It was an epic finish, fitting for the final game of the 63rd Juneau Lion's Club Gold Medal Basketball Tournament. D.J. Lindstrom's put-back on his own missed layup with 2.9 seconds, secured Huna's 87-84 victory over Metlakatla.
"That's what Gold Medal is all about; I'm pretty much a loss for words," Huna's Travis Dybdahl said, still out of breath following the win.
Dybdahl, who scored a game-high 34 points, was selected as B Bracket MVP for the second-straight year. He scored 32 points in an 89-83 win against Haines in the loser bracket semifinals on Friday, following a 40-point performance in a 99-87 loss against the same Metlakatla team on Thursday.
Dybdahl said Huna learned something about Metlakatla in their first meeting. "We learned we can't let them open because they have dead 3-point shooters," Dybdahl said. "When your back is against the wall, you learn a lot."
Bryan Hayward, who finished by 15 points and earned All-Tournament honors, suggested that Thursday's win against Huna may have had a negative effect on his team. "We were able to play a little more physical in that game, and some of us may have came in today a little relaxed knowing we beat them," he said.
Metlakatla had the day off on Friday, in what seems to be an advantage. But many Gold Medal players have mixed feelings about days off during the tournament, and Dybdahl echoed that sentiment.
"We played three games in a row and I was tired," Dybdahl said. "But the rest kind of hurts you sometimes though, and we were hungry."
After a slow start by both teams, Huna found itself leading by as many as 15 with just under 3 minutes to go in the first half on a rainbow 3-pointer by James Wilson. But a surging Metlakatla team was able to cut the deficit to 44-37 on a layup by Richie Hayward with 2 seconds left.
Metlakatla's momentum swing continued into the second half as Willie, Bryan and Richie Hayward closed the gap and played Huna neck-in-neck the rest of the contest.
Willie Hayward led Metlakatla in scoring with 23 points, Richie Hayward finished with 21 and Bryan Hayward scored 15 while Martinez added 10.
The endgame proved to be the most exciting. Dybdahl hit a pair of free throws with 1:08 left to give Huna an 83-78 lead - its largest since the beginning of the second half. But Metlakatla answered with a 3-pointer from Shane Martinez. And following a defensive stop, Richie Hayward drained a shot from long range to give Metlakatla an 84-83 lead with 38 seconds to go.
Dybdahl, who shot 8-for-11 from the line, sunk another pair of free throws to retake the lead 85-84 with 27 seconds left. Metlakatla then charged down the court, but a slashing layup attempt by Willie Hayward came up short.
Huna grabbed the critical rebound and James Wilson found Lindstrom streaking down the court that missed a layup, contested by Martinez, before grabbing the rebound scoring the game's last points.
"I went up and got slapped," Lindstrom said. "I came down and looked back and saw him fumble. I got my feet and put it in."
Metlakatla had one last improbable shot to tie the game. With 2.9 seconds left, Martinez was fouled on the baseline. Metlakatla was still in the one-in-one bonus and needed Martinez to make the first free throw, miss the second and put in the rebound to tie. Martinez missed the first shot, ending the game.
Wilson and Mike Schneeberger, who both earned All-Tournament honors, finished with 18 and 11 points, respectively. Anthony Lindoff, who scored 10 points, was awarded the B Bracket Defensive Player Award and Lucas Johnson earned the Sportsmanship Award.
Other All-Tournament selections include Angoon's Curtis Lane, Haine's Tyler Healy and Andrew Friske, Kake's Anthony Ross, and Metlakatla's Bryan Hayward, Willie Hayward and Mike Henderson.
• Jeff Kasper is a freelance writer and former Empire sportswriter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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