Lynden Transport of Juneau earned a spot in Saturday's 2 p.m. women's bracket championship game of the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament, toppling three-time defending champion Klawock-Prince Of Wales 64-60 Thursday afternoon at Juneau-Douglas High School.
The loss was only the second in the four years of the women's bracket for Klawock, which will have to play the Haines Merchants in today's 2 p.m. losers' bracket final. The winner of today's game will play Lynden for the title. Klawock was able to come back through the losers' bracket last year to win the championship.
Excellent defense on both sides prevented shooting from the inside and caused fouling everywhere else. In the last seconds, the game came down to a battle from the free-throw line.
"Too close, man," Lynden coach Guy Tompkins said. "(It's) giving me all these gray hairs."
Lynden's tough defense kept Klawock from running the court, though Klawock managed to pick its way through to the basket on several occasions.
Jean Jackson sank four shots from the field, and drew several fouls on her drives. She went 10-for-13 from the free-throw line to lead Klawock with 18 points. Louise Wollcott added 14 points with two 3-pointers for Klawock, while Ellen Hannon scored 13 and Tina Almenzor had eight from the paint.
Lynden's Kacy Davidson led her team in scoring with 19 points, and was most effective from the outside. Teammate Tami Watts was able to penetrate Klawock's defense and made six shots from the inside for 14 points, while Rena Balzer added 10.
"It's all about shooting," Tompkins said. "We're coming together really well."
The free-throw line was another matter. Both teams seemed desperate in the second half, sinking few of their attempted field goals. As Lynden and Klawock forced plays, the line was frequented more often.
"We should have closed them out early," Tompkins said. "I think (the frequency of fouls is) because they're a jump-shooting team. They tend to call the jump-shooting ones rather than the underneath."
Both teams sank 18 free throws, with Klawock using 29 attempts and Lynden taking 40 shots from the charity line.
Klawock picked up the pace with four minutes to go, closing the gap to three points at 61-58. The remainder of the points were made from the line. Klawock sank two, but Lynden solidified their lead with three more free-throws.
Lynden was without Heather Clark, who broke her ankle in a game against Ketchikan on Tuesday. She watched from the sidelines.
"It was hard to watch," Clark said, "but hey, we won."
Both teams have a shot at the championship, but the road may be longer for Klawock.
"It's a disappointment," said Jackson, "but don't count us out yet."
Haines 77, Kake 69
In another close game, Haines Merchants eliminated Kake-LAB in the losers' bracket game Thursday night.
Haines' Sara Swinton came out on top with at team-high 29 points, with 16 points from the field and 13 free-throws. Following close behind was Beckie Chapin with 18 points and Lisa Sele with 16.
Jonna Adams was Kake's top scorer with 29 points. She and teammate Karlee Smith sank three 3-pointers each.
Haines advances to the loser's bracket semi-final against Klawock-P.O.W. at 2 p.m. today. The winner will take on Juneau's Lynden Transport in the championship game on Saturday.
Emily Wescott can be reached at email@example.com.