Klukwan wins first Gold Medal championship in 41 years

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2008

As he watched Klukwan Chilkats teammate Joe Parnell dribble untouched for an insurance layup, teammate Larry Sweet Sr. smiled widely and thrust both arms in the air.

David Sheakley / Juneau Empire
David Sheakley / Juneau Empire

Parnell's layup with less than 10 seconds left sealed a 54-51 win over the Huna Totem Masters on Saturday for the Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament Master's Bracket championship on Saturday at the Juneau-Douglas High School gym.

The win sealed the first Gold Medal championship of any kind for Klukwan in 41 years. Klukwan's last title came in 1967 when it won the A Bracket.

"This means a great deal," Sweet said. "It's the first one I got. I've played in six or seven championship games and this is my first one in 29 years of playing Gold Medal. So it means a lot."

Neither team led by more than six points in a game that featured nine lead changes.

Both Huna and Klukwan gave all their bodies could in the game as both cheering section chanted and yelled themselves hoarse.

"It's a very physical game, very intense," Sweet said. "Anytime Klukwan and Hoonah play, the intensity is the there. We've played these guys for numerous years and we know each other inside-out. That's why it's close all the time."

With so many big plays, though, none was bigger than Parnell's steal and layup.

Klukwan held a 52-51 lead with less than 20 seconds left as Huna brought the ball past midcourt. Parnell then read a pass near the top of the key and intercepted the ball. His steal and ensuing layup secured the win.

"I just imagined I'm the orca and they're the sea lions," he said.

Huna Totem Masters took several leads in the second half but couldn't quite deliver a knockout blow.

Huna leader Louie White Sr. hit a baseline jumper with about four minute left to give his team a 46-41 lead. The chant of "Hoo-nah!, Hoo-nah!" filled the gym after the shot.

White played a spirited game for Huna, diving for loose balls and motivating his teammates. He finished with 10 points.

"Louie White is just great," Parnell said. "It's just an honor to play. I feel so lucky to play Gold Medal. The Hoonah crowd, there's nothing like it. It's a wonderful phenomenon."

Klukwan responded after White's jumper as Chris Wassman hit a jump shot and Parnell made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 46-46.

Huna responded on with a 4-1 run to lead 50-47 with one minute left. Parnell, however, once again found an answer. He hit his fourth 3-point shot of the game with 50 seconds left to tie it.

After Huna's Jack Lee hit a free throw, Klukwan's Bryan O'Reilly got to the line and made both free throws to give his team a 51-50 lead.

A big key to Klukwan's success was the play of guard Frank Coronell.

At 42-years-old, Coronell serves as the youngest player on Klukwan. He also had the quickest legs. His speed and 3-point shooting led to 13 points and tournament MVP honors.

"I like to run," Coronell said. "My game is the running game. It helps me to get out there and get in shape."

Fans saluted both teams after the game and appreciated their hard work.

For Klukwan, though, the game proved extra special.

"It means a lot for the community," Sweet said. "We got three teams in the Gold Medal tournament this year, three teams in the (middle school) HoopTime tournament and Haines just won state. Upper Lynn Canal is on fire."

Parnell led all players with 20 points while Wassman had 12 points, Sweet scored five points and O'Reilly had four points in the win.

Lee led Huna with 15 points, Bill Wolfe Jr. and Pete Schneeberger scored eight points each, Leon Cain and Dan Smith had four points each and Alan Fisher added two points.

• Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 at sports@juneauempire.com.

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