It wouldn't be a championship game if Klawock-Prince of Wales wasn't playing - at least not a Gold Medal women's bracket championship game.
Klawock battled its way through the losers' bracket and back into its fifth straight Premiere Women's Bracket championship game by beating Sitka 74-67 Friday at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gym. The women's bracket is in its fifth year, and Klawock won the first four titles.
"It was a good game," said Ellen Hannon, who scored 20 points for Klawock. "It was a tough, physical game, but it was a good challenge. Sitka is a great team."
Klawock will play Lynden Transport of Juneau at 2 p.m. today at the JDHS main gym in a rematch of last year's title game, which Klawock won 68-63. Earlier in this year's tournament, Lynden beat Klawock 65-58 on Tuesday to send Klawock to the losers' bracket.
In Friday's game, Sitka and Klawock were neck-and-neck for the first 10 minutes of the first half, until Klawock's Jean Jackson got into her groove. Jackson led all scorers with 30 points, including five 3-pointers, four of which came in the first half.
"We hit some outside shots to get us a good lead, but after that we just kept pushing it," Jackson said.
Sitka made Klawock earn every point, playing very rough defense and committing numerous fouls.
"I felt like I was on the floor more than I have been," Jackson said. "I think they were ready for us. I think they really wanted to win, they played to win."
"It's a friendly rivalry. There's not really a lot of animosity on either team," said Sitka's Karen Krupa, who scored 11 points. "I actually really enjoy playing against these ladies, they make us play up to our best potential and that's what makes it nice to come over here and have some fun."
Klawock led 41-31 at half, and led by as many as 16 points after halftime before Sitka got its second wind. Sitka fought tooth and nail and mounted a late rally, but could not pull within six points in the final minutes.
Besides Jackson's 30 points, Hannon scored 20 for Klawock, Kelli Larson added six and Louise Walcott had five.
Breanne Erickson led Sitka with 19 points, Stephanie Green had 13, Cheri Herman added 12 and Krupa scored 11.
Klawock's next challenge is to five-peat against undefeated Lynden, which dropped Klawock to the losers' bracket for the second straight year.
"We're not as old as Juneau's coach (Jer Hamey) thinks we are, I guess," said Jackson laughing, referring to a quote published after Tuesday's game. "No I take that back, we are as old, but I guess we're a little bit athletic."
Jackson said it promises to be a good game and she is ready for the challenge. "We always look forward to the rivalry with Juneau. They get better every year."
Krupa said either team can win, depending on who shows up ready to play.
"If Klawock plays like they are capable of playing they could pull off a win, but Juneau is really well rounded.," Krupa said. "This is probably the best Juneau team I have seen."
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.