Metlakatla’s Drena Hayward (#15) passes the ball to a teammate in their opening game against Yakutat during the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Sunday morning at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Metlakatla’s Drena Hayward (#15) passes the ball to a teammate in their opening game against Yakutat during the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Sunday morning at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament opens with all harboring hopes for week ahead

Winners and losers not reading too much into opening games with some teammates still to arrive.

Participants say it’s hard to tell much from a decisive victory — or defeat — in the opening game of the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament since, in some cases, it’s the first time team members have played together since last year’s tournament — plus there are new members and some who still haven’t arrived for the weeklong event.

So Metlakatla’s Jase Scudero wasn’t feeling too down about his team losing its opener to Hoonah 76-60, since there were only six players on Sunday’s roster due to other members attending the state basketball championships in Anchorage during the weekend to watch family members play.

“I just think we need a couple more guys to show up,” he said. “If we can get a few more of our guys that are on the roster I feel like we can compete with anybody.”

The 75th tournament, hosted annually by the Juneau Lions Club except for an interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, tipped off Sunday with eight games by teams in the B, C and Women’s brackets, all of which have seven teams. Six more games between the three brackets are scheduled Monday.

Archie Lee waves a flag rooting for Hoonah during the community’s C bracket game against Metlakatla on Sunday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Archie Lee waves a flag rooting for Hoonah during the community’s C bracket game against Metlakatla on Sunday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Competition in the four-team Master’s bracket is scheduled to begin Tuesday. Championship games for the brackets in the double-elimination tournament are scheduled Saturday.

Scudero, a commercial fisherman and boat captain who said he last played competitive basketball at last year’s tournament, said he’s here with a nephew from Metlakatla also playing in the tournament, so the plan for the week besides basketball is “to spend some time with my nephew, and get a break away from my family and just sort of hang out a little bit.”

Coming out on the winning side of an opening game, but equally cautious about what it means for the week ahead, was Kyle Fossman, who Haines’ B bracket team defeated Kake 71-63. The game was tied in the third quarter, with Haines then jumping out to a large lead before Kake partially narrowed the gap in the closing minutes.

“We got a lot of shots, a lot of rebounds,” Fossman said of his team’s scoring run. But then “we had a couple of bad turnovers and they capitalized on a couple of made baskets. That’s all it takes.”

Evidence of the quick shift possible during Gold Medal games occurred during an early afternoon B bracket matchup between Hydaburg and Metlakatla which went to overtime, only to see Hydaburg dominate the five-minute extra period and prevail 80-69.

Fossman said he has played in six or seven Gold Medal tournaments, but while many teammates have been familiar over the years that isn’t the case this year.

“This team is definitely a lot different than what I’m used to,” he said. “A lot of younger guys, so I’m one of the oldest guys on the team. From year to year typically we had a similar group, but this group’s a little different. Just some of the younger guys are coming up and some of the older guys had prior engagements.”

Fossman, a contract software worker, said he generally works from home — and thus plans to spend much of his time away from the court this week at his job.

Rooting sections for the teams visiting from communities from throughout Southeast Alaska were vocally and visibly evident, although some were notably noisier than others. Among the loudest during the early games were those cheering for Hoonah during its opening C bracket win against Metlakatla, which also featured a few flags made by Archie Lee, a longtime Hoonah resident now living in Juneau who’s been coming to Gold Medal tournaments since 1972 — although never as a player.

“I make flags, I run the flags, I’m a cheerleader,” he said.

However, Lee said has a couple of relatives playing on teams and, gesturing in a sweeping motion across the stands behind him, noted “I’ve got most of my family here.”

Results of Sunday’s Gold Medal Basketball games:

Haines 71, Kake 63 (B bracket)

Hoonah 76, Metlakatla 60 (C bracket)

Hydaburg 80, Metlakatla 69 (OT) (B bracket)

Yakutat 53, Metlakatla 50 (Women’s bracket)

Yakutat 71, Kake 68 (C bracket)

Yakutat 42, Hoonah 70(B bracket)

Hydaburg 110, Klukwan 86(C bracket)

Haines 53, Angoon 37 (Women’s bracket)

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

More photos from Sunday’s Gold Medal games:

(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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