The perennial powerhouse Prince of Wales women returned to Gold Medal Basketball Tournament play Tuesday with a win.
Prince of Wales - forced to sit out last year's tourney due to a change in women's bracket invitation policy - beat Juneau Jeffus & Williams 56-53 in a hard-fought game.
"It feels like we're a little rusty, but it will come together," said Prince of Wales' Ellen Hannon, who scored eight points. "It feels good to be back."
In Tuesday's other game, Juneau Imperials beat Sitka Cellar Team 95-49. Prince of Wales will face Juneau Imperials at 1 p.m. Friday in the winners' bracket. Losers' bracket games today feature Sitka Cellar vs. Kake at 10 a.m. and Sitka BDK vs. Juneau Jeffus & Williams at 1 p.m.
On Tuesday, Prince of Wales took an eight-point lead, 12-4, when longtime leader Jean Jackson sank two free throws with 15 minutes, 44 seconds left in the first half. But Juneau started to chip away at its deficit. After Jackson was called for a charge, Juneau's Jennifer Mannix scored on the next possession to tie the game at 20-all with 7:20 left in the first half.
Shortly after, Jackson left the game with a sprained right ankle and did not return. She said she expects to play on Friday.
Juneau took a 23-21 lead on Amelia Rivera's 3-pointer with 5:58 to go before halftime. The two teams see-sawed several times before Alice Cooney hit a basket with 5 seconds left to the tie the game at 30-all at the break.
Juneau scored the first six points of the second half, but Prince of Wales battled back to tie the game at 40-all with 10:43 to play. Then Juneau jumped ahead again and took a 49-43 lead with 7:24 left. That set Prince of Wales up for its final, successful comeback.
Hannon hit two free throws to put Prince of Wales ahead 52-51 with 3:54 to play. Then Vanessa James - a 2004 Craig High School graduate playing in her first Gold Medal - made a basket to put Prince of Wales up 54-51 with three minutes to go.
Missed free throws by Prince of Wales allowed Juneau to stay in the game, but Juneau was plagued by turnovers in the closing minutes.
Tina Isaacs led Prince of Wales with 17 points, while Williams added 13 and James and Hannon added eight apiece. Isaacs grabbed 15 rebounds and had four steals in the game.
"We just decided we had to buckle down and play tough," Hannon said. "The Juneau team was very tough, very impressive."
Prince of Wales was impressive, too, especially considering the loss of Jackson, a three-time Gold Medal Women's Bracket MVP.
"The rest of us pick up when of us goes out," Isaacs said. "We've played so long together."
Mannix scored 14 points and Donna Hahnlen added 10 for Juneau Jeffus & Williams, which is a Juneau Parks and Recreation league team.
"We turned the ball over a lot. (Otherwise) we worked together better this game than the last game (on Monday)," Hahnlen said. "We had the jitters last game, and seemed to gel better today."
Juneau Imperial Bar 95, Sitka Cellar Team 49
Lucy Potter scored 22 points to lead the Juneau Imperial Bar team to a dominating victory over the Sitka Cellar Team in the Women's Bracket on Tuesday.
Kara Lindley added 19 points for Juneau, while Brook Gunstrom added 12 points and Karn Hickok scored 11.
Yolanda Snively scored 17 points to lead the Sitka Cellar Team, which had a first-round bye on Monday. Jonnae Ostrom added 10 points for Sitka.
With the victory, the Juneau Imperial Bar team advanced into Friday's 1 p.m. winners' bracket semifinal game against Prince of Wales. The Sitka Cellar Team dropped into the losers' bracket an plays Kake at 10 a.m. today.