Hoonah masters Yakutat for crown

Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2011

The shooting percentages were nothing to write home about Saturday but luckily for Hoonah, as the old adage goes, it’s defense that wins championships.

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MICHAEL PENN / Michael Penn
MICHAEL PENN / Michael Penn

The Huna Masters found themselves in a defensive battle with Yakutat, but Hoonah went on a 21-5 run midway through the second half that put Yakutat away in a 55-39 win in the Masters Bracket finale of the 65th Annual Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament.

In a game mired in offensive inefficiency on both ends at Juneau-Douglas High School, it was a good thing Hoonah had Greg Garcia. The Huna Masters’ scoring leader pumped in 18 points during their second-half run, including 15 in a row at one point, on his way to a game-high 22 points and the tournament MVP award.

It was a good win for Garcia and his Huna teammates, especially after he fought through a frostbitten ankle that left him nowhere near 100 percent in last year’s runner-up performance.

“I feel as good as a 47-year-old can feel,” he said afterward.

Garcia scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, and the Hoonah offense got going after the break behind his strong play. With Hoonah up 29-26, Garcia got the 21-5 run started with a jumper in the lane, following with a layup, a 3-pointer, another layup and an and-1 before Yakutat could score another point.

In the blink of an eye, Hoonah led 50-31 with just more than five minutes remaining.

Garcia attributed the strong second half to his team’s endurance, especially, he said, “with a 60-year-old and a couple of 55-year-olds” on the team.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game. Playing Yakutat is always tough,” he said. “Conditioning was a big part of it. We’ve been conditioning ourselves for three months.”

But it was the Hoonah defense that made the difference in a game full of offensive futility.

Yakutat struggled to get anything going from the opening tip as Hoonah refused to give shooters open looks. Garcia said that was the game plan when defending Yakutat.

“Our strategy was man-to-man and not allowing any open shots,” he said. “Those guys are good shooters. If you leave them open, they’re going to make it.”

And Yakutat could not find the range from anywhere on the court as it went scoreless over the first 9:37 of the game.

Meanwhile, Hoonah was unable to put the game away during that brutal stretch, scoring only 10 points over the first 10 minutes of the first half. The two teams continued to struggle before halftime as Huna took a 25-16 lead into the break.

Garcia scored just two points in the first half, but teammate and fellow All-Tournament selection Ken Willard Jr. picked up the slack with 13 of his 18 points coming before the half. There were no other scorers in double figures for the Huna Masters.

Bert Adams was the high scorer for Yakutat with 13 points.

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