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.
While the pandemic meant a few years passed between the 73rd and 74th Juneau Lions Gold Medal Basketball tournaments, the historic Southeast Alaska hoops competition took next to no time to dish out a classic.
The tournament’s first game — a Sunday morning C Bracket contest between Klukwan and Yakutat Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalè — saw five lead changes in the first quarter alone in a battle that never featured more than 7 points of separation.
In the end, Klukwan gutted out an 80-76 win in large part thanks to a scoring outburst from Andrew Friske, who led all scorers with 34 points in the victory.
Friske said in a post-game interview that he’s glad Gold Medal basketball is back. He’s been playing in the tournament since he was 18 years old. At age 45, Friske said he still relishes the opportunity to see, play with and compete against people he knew from his time playing basketball at Haines High School and past tournaments —especially after the pandemic-induced hiatus.
“I’m just excited that the Juneau Lions Club decided to put the tournament back on,” he said. “It’s the start of the healing process after a rough three years.”
While Friske’s 13 fourth-quarter points played a big part in sealing the win, he didn’t do it alone. Other double-figure scorers for Klukwan were Jesse McGraw with 13, Brian Friske with 13 and Paul Carrington with 10.
Jordan Gibson led Yakutat in scoring with 22 points, Adam Johnson put up 19, Sam Ferguson added 15 and Dustin Endicott chipped in 11.
It’s still too early for this to clarify much about future C Bracket games, but some details are coming into focus.
Klukwan will now face Kake at 11:30 a.m. on Monday. Yakutat will play the loser of of a 6 p.m. Monday game between Filcom and either Angoon or Hoonah, who play at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at email@example.com or (907)308-4895. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.