the court after so many years off. Tompkins said he played with Klukwan five years ago and this year was his first year back in the tournament.
“Feels great, team wins are great,” Tompkins said. “ I couldn’t have done it without my team. Last time I played we lost in the championship, so it feels nice to bring this one home.”
For Hydaburg, Jaren Carle, Vinny Edenshaw and Darren Edenshaw received All-Tournament honors. Vinny Edenshaw led all scorers with 24 points and Darren Edenshaw had 21.
Others receiving all-tournament honors in the B Bracket included: Simon Friday, Kake; Tyler Swinton, Haines; Archie Dundas, Metlakatla; and J.J. Nixon, Angoon. The Sportsmanship Award went to Colton Hayward, Metlakatla.
Hydaburg coach Al Nix said it might not have been the outcome the team was looking for, but regardless of the end result, it’s always an honor to play in the tournament.
“We love to be here, we love to play in the Gold Medal Tournament,” Nix said. “We’ve got a good group of guys this year, a mix of old vets and young guys. We always make it to the big game but it’s never going to be easy, no one is ever going to roll over and just give us the game, we have to take it ourselves. After the double overtime Friday night, I think it wore out of the guys a little bit, not to make excuses and Angoon is great, too. It’s always fun to get up here and play this tournament, the guys always really look forward to it. I think it’s always a learning experience.”
The Gold Medal title is Juneau’s 35th with this year marking the first time Juneau has won the B Bracket. Hydaburg last won the B Bracket in 2015, and its most recent title came in 2019 in the C Bracket.