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Stash the fry bread

Posted: February 26, 2014 - 1:01am
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A Gold Medal basketball from Hoonah holds up a "Sink It Tlingit" sign during last year's C Bracket championship between Huna and Hydaburg. Both teams return this season.  KLAS STOLPE | JUNEAU EMPIRE
KLAS STOLPE | JUNEAU EMPIRE
A Gold Medal basketball from Hoonah holds up a "Sink It Tlingit" sign during last year's C Bracket championship between Huna and Hydaburg. Both teams return this season.

Better bring a large coat with many space-concealing pockets if you are going to watch the 68th Annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament this year (March 16-22).

There will be no time to stand in line for fry bread.

Nope. Not this year.

The Juneau Lions Club released the schedule for the four divisions on Tuesday, and if fans are not in their seats early, they will miss some key matchups.

There are some bracket changes this year.

According to the secret society of undercover Gold Medal gurus (OK, board of directors), no teams were “cut” from the B Division or Masters brackets, yet they are down from 10 and six teams, respectively, to eight and four.

Now I am no math major, and my Scandinavian calculator (an abacus in which herring are skewered instead of beads) is a bit slimy, but I seem to feel that I have subtracted.

It seems, in order to maintain the same number of games during the course of a week in which Lions Club volunteers are already run ragged, that you have to have the same number of games.

My Scandinavian calculator would call that herring equality, or 2013 Gold Medal teams equals 2014 Gold Medal teams.

Since four teams were added to the women’s bracket, returning to the fray for the first time since 2007, that means four teams are no longer part of the mens brackets.

We do have the C Bracket bumping up to eight teams from six ... so if I slide my dead herring to the right just a tad, the smell is less ripe.

Yes, parity!

And how is this obtained?

The JLC president seeks volunteer Lions for the Invitations Committee. These are longtime GM-experienced Lions, as well as some newbies, and they have a tough decision.

Among the team criteria:

• Fry bread chefs in their hometown (ha, no, I just threw that in).

• Equal and fair treatment.

• Great competitive teams for the fans.

• Knowledge of community support (the tourney IS the largest fundraiser for the JLC).

Again: the gurus said NO team was EXPELLED. If they do not get an invite to the show one year, they can always reapply the next year.

Now I know a certain group of swashbuckling Norwegian and Swedish fishermen that have been practicing for years to get back to the illustrious hardwood action of the tourney.

Even though Dr. Walter A. Soboleff once said we Scandinavians couldn’t play a lick of defense, we have sure been trying.

Our gill net fleet put up a hoop on a net barge, the seine fleet docks at Hoonah and Kake and wherever else they can find a magical hoops playground, and our large longliners and packers have erected full courts in their holds.

Oh these lads are so ready, just not this year. It seems that Sven and Ollie keep sending in the application in Old Norse!

This year, the new women’s bracket will feature Kake, Hoonah, Yakutat and Angoon.

I have heard grumbling, and rightly so, that no Juneau, Ketchikan or Sitka team got a pick, and so I was told, there were a few entries.

Just saying.

Something to consider for next year.

The Masters Bracket features just Klukwan, Kake, Sitka and Hoonah. Yakutat and Juneau representation is gone.

I have played in Masters.

Yeah, we still got it, but (and I will be locking my door every night after this publication) perhaps it is time to let somebody else take it.

We break easy ... and a lot.

Defending champ Klukwan should be almost as solid as they were in last season’s 63-35 championship win over Kake. Unless Rudy Bean decides to age up, the Thunderbirds could win most any bracket.

Granted, last season Kake had to battle through a 63-61 win over Juneau. Guess what? No Juneau this year. More rest for the Baranof Island boys.

There are rumblings that Hoonah is gaining a few age-lings. If that happens, it could be a three-team race (I still carry bad blood for Sitka dating back to high school. Fun to watch, more fun to beat).

The eight-team C Bracket features last year’s Yakutat, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Angoon, Klukwan and Kake plus — and this is exciting — Metlakatla and Sitka.

Hoonah (okay, Huna) took last year’s trophy all the way back across Chichagof Island after trashing Hydaburg 88-66.

The Tlingit Heat slipped a bit after a run of multiple championships. They are a dynasty if they go all Masters on the tournament, but may have to call on the fan base if they want to regain the C title.

I am thinking that Metlakatla, which never seems to get it all gelling for a tourney, is going to do damage here. Can you say Tom Booth or Richie and Willie Hayward? Yikes! There is a reason the tribe owns an island. This team was a power last year in B, now they are in C? This is a bracket to make sure your fry bread stores are stocked.

This brings us to the B bracket.

Once 10 teams strong, they now have eight with only seven returning. This means three are not: Sitka, Metlakatla and Klukwan. Some of the Sitka and Metlakatla rosters will age up. But the surprise is that the Chilkat River boys are not coming. The Hotch kids were fun to watch.

Dry your tears.

The Stikine River lads more than compensate. Wrangell made a huge splash last year and the talk is this year will feature even more of the heritage from that tiny town where the local hospital moves the newborn wing into the gymnasium. Oh my! If Mt. Edgecumbe High School doesn’t go to state, is it possible that Archie Young makes an appearance with his twin siblings?

Last year, Wrangell featured a wealth of run and gun and fun. Why, they even had a player, Dustin Johnson, who arrived a week after climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (yes, the mountain in Tanzania). At least he looked like he did.

But the B bracket is loaded. Angoon topped Hydaburg 109-99 for the championship. Both are back. Haines is all in. Yakutat, Kake and Hoonah — oh my! And, to top it off, Klawock returns to the show.

There will be some flag-waving fun in the gym.

These games will require seat cushions with cup holders.

As for the fry bread, just plan to get as much as you can carry between games or send one of those little sugar-fueled village youths on a food run at the half.

This is the year that a recently vacated bleacher spot had better be for a bathroom break; and you better leave behind a large partner with a serious finger wag to protect it.

And remember, if your team is eliminated, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t eat the fry bread here!

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