The Metlakatla women started defending their bracket title in the Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament on Monday with a 41-38 win over Sitka.
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Talisa Marsden netted a game-high 25 points to lead last year's champs.
Marsden scored 15 of Metlakatla's 20 first-half points, and she finished off Sitka's late surge of 3-pointers with a string of free throws in a tough back-and-forth battle.
"I was really feeling it tonight, and our team did really good," Marsden said. "We came together late and pulled it out."
Metlakatla jumped out to an 11-6 lead with good hustle in transition. Nelly Humpherville's five blocked shots helped jump-start Metlakatla's fast-break offense.
"I love transition and trying to get that fast break going," Humpherville said.
Metlakatla cooled off midway through the first half. Breanne Erickson's six points and three blocks helped Sitka go on a 14-2 run to take its first lead. Humpherville, however, hit a long 3-pointer just before the break to give Metlakatla a 20-19 halftime lead.
Keely Falcon had a team-high 14 points, and Michelle Martin scored nine to keep Sitka in the fight for most of the second half.
"We just went out and tried everything we could just to win," Martin said. "We gave a lot of heart out for this game."
With the score tied at 31-31, Marsden broke the game open with a reverse lay-up on a fast break. Metlatkatla put the game out of reach by making its free throws. The Git' Taquan made 12 free throws in the second half to seal the victory.
Chelsie Chalmers added nine points in the win.
Metlakatla will play again at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the winnner's bracket. The winner of Wednesday's game will play for the title on Saturday.
Sitka will play at 11:30 a.m. today in an elimination game.