It may have been a Tuesday night Mighty B Bracket elimination game at the 61st annual Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament, but the contest had the atmosphere of a championship showdown.
Played in front of a boisterous, standing-room-only crowd, Hoonah pulled away from the Kake Tlingit Heat 88-82 to move on in the bracket. The loss eliminated Kake from tournament play.
"We wait all year for these kind of crowds," said Hoonah's Travis Dybdahl. "We all come back to our high school days when we had our houses packed. We played in little tournaments, but it's never like this. It's always a pleasure."
Dybdahl led all scorers with 29 points.
Hoonah's leading scorer hit a 3-pointer in the second half but did most of his damage driving to the lane. Most of his points came by knifing through the lane and hitting a finger-roll lay-up.
"God blessed me with long arms," Dybdahl said. "I've always been able to stretch past people. If I can't jump past them, I'll stretch past them."
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Dybdahl received plenty of attention from Kake's defenders. That extra attention paid off for Hoonah's perimeter players. Hoonah knocked down three 3-pointers in the second half, two from James Wilson.
After leading 37-25 at halftime, the outside shooting helped keep Kake at bay.
"All the 3s happen because Travis is double and triple team almost every time," said Wilson, who scored 18 points.
Down by double-digits most of the second half, the Tlingit Heat started to warm up late in the game.
Kake center Mike Smith hit consecutive 3-point shots to cut Hoonah's lead to 74-67 with about three minutes left.
The Tlingit Heat were forced to foul Hoonah late in an effort to stop the clock, but their opponents made 7 of 12 free throws in the final 1:30 to ice the victory.
"They're always tough," Dybdahl said. "They've got the most competing crowd with Hoonah's too."
The fired-up crowd cheered and chanted during nearly every possession as both teams traded buckets early.
With the score tied 22-22, Hoonah ended the first half by going on a 15-3 run spanning more than four minutes.
Albert Hinchman added 13 points for Hoonah while Anthony Dolan led Kake with 27 points.
Smith chipped in 14 points for the Tlingit Heat.
Hoonah moves on to face Angoon at 9 p.m. tonight in an elimination game.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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