Juneau's Lynden Transport got one step closer to breaking Klawock's four-year run as champions of the Gold Medal tournament's Premiere Women's Bracket on Thursday by coasting to a 61-49 win over Sitka in the Juneau-Douglas High School gym.
Employing its trademark up-tempo ball-control offense, and a defense that limited the second chances of the larger Sitka team, Lynden set the pace early. The Juneau women edged ahead from the start, but it wasn't until later in the first half that they were able to really seize control of the game.
The local team got contributions from all over the court. Guards Kara Lindley and Kacy Lockhart kept the nets snapping from the outside, while Rena Balzer fought for position and, ultimately, high-percentage shots inside.
Defensively, Lynden's matchup zone forced a lot of missed shots and turnovers and put the visitors in a hole they were unable to climb out of by limiting them to just two points in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
"We did a real good job defensively," said Lynden coach Jer Hamey, whose team boasted a 32-17 halftime lead. "We did a great job of being active in our zone."
That activity spelled doom for Sitka, which couldn't seem to find the handle on the ball.
"It's a case of ball control," Sitka coach Gary Lang said. "Our scoring is there, but our passing needs to improve. We definitely have to take care of the ball better."
With the sizable cushion after the intermission, Lynden was able to slow the pace of the game, wait for good shots and push the margin close to 20 for most of the half.
"We played a pretty good inside-outside game," said Lindley, a 1999 JDHS grad who took a self-decreed spring break from her studies at Biola University in California to participate in the Gold Medal tournament. "Kacy played amazing defense and is a great ball-handler, and Rena gets a lot of rebounds and goes up strong inside."
Lindley was no small contributor herself, knocking down three 3-pointers and 12 total points in the contest. Lockhart finished with 10, and Balzer tossed in 14 to share game-high scoring honors with Sitka's Breanne Erickson.
Christina Mercer and Karen Krupa chipped in eight apiece for Sitka, which faces defending champion Klawock-Prince of Wales, a 92-74 winner over Kake LAB on Thursday, today at 2 p.m. in a game to determine who will face Lynden in Saturday's 2 p.m. championship game.
"With all our turnovers, no one had a chance to get warmed up and start playing like they can," said Sitka's Kelsey Erickson, who scored four in the game. "We need to play smarter and make better passes. We came here to win."
Deb Barry of Hoonah, who plays for Lynden and scored two on Thursday, said she is excited about going to Saturday's championship game.
"It feels good. It's nice to go in on the top of the bracket," she said. "We have a great team. Everyone hustles and does their part. We're starting to click."
Klawock-Prince of Wales 92, Kake-LAB 74
Sharp-shooting guard Jean Jackson connected for six of Klawock's eight 3-point baskets en route to a team-high 22 points, as the defending women's bracket champs advanced to today's semifinal matchup with Sitka.
Kelli Larson and Tina Almenzar threw in 15 apiece, and Ellen Hannon added 12 for Klawock, which cruised to a 44-23 halftime lead and never looked back.
Kake's Jonna Adams scorched the nets for 31 points to lead all scorers. Marla Dixson notched 13, and Donna Kadake, who hit three treys in the game, put up 11 for Kake, which was eliminated from the tournament with the loss.
Mark Kelsey is a former Juneau Empire reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.