Steve Leask hasn't played in a Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament since 1993.
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He made up for a little lost time Monday as he hit two 3-pointers for Metlakatla during a big second half. Metlakatla outscored the Klukwan Chilkats by 19 points in the second half to win 77-56 in a Legendary C winner's bracket battle.
"I felt a little bit like in high school," Leask said. "I had the butterflies before the game."
Metlakatla used its significant size advantage to pull away from an athletic Chilkats squad.
Big men Trevan Walker and Paul Bryant gave Metlakatla a physical presence in the paint. Their ability to take up space in the lane helped open the perimeter for Metlakatla's guards.
The winners played the inside-out game to the tune of six 3-pointers in the second half.
"The guards were hitting their shots," said Bryant, who scored 14 points. "Trevan was just a monster inside."
Leading 31-29, Bryant opened the second half with a 3-pointer to kick off a 7-0 run.
Klukwan's Joe Parnell hit a jumper with 13:10 left to cut Metlakatla's lead to 40-35, but Leask and Marty Martinez drained consecutive 3s to push their team's lead to 11 points.
Klukwan, behind the athletic play of Guy Tompkins and Steve Fossman, helped keep the Chilkats within 10 points with less than six minutes left to play.
Metlakatla closed the deal, however, with a 16-0 run which lasted nearly four minutes. Gilbert Booth Jr. hit two 3-point shots, and Sean Enright added eight points in the decisive run.
A lot of the run was predicated on the play of Walker and Bryant inside. Their ability to draw defenders toward them made the job of Metlakatla's guards a lot easier. Walker scored 20 in the win.
"The forwards kicked it out for wide open 3s," Leask said. "It makes a difference."
Klukwan played well in defeat, but struggled to find a rhythm against Metlakatla.
The Chilkats, runners up in 2006, raced out to a 10-2 lead to open the game as Chris Wassman and Fossman connected from 3-point land.
Metlakatla battled back by going inside, but Klukwan seized a 24-23 lead with about 4:30 left in the first half.
Tompkins added another 3-pointer to put the Chilkats ahead 29-27, but Metlakatla scored two buckets inside late to seize a 31-29 lead.
"It didn't feel that the whole game was at a fast pace," Fossman said. "We were a little out of sync. They did a good job."
Despite the competitiveness of the game, both Metlakatla and Klukwan played with affable attitudes.
Players on both sides frequently laughed after making a mistake and frequently helped each other up and shook hands after a foul.
"It's fun," Fossman said. "Every year you get older and a little more worried if you're going to make it. (Gold Medal) is like a sign of spring."
Klukwan will face the winner of Hoonah and Angoon in an elimination game at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Metlakatla will take on Kake in a championship semifinal at 9 p.m. Thursday.
"So far so good," Bryant said. "We're right in the middle."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.