The Klukwan Chilkats will take another shot against the Huna Totem Oldtimers in today's Legendary C Bracket championship game at the 56th Annual Gold Medal Tournament.
The Chilkats earned a spot in the finals after stopping the defending champion Klawock Old Totems 76-61 on Friday afternoon at the Juneau-Douglas High School gymnasium. The title game between Klukwan and Huna will tip off at 4 p.m.
Klukwan has been in this same position in recent Gold Medal history. In 1999 and 2000, Klukwan finished second to the Oldtimers and some of the Chilkat players say that it's time to get the monkey off their backs.
"We're due," Klukwan's Greg Stigen said. "We've come in second too many times."
The Chilkats made their way with a 99-62 win over Kake and a 78-62 win over West Coast before losing to Huna 94-87 in the winners bracket semifnals on Wednesday.
For Klawock, the loss ended a valiant three-game run where the Old Totems eliminated Yakutat ANB, West Coast Stevedoring and Kake ANB after losing on Sunday's opening day of the tournament to Huna.
"We're happy we made it to the semifinals," Klawock Hall of Famer Norm Skan said. "Five games in six days is tough. We just ran out of gas."
The Old Totems were again hindered by only having six players on their roster, and Klawock legend Dewey Skan has been benched by a torn calf muscle suffered in Sunday's opening game. The Old Totems tried to stay with the Chilkats who go at least eight deep, but the toll of playing every day finally got the best of Klawock.
"We'll be back next year," Norm Skan said. "We just need to get some more horses in the barn."
Klawock stayed even with Klukwan for the first few minutes, and were tied at 6-6 before the Chilkats made a run to take a 13-6 lead. Dewey Skan, who is playing in his 44th Gold Medal and is also a Hall-of-Famer, sank his first shots of this year's tourney since scoring 11 points in Klawock's opener, hitting a pair of 3-pointers. However, there was little he could do to overcome Klukwan.
Klukwan extended to a 37-27 halftime lead on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Larry Sweet. The Old Totems got as close as 42-36 early in the second half. But the Chilkats made a 16-6 run, going up 63-42 with 8 minutes, 16 seconds to go in the contest.
Klawock got Klukwan's lead down to 70-54 on Dewey Skan's second 3-pointer. But Garvey suffered a possible broken finger shortly afterward, knocking him out of the game. And with Klawock's Mark Heard already fouled out, the Old Totems were forced to finish the game with just four players.
The Chilkats showed mercy in the final three minutes as the game turned into a shoot-around. Klukwan slacked off and let Dewey Skan fire shot after shot from long range in the final minute, but he was unable to sink another shot and finished with six points on the day.
"They were short-handed," Stigen said. "It's hard to play with five or six guys. I was surprised they made it past Kake. But it's still good to see them every year. They are a good bunch of guys."
Klawock made their run through the losers' bracket behind the strong front-court play of John Garvey and Jerry Scudero. The two Old Totems were more than a match for their prior challengers, but Klukwan matched up well with Stigen and Rich Calkins.
Klawock was led by 17 from Garvey, while Scudero added 15 and Norm Skan finished with 13 points.
While Stigen and Calkins, who each scored 13 points Friday, neutralized Klawock's inside game, teammate Steve Fossman nailed four 3-pointers from the outside and finished with a team-leading 20 points.
"I think we maintained the size game," Calkins said. "But the difference was the bench. John Garvey played a big game inside. But it didn't hurt us being a bigger team."
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.