The action was fast and furious with a title-fight feel Thursday night as Angoon and Haines squared off for a spot in Saturday’s B Bracket championship game.
And it was pandemonium in the Juneau-Douglas High School gym for a rematch of last year’s B Bracket finale.
Angoon withstood a furious rally by the Merchants in the second half and held on for a 95-92 win in a classic Gold Medal finish in the tournament’s 65th year, earning a spot in Saturday’s championship game.
“Wooh, man. I guess tonight, everybody got their money’s worth,” said Angoon’s Clayton Edwin, who led all scorers with 30 points. “Both teams played their best and we just came out on top, luckily.”
And a little bit of luck did play a part for Angoon after a crucial mistake with just a few seconds to go cost Haines a shot to tie the game.
Down 93-90 with less than 10 seconds, the Merchants brought the ball up court and Kyle Rush found himself in the left corner. Instead of gambling on an off-balance 3-pointer, he passed to James Hart, who was in the lane. Hart looked for a teammate on the perimeter but ended up taking a shot under the goal when he couldn’t find anybody, making it a 93-92 game. Haines quickly fouled Edwin on the inbound play but there was just 1.8 seconds left, and Tyler Healy’s off-balance, desperation heave at the buzzer hit the top of the backboard as he fell out bounds.
Rush said he thought Hart was backing up behind the arc and it was just a miscommunication at the wrong time.
“I thought he was going to pop out to the 3-point line and I didn’t want to force up something and take an ugly shot,” he explained. “It was just a decision. I could have made the other decision and that could have been the wrong one.
“But I did what I could and everybody played really hard, and it was a lot of fun.”
The Merchants chipped away over the first nine minutes of the second half after trailing by 10, 48-38, at the break. Haines finally forged ahead at the 11:45 mark after a 7-0 spurt to take its first lead after a triple by Tyler Healy.
Guy Hunter answered with a 3-pointer the other way and the crowd went ballistic.
There was one tie and seven lead changes over the next nine minutes as both teams traded punches. Angoon went up 87-82 after a triple by Curtis Lane, but the Merchants scored the next six points to surge back into the lead. Healy went baseline for a bucket, Ben Egolf found Andrew Friske inside for a score with a nice touch pass and Rush scored inside with 1:50 to go give Haines an 88-87 lead.
Ozelle Jamestown scored a tough shot inside and was fouled, but missed the free throw. Johnson then got a steal and a layup to push Angoon up 91-88.
Friske scored another contested shot underneath, but Jordan Jamestown made both free throws in a 1-and-1 situation to put Angoon ahead 93-90.
Ozelle Jamestown got a steal but had no legs left, air balling both free throws.
Angoon got the ball back again but Lane missed the front end of a 1-and-1, setting up the score inside by Hart.
Edwin’s free throws with 1.8 seconds left set the final score and Angoon is back in the championship game Saturday at 8 p.m,
“They’re a good team. You can tell they have a lot of good chemistry and they’ve been playing together for a lot of years,” Edwin said of Haines. “This is my first time playing with Ozelle and Jordan (Jamestown). We had two days of rest and I think that made us come out a little sluggish, but we found our rhythm.
“It’s exciting (to be in the championship game). I’ve played in two Gold Medals before, about five years ago, and it’s good to be back and help Angoon defend the title.”
It was all Angoon in the early going.
Edwin splashed a triple after finding Stephen Johnson inside for a layup to double up the Merchants, 22-11, at the midway point of the first half.
Healy scored an old-fashioned 3-point play inside for Haines, but a 10-4 run over the next few minutes pushed Angoon ahead 32-18, punctuated by an Edwin triple.
But Haines finally caught fire and closed the gap with a 9-0 spurt. Healy scored four straight points and Hart got a banker in the lane. A pull-up 3-pointer by Jesse McGraw later, and all of a sudden it was a 5-point, 32-27 ball game.
The teams then traded scores for several minutes, but an 8-2 Angoon run closed out the first half.
Edwin stuck a pull-up jumper, and then Jordan Jamestown made a couple of free throws before two tough baskets to close the half, one a driving layup over Ben Egolf, the towering Haines center, and the other coming after a nasty crossover leading into a spin move for a 48-38 Angoon lead at the break.
Jordan and Ozelle scored 22 and 13 points, respectively, and Lane added 15 for Angoon.
Healy led Haines with 28 points, followed by McGraw’s 17, Egolf’s 15 and Friske’s 12.
Haines faces Hydaburg at 9 p.m. today in the loser’s bracket finals, and the winner will meet Angoon at 8 p.m. Saturday.