Angoon’s Levi Johnson Jr. takes a shot under the basket during the B Bracket championship of the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Angoon’s Levi Johnson Jr. takes a shot under the basket during the B Bracket championship of the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Hoonah takes two titles, Angoon and POW one each in 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament

Longtime participants say little has changed over decades as huge crowds from communities show up.

Clayton Edwin says after 20 years of playing in the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament that “I don’t think it’s changed at all,” except a lot of his teammates and opponents on the court are now a lot younger.

But Edwin, 39, still had enough youthful vigor to emerge as the most valuable player in the seven-team B Bracket as his team from Angoon won the title game against Hydaburg by a convincing score of 97-66 at Juneau Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. The championship came after Angoon lost its opening game in the week-long tournament and then had to come up through the loser’s bracket — playing three games between Wednesday and Friday, while Hydaburg played only one — leaving Edwin both exhausted and triumphant.

“There’s games you might not be able to make a basket, but you just got to continue on finding what you what you can do to help and not give up,” he said. “And we learned that even if we’re down we’re still gonna keep fighting. Because once that ball starts falling in the hoop and you keep that same mentality nobody can beat us.”

The week-long tournament, hosted by the Juneau Lions Club and celebrating its 75th year, featured 25 teams from small Southeast Alaska communities playing in four brackets. While most of the communities had teams in multiple brackets, only Angoon and Hoonah had teams in all four — and perhaps not coincidentally seemed to have the loudest cheering sections among family and neighbors chanting and stomping in the stands.

“I’ve got friends from all over, all these guys I’m playing against,” said Edwin, declaring his family as “the whole village” from Angoon who showed up. “Tonight it was special because I was playing against an old college teammate of mine, Darren Edenshaw, from UAF and we used to battle like this.”

Hoonah’s Lowe White Sr. celebrates winning the Master’s Division championship at the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Hoonah’s Lowe White Sr. celebrates winning the Master’s Division championship at the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Master’s Bracket: Hoonah 51, Sitka 46

The first game of championship day proved foremost when it came to drama, as Hoonah and Sitka played an even battle until the final few minutes. The key moment came when Sitka, down by one, missed a shot under the basket and Hoonah then recovered multiple missed shots under its basket, ultimately resulting in the first of a series of fouls resulting in free throws that allowed Hoonah to slowly pull away out of reach as time ran out.

There were momentum swings throughout as Hoonah took a 19-16 lead at the end of the first quarter, only to see Sitka rebound to a 26-25 lead at halftime. The teams were tied at the end of the third quarter before Hoonah went on its late victorious run.

It was a remarkable turning of the tables for Hoonah, after they lost 59-47 to Sitka on Thursday and thus had to play an extra game on Friday for a championship rematch. Albert Hinchman, who hit a three-pointer in the fourth quarter to help Hoonah when it was needed most, said the first game against Sitka was just one of the nights where things went awry.

“We couldn’t hit a shot and they were they were on fire,” he said. “They have a bunch of great shooters over there.”

But during the title game “we felt a little bit more urgency,” Hinchman said.

“We knew that we could stick with him,” he said. “We didn’t know how the game was going to end up. But the guys came together and fought hard. It’s been up and down week for us.”

Hinchman said the teams he’s played on have won five or six titles — but it’s hard to know for sure because his experience with Gold Medal goes back so many years.

“Most of us were here during the 50th (tournament),” he said of the players on the four Master’s Division teams. “And so now we’re at 75. I don’t know how long it’s been. We’ve been doing this for a long time.”

Haines’ Alissa Beske takes a shot during the Women’s Bracket championship game against Prince of Wales during the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Haines’ Alissa Beske takes a shot during the Women’s Bracket championship game against Prince of Wales during the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Women’s Bracket: Prince of Wales 74, Haines 44

Prince of Wales, after dominating performances much of the week in the seven-team Women’s Bracket, took control after a close first quarter in Saturday’s championship game to score a 30-point victory over Haines. POW led 17-14 after the first quarter, 43-20 at halftime and 74-44 after three quarters.

But Lillian Borromeo — who scored 17 points for POW during the game, including three three-pointers — said her team wasn’t confident of such an outcome going in.

“We didn’t know how Haines was because they weren’t here last year,” said Borromeo, playing in her second Gold Medal tournament. “But we had to bring it. And we’re pretty young. So we knew we had to run the ball and just work hard on defense.”

Hannah Mason, a former Juneau resident who has lived in Haines for the past four years, said she’s happy her team reached the title game since players are a group that just gets together to have fun during the year.

“We just get we’re all moms — all but one of us, actually — we all have kids and it’s just our break,” she said. “We get together on Sunday afternoons and we play ball.”

Hoonah’s Jon Torres takes a shot against Hydaburg during the C Bracket championship game at the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Hoonah’s Jon Torres takes a shot against Hydaburg during the C Bracket championship game at the 75th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

C Bracket: Hoonah 75, Hydaburg 64

In another instance of a team avenging an earlier defeat, Hoonah emerged victorious in the seven-team C Bracket by taking control in the fourth quarter against Hydaburg, turning a 49-48 lead at the end of the third quarter into an 11-point victory.

Hydaburg also scored 64 points when the two teams met Thursday, but Hoonah came up on the short end with 52 points in that game.

“We were on two days’ rest, we were a little banged up,” said Hoonah’s Travis Dybdahl, referring to the first game. “Hydaburg’s speed, they always surprise us. They’re always fast, even at the older age. They have a nice little game where spread you out, they attack you, your slow-footed players and they pulled away at the end.”

Hoonah took a 17-12 first-quarter lead on Saturday, only to see Hydaburg rally to take a 32-31 lead at halftime. But Hoonah would outscore their opponents the rest of the way.

“Tonight we just came with the fire and, you know, it was everything’s on the line for the championship. And you just gotta muster up, you know, bring everything you’ve got, the adrenaline’s flowing and we just brought it home.”

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

More photos from the 2024 Gold Medal Basketball Tournament:

(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)
(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)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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