In a do-or-die Mighty B Bracket match-up, Metlakatla employed an eager Willie Hayward to help beat Sitka 98-77 in a Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament elimination game on Wednesday.
With slashing drives and second efforts, Hayward accumulated a game-high 36 points against Sitka. Metlakatla's players streaked up and down the court to create havoc on offense and defense.
"That's our game," Willie Hayward said. "We try to get our legs underneath us and get going."
Sitka started flat as Metlakatla jumped to a 12-0 lead.
Sitka also lost its starting center, Steve Walker, to a sprained ankle just four minutes into the game. Walker did not return.
"When Walker went down, we lost a big part of our offense," Sitka's Tom Gamble said. "It took away our ability to go inside and get rebounds."
With a good team effort, Sitka chipped away to narrow Metlakatla's lead to 25-15.
Matt Burrows started finding his range and Barry Morrison created several scoring opportunities by forcing steals, grabbing rebounds and making assists. Within a six-minute span, Sitka went on a 21-11 run to tie the game at 36.
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As Metlakatla felt the pressure, Rich and Willie Hayward increased the intensity of the offense to lift their team to a 47-43 halftime advantage.
Rich Hayward hit back-to-back 3-pointers and snuck through the defenders to get high percentage shots in the key.
Metlakatla started the second half on a 58-46 run as Cameron Cook helped kickstart the offense.
Burrows' shooting helped Sitka cut Metlakatla's lead to 10, but then Mike Henderson and Willie Hayward made sure their team would advance.
Midway through the second half, Henderson took over. He hustled for rebounds, forced turnovers and found Willie Hayward for fast-break points. In a matter of five minutes, the duo combined for a 22-point outburst as Metlakatla's lead swelled to 17.
"When playing Willie, you got to be on your toes because you never know what you are going to get," Gamble said. "It's a 50-50 guess. He is really quick. He can take it to you inside and he can shoot from outside."
Both teams balanced their offensive output by having five people in double figures. Juneau-Douglas High School senior Cook racked up 17 points while Rich Hayward scored 15 points.
"This is a fun team to play on," Cook said. "I just started playing with them this week and I caught on (to their game plan) pretty well. It's great to play with this bunch of nice guys."
Sitka's Gamble scored a team-high 18 points. Burrows provided 15 points, Morrison added 14, and Rich Didrickson and Kale Perkins chipped in 12 each.