Hydaburg had a lot of reasons to celebrate Saturday.
Longtime player Al Nix was inducted into the Gold Medal basketball tournament's Hall of Fame, and Jamall Travis celebrated his 21st birthday. If that wasn't enough, Hydaburg won its first B Bracket title in a decade when it claimed a 109-92 victory over the Haines Merchants at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gym.
"It's a sense of achievement. It says we're the best in Southeast," said Hydaburg's Matt Carle, who scored 32 points and made the all-tournament team. "We worked hard for this. We knew it would be a tough tournament, but we focused on making this happen this year, to be the best in B Bracket. The fact we won when the tournament had its best talent says a lot."
"It was good to come back and win," added Hall of Famer Sid Edenshaw, who scored 24 points for Hydaburg and made the all-tourney team. "Just to be here as a team is good for our community."
Carle said Hydaburg last won a Gold Medal title in 1995, his first year in college. Hydaburg missed several tournaments when it lost too many players to work and other commitments, but last year the team returned to Gold Medal with a skeleton squad that posted a 1-2 record. This year, Hydaburg brought its full team.
"Yeah, I'm happy with it," said Darren Edenshaw, who earned tournament MVP honors after scoring 17 points on Saturday. "We have a lot of heart and we knew we had to bring everybody here. It's great."
"Now we can go celebrate," added Devin Edenshaw, who scored 25 points and was the third Edenshaw cousin to make the all-tourney team.
Haines took a 3-0 lead when Stuart DeWitt hit a 3-pointer to open the game, but Carle scored seven points during a 12-point run as Hydaburg took a 12-3 lead. Haines closed within one point at 16-15 and 18-17, but couldn't quite take the lead.
Sid Edenshaw and Travis Young then sparked a run that put Hydaburg on top 30-21. Haines closed back within two - 40-38 - but Hydaburg went on a 13-1 run to close out the half with a 53-39 advantage.
"We figured to get out and get an early lead, because they'd played a lot more games," Devin Edenshaw said, referring to the way Haines had to battle its way back through the losers' bracket with two extra games after Hydaburg beat the Merchants 91-82 on Monday. "We figured it would take away their energy. It (the early lead) did help a lot."
In the second half, Hydaburg built a 20-point leads at 61-41, 64-44 and 66-46, and even took a 23-point lead at 69-46 when Darren Edenshaw hit a 3-pointer. But Haines went on a nine-point run to pull within 14 points at 69-55. Hydaburg led by at least 14 points until 4 minutes were left, with a couple of 21-point advantages during that stretch. Haines closed within 10 points, 102-92, with 1:43 to play. But Hydaburg scored the last seven points on five free throws and a dunk by Devin Edenshaw with 1:02 left.
"We were ahead by so much, only because they played so many games," Carle said.
"We had to play some pretty tough teams, and we didn't come out strong tonight," said Andrew Friske, who scored 23 points to lead the Merchants. "It finally caught up with us. We usually kind of play from behind, but they were beating us back on transition. We were within four at the end of the half, but they made some tough shots. We were just tired tonight. This will give us more motivation for next year."
Besides the 23 points from Friske, Haines picked up 16 points from DeWitt, 14 from Tyler Healy, 12 from Ben Egolf and 10 from Jesse McGraw. Friske, DeWitt and Egolf all made the all-tourney team from Haines.
Hydaburg took advantage of an interesting mix of experience and youth to win the title. Sid Edenshaw was inducted into the Gold Medal Hall of Fame in 2002 and Nix joined this year, giving Hydaburg a couple of solid veterans down low.
"They had a big advantage with those two Hall of Famers, even if they're both over 40," Friske said.
"That was a surprise," Nix said of the Hall of Fame honor.
Then there are the young guns, who have been playing college ball in the Puget Sound area. Devin Edenshaw just finished up his second year at Shoreline Community College and Darren Edenshaw has a year left at Green River Community College. Carle runs the point; he's a former University of Alaska Fairbanks player who's still in his late 20s, but has played in the Gold Medal tournament for more than a decade. Travis Young, Joe Young, Travis, Vinnie Edenshaw and John Carle add depth for Hydaburg, which has won nine of the last 10 All-Native tournaments in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
"It's a great team," Darren Edenshaw said.
FRIDAY'S GAME Haines Merchants 99, Huna ANB 94
Andrew Friske converted a three-point play with 1 minute, 40 seconds left, giving the Haines Merchants a one-point 92-91 lead as the Merchants rallied to eliminate Huna ANB in Friday's losers' bracket final in the B Bracket.
Huna led 91-89 with two minutes left, but Friske converted the play 20 seconds later and Haines made free throws down the stretch to earn a spot in Saturday's championship game against Hydaburg.
Friske scored 36 points to lead Haines, while Jesse McGraw added 18 points, Jason Shull scored 15, Ben Egolf chipped in nine and Brian Friske scored eight for the Merchants.
Nate Strong scored a game-high 37 points before fouling out to lead Huna, while Travis Dybdahl added 29 points, Lucas Johnson scored 14 and James Wilson had 10.