Yakutat started Wednesday's Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament Intermediate Bracket matchup blazing hot and survived a late rally by Kake to win the opener.
Yakutat's Ben Dunbar led the charge, knocking down seven 3-pointers for a game-high 27 points in the 85-78 win.
The Intermediate Bracket for players 18 to 25 is in its second year.
"It's way different than last year," Dunbar said. "The first year was full of jitters."
Any jitters Yakutat may have had were gone early as the team seemingly made any shot it took.
Yakutat converted plenty of second-chance opportunities in the first half to take a 40-26 halftime lead. After halftime, Dunbar got hot.
Dunbar, playing in his second Gold Medal, made five 3-pointers as Yakutat's lead swelled to 22 points with 10 minutes left.
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In all, Yakutat made 10 3-pointers.
"When it hits it makes it harder for them," Dunbar said.
Kake struggled to find its range throughout the first half, but used intense defense to get back in the game.
Shane Padgett hit four 3-pointers in the second half as Kake switched to an aggressive trapping defense. The defensive adjustment forced Yakutat into turnovers, which Kake translated into points on the offensive end.
"Our press was killer in the second half," said Padgett, who scored a team-high 25 points.
Dean Cavanaugh's jumper with less than three minutes left in the game ignited Kake's crowd and cut Yakutat's lead to 75-68.
Padgett's third 3-pointer sliced Yakutat's advantage to six with 35 seconds left, but Yakutat made six of eight free throws in the final 1:30 to ice a well-earned win.
"They were pressuring us every chance they got," Dunbar said. "I think our free throw shooting helped us. They played with a lot of heart."
Sam Ferguson, a member of Yakutat High School's 2006 state championship team, scored 21 points and Alin Vale had 19 in the win.
For Kake, Trevor Rostad poured in 17 points, Xavier Friday added 16 points and Cavanaugh scored 12 points.
Yakutat will take on Juneau University of Alaska Southeast at 6 p.m. today for a spot in the finals.
Kake, meanwhile, will face Angoon in an elimination game at 1 p.m. today in a rematch of last year's inaugural Intermediate Bracket championship game.
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