Haines’ Sarah Elliot guards Hoonah’s Taryn White during the Gold Medal Women’s Bracket championship game Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School. Haines won 52-30. (Konrad Frank | For the Juneau Empire)

Haines’ Sarah Elliot guards Hoonah’s Taryn White during the Gold Medal Women’s Bracket championship game Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School. Haines won 52-30. (Konrad Frank | For the Juneau Empire)

Haines rides tough defense to repeat as Gold Medal champion

With 10 minutes left in the first half of Saturday’s W Bracket Championship, Hoonah scored to tie Haines at 12 points apiece.

Then Hoonah stopped scoring.

Sixteen minutes of game time passed between that tie score and Hoonah’s next basket, as the Haines women played relentless defense and pulled away. By the time the scoreless drought ended, Haines was up big, and went on to capture a 52-30 victory to repeat as champions.

Alisa Beske, who earned tournament MVP honors and led the team with 12 points Saturday, said the game changed when Haines was able to get Hoonah leading scorer Mariah Martin off her game.

“We knew we had to get a stop on Mariah, their big scorer,” Beske said. “She’s a good shooter and she can post up inside. We put Sarah Elliott, who’s an all-star runner, and Fran Daly, who’s also very fast and just had them rotate in defending her, and they stopped her.”

Martin had a chance to put an end to that scoreless drought late in the first half, ending up with the ball on a fast break and only Haines’ Stori Lynch between her and the basket. Lynch stood her ground and slapped the ball away from Martin before she was able to get a shot off, bringing much of the Haines cheering section to its feet. Martin went without a field goal in the first half and finished with just four points, but was still named to the All-Tournament Team.

The play was indicative of that whole stretch (a 17-0 run) for Haines, as the entire Haines team was quick and active with its hands defensively. Nothing came easily for Hoonah, coach Jim Dybdahl said, as the Haines players proved impossible to keep up with.

“They’ve got a good squad,” Dybdahl said of Haines. “They rotate a lot of people. If you’re not in shape to play at that level, they’ll run you down.”

Beske was tough to stop in the paint, as Haines went to her early and often. Beske also won the MVP award when Haines won last year, but pointed out that Haines is far from a one-person show. Five other players scored six or more points in the championship game.

“Our team is really well-balanced,” Beske said. “If you look at the books, everybody gets on the books. There’s not one huge scorer.”

Hoonah, which was without some of its top players, was further worn down after going through the loser’s bracket. Taryn White led all scorers with 13 points, scoring nine of them after halftime.

Haines is the first team to repeat as champions of the women’s bracket since the return of the tournament in 2014. Yakutat and Hoonah won in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Beske said the team didn’t come into this week expecting to repeat, knowing that the competition would be stiff. Haines went on to beat Hoonah in the first round, Yakutat in the semifinals and Hoonah once again to finish off its undefeated week.

Though the effort on the defensive end was key in the championship game, Beske said one of the biggest reasons for Haines’ success this year was the faster pace with which the team played. The team’s deep bench allowed coach Jason Shull to make substitutions often, keeping players fresh and exhausting opponents.

All Dybdahl could do after the game was applaud Haines.

“My hat’s off to the Haines women’s team,” Dybdahl said. “They’re deserving champions.”

Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com or 523-2271

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