For the first half of the Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament game Sunday between the Haines Merchants and Yakutat, the Mighty B Bracket teams treated spectators to a neck-and-neck battle.
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Wearied by an injury and a lack of subs, however, Yakutat succumbed to Haines 96-78. The Merchants shut down their opponents' sharp shooters and utilized fast breaks, blocked shots and high percentage shooting from the perimeter in the second half.
Haines displayed a well-balanced offensive attack as three players scored more then 20 points. Juneau-Douglas High School senior and Class 4A All-State Tournament selection Will Egolf poured in a game-high 25 points and wowed the crowd with a breakaway slam dunk and an impressive alley-oop tip-in.
Haines' Brian Friske finished with 24 points, and Ben Egolf collected 20.
Yakutat's top scorer, Jimmy Jensen, kept his team close by knocking down 23 points from all over the court. Nate Endicott scored 16 points, and teammate Tracy Jackson had 15 by game's end for Yakutat.
Leading 42-41 at halftime, the Merchants opened the second half with a 17-3 point scoring spurt. They built a 23-point lead.
"We started knocking down some shots and, of course, we made some good baskets in transition, and we got on a steady keel as they were getting tired," said Haines coach Steve Fossman.
Yakutat players gave all they had, and closed the gap to 11 points before their stamina faltered.
In the first half, Yakutat players exploited seams in Haines' defense as they drove the ball down low then kicked it back out to the perimeter for easy, open jumpers.
The Merchants countered by moving the ball around to keep Yakutat on the move in an effort to wear them out before asserting their height advantage inside.
"In the first half nobody was stepping up to stop offensive penetration, and Jensen was just doing whatever he wants," Fossman said. "Once we got our first-half jitters off our shoulders, we started playing like we are capable of playing."
Yakutat showed some grit as starter Jared James suffered what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder midway through the first half. Teammate Nate Endicott helped James realign his shoulder as he re-entered the game.
Haines will face Angoon at 4 p.m. today in a second-round battle, while Yakutat will take on Metlakatla at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the loser's bracket.