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Playing in the losers' bracket, Yakutat played with a heightened sense of urgency in Tuesday's 74-66 victory over Metlakatla in B Bracket action in the 59th Annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament.
Yakutat never trailed, even though Metlakatla was within striking distance most of the game. In the end, Yakutat's height and Metlakatla's poor free-throw shooting were the difference as Yakutat eliminated Metlakatla from the tournament.
"We played as a team today, and that's something we haven't done much," said Damien Long, who led Yakutat with 20 points before fouling out. "We've definitely got to keep pushing it. Hopefully we can string a couple more games like this together. We've got the players this year. We think we've got the team to pull it off."
"At least we got our invite back for next year," Yakutat's Ahpa Porter said.
In Tuesday's late game, Angoon ANB pulled off a huge second-half rally to beat and eliminate Klawock 100-98. Today's games at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gym feature Yakutat vs. the Haines Merchants at 4 p.m. and Angoon ANB vs. Kake Tlingit Heat at 9 p.m.
Yakutat lost 83-70 in Sunday's opener against the defending B Bracket champion Kake Tlingit Heat, but improved in Tuesday's game.
Yakutat took advantage of tall, quick cutters like Long and Jim Jensen (12 points), while 6-foot-8 former University of Alaska Fairbanks player Nate Endicott (13 points) dominated underneath. When Yakutat got the ball down low to Endicott, three Metlakatla players would collapse on him and that opened up a shooter on the wings.
"We'd been plagued by a few turnovers, because a lot of us don't get to play together much during the season," said Yakutat point guard Ralph Johnson, who scored 11 points. "We don't want to be in the losers' bracket, but it gives us a sense of urgency."
"We finally started flowing," said Endicott, who ended the game with a dunk at the buzzer. "We did a lot better than the first game. We got rid of our jitters. We stayed positive the whole game and all the guys played hard. The one thing we had was size, we've got five guys 6-3 or taller."
Yakutat jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and led by 10, 24-14, midway through the first half. But Metlakatla stuck with Yakutat, closing to within one point once in the first half, at 13-12, before trailing by seven points, 36-29, at halftime.
Metlakatla pulled within one point twice early in the second half, at 36-35 and 38-37, but never could take a lead. Metlakatla was within one possession most of the second half, but missed free throws plagued Metlakatla the entire game. Metlakatla only made 12 of 28 free throws for the game, including a 2-for-8 performance over the last 5 1/2 minutes.
Yakutat tried to let Metlakatla back in the game by making just 16 of its 28 free throws. But Yakutat made just enough down the stretch - 4-for-10 over the last two minutes - to hold onto the victory.
"If we'd knocked down our free throws, it would have been a lot different game," said Metlakatla's Dustin Booth, who scored 20 points while Chevy Cook led Metlakatla with 21. "Going six for 55 is not going to cut it. It was pretty poor. We figure if we made seven more free throws, we would have won this game."
"They were real scrappy. They scrapped the whole game," Long said of Metlakatla.
It wasn't just free throws that gave Metlakatla problems. Metlakatla also didn't shoot as well from the field, especially against Yakutat's taller players underneath. Yakutat's depth also played a big factor in the victory.
"They weren't shooting their 3s like they usually do, once we got a hand in their face," Porter said.
"We've got a full roster this year," Johnson said. "But the big difference this year is we've got a coach on the bench (Lonnie Anderson), and that helps us a lot."
Angoon 100, Klawock 98
Trailing by 21 points at halftime, Angoon erased the deficit in the first nine minutes of the second half and went on to beat Klawock in a losers' bracket game Tuesday in the Gold Medal basketball tournament's B Bracket.
Klawock held a 60-39 lead at the break, but Angoon switched defenses and Curtis Lane got hot from the 3-point arc to key the comeback. Angoon tied the score at 70-70 with 11 minutes to play, and the game was a battle of lead swaps the rest of the way.
"Yeah, we did know (the deficit). But we hung in there and didn't give up," said Lane, who scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half, including hitting six 3-pointers during the rally. "I've had games like that before, where I hit nothing in the first half and got hot in the second half."
"We knew we'd have to get focused," added Clayton Edwin, who led Angoon with 31 points, 17 in the second half. "It was our defense in the second half. We went to a 1-2-1-1 zone press."
"It was our first time running it," Lane said of the defense.
In addition to Lane's and Edwin's points, Angoon also picked up 11 points from Travis Woodbury and 10 from Frank Jack.
"This game is for our two loved ones who passed away a week ago," Lane said, referring to the recent drowning deaths of LeRoy and Freddy Martin.
Klawock was led by Raymond Douville's 32 points, including two 3-pointers late in the game that nearly erased Angoon's lead. Freddy Hamilton, Douville's former teammate at Craig High School, scored 29 points and Jason Smith added 10 points before fouling out.
With the victory, Angoon advances into tonight's 9 p.m. losers' bracket game against the defending B Bracket champion Kake Tlingit Heat. Klawock was eliminated by the loss.