For the first 10 minutes of Wednesday's only Gold Medal women's bracket game, Kake LAB Air and Ketchikan Indian Community seemed evenly matched. Then Kake found a way to squeeze Ketchikan out -- setting up an impenetrable defensive fortress around the key and forcing Ketchikan to shoot from the outside.
When Ketchikan couldn't get its long shots to fall, Kake was able to pull away to a 90-58 win.
Ketchikan started strong and took an early lead as Kake struggled to stay in the game for the first nine minutes. But Ketchikan may have spent its energy too early. With the score tied and 10 minutes to go in the first half, Kake found its game and went on a 26-7 run. Kake led 46-24 at the break.
After the initial struggle, Kake's winning strategy began to take shape.
Kake set up a concrete defensive zone under the basket. Any Ketchikan player who even tried to step on the paint was mobbed. This forced Ketchikan to shoot from the outside.
By this time Ketchikan's game had gone cold, and key shots missed their mark. To add to the problem, turnovers began to plague Ketchikan.
"It's the defense," said Kake's Robin Knudson, who had nine points in the game. "Defense wins games. We worked together out there and that made the difference."
While ironclad defense kept Ketchikan from scoring, Kake's shooting game ignited. Karlee Smith, who has won the Gold Medal 3-point shooting contest five of the last six years, hit three 3-pointers in a row within one minute in the first half. She added two more in the second half and finished with 15 points on five 3-pointers. Jonna Adams led the team in scoring with 21 points.
"All their shots were falling, every single one of them," said Janice Scudero, who led Ketchikan with 24 points. "I was on a roll for a while, but I lost it."
Ketchikan mounted a slight comeback with a 20-10 run after the break. But Ketchikan was showing signs of fatigue. With 8 1/2 minutes to go, Ketchikan's Cheryl Skafelstad went down with a knee injury and had to be carried off the court. She was transported to the hospital and returned later in the day wearing a brace and walking on crutches.
"We just ran out of steam," said Ketchikan's Naomi Michalsen, who turned in four points. "They wanted it more than we did, I guess. They just played awesome."
In the last 4 1/2 minutes, only five more points fell for Ketchikan, and those came at the charity stripe. With the loss, Ketchikan is out of the tournament.
"But it's been fun," Michalsen said. "I guess we'll have a lot of time to shop. Costco here we come."
Kake's next game is a losers' bracket contest at 9 tonight against the Haines Merchants.
"We finally warmed up to playing," said Kake's Violet Anderson, who had six points. "We're playing together now. We're in better shape. Once our players start to get on, we can't miss."
In other women's bracket news, Lynden Transport's Heather Clark, who was injured in Tuesday night's game against Ketchikan, will be out for the rest of the tournament with a broken bone in her right ankle.
Clark twisted her ankle in the first half of that game, but she was treated and returned to play. In the second half she went down again and did not return.
Lynden Transport played Klawock-Prince of Wales at 10 this morning in the winners' bracket semifinal game.