The A Bracket game featuring Marlintini's Arctic Lights and Filcom in Gold Medal Tournament winner's bracket play on Thursday wasn't very competitive, as evidenced by Marlintini's lopsided 118-75 victory in the winners' bracket final.
But things really heated up after the final buzzer.
Players complained that the A Bracket is dying a slow, painful death - it isn't nearly as competitive as it used to be - and they wondered if the tourney adminstrators are going to make some needed changes.
"It might just be better to let the A Bracket teams play together with the B," said Marlintini's Jon Madison, who led all scorers with 30 points and all rebounders with 18 boards.
"Nobody wants to travel here any more to play in a four-team tournament," said Madison, referring to the A Bracket's format. "You just need to put all the teams together in an open tournament format - you'll get better competition. That's what every other tournament in the state does."
That was something that was missing on Thursday. Filcom, hastily added to the tournament after a team from Ketchikan was a late scratch, fell behind early, 26-2, and could never catch back up.
The Arctic Lights will square off at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the A Bracket championship game against the winner of today's 7:30 p.m. game between Sitka and Filcom. Sitka beat the Juneau All-Stars 85-81 Thursday in A Bracket losers' bracket play.
"It was tough, they're a very disciplined team," said Filcom's Joe Pelayo of the Arctic Lights.
Pelayo had 12 points for his squad. Jon Carlo Malacas (25 points), had a fun 3-point shooting fest with Marlintini's Jason Bavard (26 points) in the second half. That was about all this contest could offer to hold the interest of the hundred or so fans in attendance.
Pelayo said his team barely had a chance to practice together when they discovered - four days before the tourney kicked off - that they'd be playing in Gold Medal.
"I got a call and they said 'You're in Gold Medal.' I said 'Great!' Then they said, 'But you have to play in the A Bracket.'"
Pelayo said his team agreed because they wanted the A Bracket to have the four teams necessary to fill out the bracket.
"I don't know what the (Gold Medal) commision is going to do about it," the 1997 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate said of the A Bracket. "I hope they don't get rid of it."
Another team from Fairbanks also pulled out from the A Bracket just before the tourney, said Marlintini's coach Ethan Billings, who scored 10 points on Thursday.
Billings, a 1982 graduate of JDHS and Alaska's Player of the Year that same year - a state championship year for the Crimson Bears - said that local basketball talent that once flourished in the A Bracket isn't staying in Southeast any longer.
"We don't have the 21- to 26-year-olds coming back home to play any more," Billings said.
He said that the A Bracket isn't the premier league that it used to be - this was demonstrated when his A Bracket team lost to the defending B Bracket champion Haines Merchants on Sunday in an exhibition contest, 131-115.
He said it's time the A Bracket was dissolved, and that those players and teams should be allowed to compete in the B Bracket tournament.
"We play each other all year long (in city league play) and then they split us up at the end of the year (in Gold Medal). It doesn't make any sense," Billings said.
Billings said that teams which used to make up the A Bracket were bigger cities in Southeast and the state, such as Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka and Fairbanks. The B Bracket, meanwhile, is reserved for village teams. He said it's time to break down that barrier.
Marlintini's Frank Tompkins was even more vocal in his displeasure of the way tourney administrators have handled the A Bracket tournament and its players, noting there are troubling inconsistencies.
He said that some A Bracket players are told they can't leave and play in the B or C Brackets, while others are allowed to. He said some villages are catered to and given preferential treatment, while Juneau and some of the bigger cities are not, in his estimation.
"They're not trying to help us, they don't want it to work. They should just call this tournament the Hoonah Invitational," he said.
Sitka ANB/ANS 85, Juneau All-Stars 81
In a game where it trailed most of the way, Sitka ANB/ANS rallied to eliminate the Juneau All-Stars in a losers' bracket game Thursday morning.
David Johnson converted a three-point play when the game was tied late in the second half and Karel Uddipa hit a 3-pointer and added two free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory for Sitka.
Uddipa and Mitch Mork both scored 19 points to lead Sitka, while Johnson scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half. Paul Carrington added 12 points, while veterans Steve Walker and George Erickson scored seven points each.
Brice Searles scored 28 points to lead Juneau, which missed 10 of its 19 free-throw attempts. Wil White scored 19 points, Scott Hotch added 17 and Lance Geise scored seven points for the All-Stars.
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