It was a case of many against one as the Kake Tlingit Heat used a balanced scoring attack to overcome the 49-point performance of Yakutat ANB's Jimmy Jensen to claim a 117-93 victory in Wednesday's only Gold Medal B Bracket game at Juneau-Douglas High School.
Kake had seven players score in double figures, including five with at least 15 points, as it eliminated Yakutat. Eight of the nine players on Kake's roster score at least nine points.
"We were able to get a good rotation and we took advantage of our bench," Kake's Lloyd Davis said.
"We wanted to keep everyone involved," added Kake's Rudy Bean, who led the Tlingit Heat with 21 points and added several nice assists. "We pretty much let Jensen get his points."
Bean scored 19 points in the first half, but it was his playmaking as much as his scoring that led the Tlingit Heat. Bean led Kake's passing game, which was a lot sharper Wednesday than it was in Kake's 108-90 loss to Huna ANB on Monday.
Scott Jackson added 17 points for Kake, while Lloyd Davis and Nick Davis each scored 16 points, Brandon Jackson had 15, Robert Jackson scored 13, Mike Smith added 10 and Jay Peterson chipped in nine points.
Yakutat had four players in double figures, with Ralph Johnson and Jeremiah James scoring 11 points and Deven James adding 10 to go with Jensen's 49. But when Damien Long left the game in the first half with an aggravated knee injury, Jensen tried to carry his team as far as he could. Kake's balance was just too much, though, since Long's injury left Yakutat with just seven healthy players.
"I'd rather see a 'W'," Jensen said. "You can score a 100 and it still doesn't change the fact that when we wake up tomorrow they're still playing and we're done."
"That's what we needed, was to have five guys score about 15 points each like they did," Jeremiah James said.
The two teams swapped baskets to open the game. After the first 5 1/2 minutes, Kake had a 17-15 lead. But Kake went on a 23-8 run to take a 40-23 lead when Long came up limping and left the game with just over seven minutes left in the first half. Long scored 21 points in Yakutat's 99-89 losers' bracket victory over Angoon ANB on Tuesday, as he and Jensen combined for 47 points and dominated the boards in Yakutat's twin-post offense. Long wasn't even on the Yakutat bench for the second half of the game.
"It helped out that they were missing him," Lloyd Davis said. "We survived one more day, and that puts us closer to the weekend."
"I wanted to take advantage of it, but I was in foul trouble," said Smith, who led Kake's inside game. "That was something coach wanted to try today, to put more people in and try to get more ball movement. Everyone was more in synch today. Hopefully we'll keep getting better."
Once Kake got its big lead in the first half, the Tlingit Heat used the equivalent of hockey lines to keep fresh bodies in the game. Kake sometimes changed four players at a time, as many players as there were on Kake's bench. Teams in the winners' bracket will play as few as four games if they reach the championship, while Kake will have to play six games if the Tlingit Heat reaches the title game through the losers' bracket.
"The longer we go in the tourney, the more we'll need fresh legs," Bean said.
Kake led 65-42 at halftime, and maintained similar 20- to 25-point leads through most of the second half. After awhile, the crowd seemed more interested in how many points Jensen would score than the game's outcome.
As Jensen stepped to the free-throw line midway through the second half, announcer Bob Beierly told the crowd Jensen needed to make a shot to hit 40 points. When Jensen missed his first shot, he stepped back from the free-throw line, turned to Beierly, put his finger to his lips and shushed him. Jensen then missed his second shot, but got his rebound and slammed it home. A few minutes later, when Jensen again missed two free throws, Beierly responded by saying, "I didn't say anything this time."
"He was jinxing me," Jensen said. "But I got the tip jam, so it was OK."
As the game went on, every time Yakutat got the ball Beierly would say, "Give the ball to Jimmy," and even some of the fans in the Kake part of the bleachers started chanting "Jimmy, Jimmy." When Jensen passed the ball to teammate Jason Jensen, who hit a 3-pointer, Beierly said "He got your 3-pointer, Jimmy." Jensen hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left and Beierly announced that it gave Jensen 52 points to match his jersey number. The official scorebook had Jensen listed for 49 points, and when Jensen saw the total he asked, "Who got my 3-pointer?"
Jensen said he scored 49 points against Haines a few years ago, and one of his friends said she thought he'd scored 54 points in a Gold Medal game once.
"It was youth and inexperience," Jensen said. "If you look, we stayed even in the second half. It the first half where we lost the game. It took us 20 minutes of game time to get going. We bring a younger team every year, but this is the best we've been. We've got some big guys coming in next year, so watch out. I'll be dangerous."
Kake plays Klawock-Prince of Wales in tonight's 7:30 p.m. losers' bracket game. Huna ANB and the Haines Merchants played at 11:30 a.m. today in a winners' bracket game.
"It went fairly good for us today," Scott Jackson said. "Every game's a good game if you win."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.