THE MIGHTY 'B' BRACKET
After coming up short in last year's championship game of the Mighty B Bracket of the Gold Medal Tournament, Kake Tlingit Heat did a minor retooling for a run at this year's title.
Kake added three new players to the roster this year, and the added depth helped Kake turn up the Tlingit Heat on Sitka as Kake won 96-78 during Monday's winners' bracket action at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gym.
With the victory, Kake advances to Thursday's 5:30 p.m. winners' bracket semifinal game against Hoonah, which knocked off the two-time defending champion Haines Merchants 96-78 in Monday's other winners' bracket game. In a losers' bracket game Monday night, Yakutat eliminated Klawock 93-69.
"We added some young fellas who can play," Kake's Rudy Bean said after scoring 19 points. "This is the next group that's going to be coming through. Our starters have total confidence in the guys coming off the bench. They worked hard during the summer."
Kake's veterans continued to handle most of the scoring load, with Scott Jackson scoring 20 of his team-high 24 points in the first half and Mike Smith added 12 points. But the three new guys -- Brandon Jackson, Kevin Martin and Stan Johnson -- had their moments as they combined for 14 points.
Cliff Davis scored 26 points to lead Sitka, while Josh Branham added 22 points and Gary Smith had 13 points. Kake's Scott Jackson said it was tough playing Sitka. "
I grew up in Sitka, and a lot of them are my friends," Jackson said.
Jackson dominated the first half with 20 points, then Bean took over to open the second half as he scored Kake's first 10 points of the period. But it wasn't just those two. Everybody who got into the game for Kake scored.
Hit the deck: Sitka's Josh Branham, center, tries to clear the ball out of a pile as Kake's Brandon Jackson, left, and Rudy Bean, right, dogpile into the scramble during Monday's Mighty B Bracket action.
MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE
"I feel pretty good," Jackson said of his performance. "It was just whatever comes out of whatever we're running. It's how I play. It's hard to say how we'll do, there are a lot of tough teams. It's fun, just a little rat ball."
"He was our little hotshot," Jay Peterson said of Jackson's first half. "We're a team. We like to play a team game. We've got a lot of guys who can light it up. We've played together for a bunch of years, even with Brandon, Kevin and Stan."
Johnson said it took awhile for the new guys to blend in with the veterans, but they're starting to meld now.
"Not at first," Johnson said of the adjustment, "but after the all-Native tournament in February (in Prince Rupert, British Columbia) we started to work together. We try. Once we start playing we do OK."
After last year's close call -- which ended with Haines coming through the losers' bracket to win its second straight title with a 107-100 victory -- the Kake players know the pitfalls of being complacent.
"If we stick together as a team, we'll get there," Peterson said. "As long as we don't start thinking ahead. We have to come out and be hungry every game. Whoever plays defense will win it."
"I think we're one of the favorites, but Haines is still the defending champion and Hoonah is looking strong," Bean said. "If we come in and we're on our game, who knows how we'll do. We know what our strengths are. We rebound and fast break, and we have a deep bench. We've got a defense this year."
Hoonah 96, Haines 78
In a rematch of the Mighty B Bracket championship game from two years ago, Hoonah picked up points from every player as it dethroned the two-time defending champion Haines Merchants. Haines can still win a third straight championship, but it will have to go through the losers' bracket to do it.
Travis Dybdahl scored 24 points to lead Hoonah, while Nate Strong added 19 points, Albert Hinchman had 14 and Kamal Lindoff scored 13 for Hoonah.
Andrew Friske scored 17 points to lead Haines, while Daniel Martin added 12 points, Luck Dunbar had 11 and Jesse McGraw scored 10 points for the Merchants, who also picked up a bucket from a Hoonah player who accidently tipped in a rebound.
Yakutat 93, Klawock 69
Eric Anderstrom scored 24 points as Yakutat ANB eliminated Klawock in Monday's losers' bracket action.
Damien Long scored 20 points for Yakutat, while Jemmi Jensen added 16 points and Michael Jensen scored 10.
Harold Dilts scored 16 points to lead Klawock, which trailed by 20 points at halftime, while Sam Nickerson added 13 and Doug Edenshaw scored 10 points for Klawock.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.