Yakutat’s Janie Jensen, bottom, and Skagway’s Tiffanie Ames dive for a loose ball during their women’s bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Yakutat’s Janie Jensen, bottom, and Skagway’s Tiffanie Ames dive for a loose ball during their women’s bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Early leads turn in to victories in Thursday’s Gold Medal games

Skagway women advance to championship game, Klukwan bests Filcom in C bracket

For a second late in the fourth quarter, it looked like Filcom might pull off an improbable comeback against Klukwan.

Halfway through the last frame of Thursday’s C bracket game, Klukwan’s run-and-gun offense had produced a 19-point lead. With 27 seconds left in the quarter, that had been whittled down to a lean 7-point advantage.

“I don’t know what happened. I was in the bathroom fixing my nose” said Klukwan’s Jesse McGraw, who had needed to stymie the flow of a bloody nose. “At one point, we were up by 20. They don’t go to sleep easily.”

Klukwan’s Michael Ganey, center, and Jesse McGraw, right, keep Filcom’s Larry Cooper rom scoring in their C bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Klukwan’s Michael Ganey, center, and Jesse McGraw, right, keep Filcom’s Larry Cooper rom scoring in their C bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Filcom chipped away at the large lead through strategic fouling late in the game and a break-neck offensive pace led by standout guard Larry Cooper, but it was too little, too late. Klukwan won 96-88.

Klukwan’s Jesse McGraw speaks after Klukwan’s C Bracket win over Filcom. McGraw suffered a bloody nose during the physical contest. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Klukwan’s Jesse McGraw speaks after Klukwan’s C Bracket win over Filcom. McGraw suffered a bloody nose during the physical contest. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

While neither team had looked particularly inspired in the first half of the contest — it was 37-33, Klukwan at the end of the second quarter — Klukwan caught fire in the second half. The team scored 59 points over the final two frames.

Timely steals and long outlet passes ensured that those points often came in flurries that quickly created separation between the two teams.

Filcom’s Ray Zimmer, right, is pressured under the basket by Klukwan’s Brian Friske, center, and Stuart DeWitt in their C bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019.

Filcom’s Ray Zimmer, right, is pressured under the basket by Klukwan’s Brian Friske, center, and Stuart DeWitt in their C bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019.

McGraw said those defensive efforts ended up being the difference in the game.

Plus, an offensive barrage led by 30 points from Stuart DeWitt didn’t hurt.

“When you see somebody hot like Stuart DeWitt, you should feed him the ball every time,” McGraw said.

Klukwan’s Brian Friske, center, goes for a loose ball against Filcom’s Greg Lockwood, left, and Rob Ridgeway in their C bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Klukwan’s Brian Friske, center, goes for a loose ball against Filcom’s Greg Lockwood, left, and Rob Ridgeway in their C bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Skagway advances to women’s championship

A 21-point victory has never looked so hard.

Skagway bested Yakutat 61-40 to advance to Saturday’s women’s bracket championship, but it was a hard-fought tilt, and the Skagway women showed no reservations about hitting the floor hard to get after a loose ball.

“We’ll do anything to get the ball,” said Skagway’s Jesse Ellis. “It was a dog fight to the end.”

Yakutat’s Nadine Fraker, left, dribbles away from Skagway’s Kaylie Smith during their women’s bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Yakutat’s Nadine Fraker, left, dribbles away from Skagway’s Kaylie Smith during their women’s bracket game at the Lions Club’s Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Skagway came out on top of the heap building an early lead and maintained a lead of 20 or more points for nearly the entirety of the game’s second half.

The first-time Gold Medal Tournament competitors said they’re excited to have played as well as they have and compete for the women’s bracket title.

“I think we always have the Mamba Mentality,” said Skagway’s Savannah Ames. “We’re winners and competitors, and we always come into a game thinking we’re going to advance no matter what.”


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.