Photos: Historic 1961 Gold Medal Champions Metlakatla And Petersburg

The name Metlakatla has been long associated with basketball in Alaska, and usually with champion basketball teams and players. The team which won in 1961 was definitely the dark horse in the tourney due to an absence of several years form Gold Medal competition. In addition the island ball club had a large transfusion of young players with only Jackie Booth remaining from their 1951 championship squard. The ony other familiar name was that of Coach Tom Atkinson, who starred for the ‘51 champs. The Metlakatla team was paced in their 1961 championship effort by Gil Booth, Dave Beach and Ellingsen. In addition they received excellent support from the bench, particularly in the final game.

After an absence of serveral years Petersburg returned to the Gold Medal tourney and, like Metlakatla, returned to their home base with the first place award. Juneau citizens cheered lustily for the lads from Mitkof Island since the “Little Norway” entry was led by Richard “Itchy” Hansen one of Juneau high’s all-time great players. Hansen, the Petersburg High School coach, was supported by a fine team effort with such stalwarts as Kito, Tagaban, Kvernvick, Sarber, and Reyes plus Bob Munson, another Juneau-ite, playing aggressive championship basketball. It is interesting to note that the first Gold Medal champion came from Petersburg, way back in 1947 and that no team from that city had won again until 1961. Local oddsmakers would not advise betting that they will take that long to return to the winner’s circle again.


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