In a game of big shots by both teams, Thursday's Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament Mighty B Bracket battle between Haines Merchants and two-time defending champion Hydaburg came down to free throws.
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Andrew Friske made three of four free throws in the final minute as Haines edged Hydaburg 98-95.
Haines also made two big defensive stands to preserve the win. A defensive trap forced a traveling call against Hydaburg with 7.8 seconds left. The Merchants also prevented Hydaburg from getting a potentially game-tying 3-point shot as time expired.
Thursday's back-and-forth battle featured two of the more experienced Mighty B teams. Hydaburg and Haines have combined to win four of the last five Mighty B championships.
"It's definitely a typical game," Friske said. "The last time we played them was the championship game of the Sitka tournament, and they won by one on a last-second 3-pointer in overtime. So it was a little playback time tonight.
"But the tournament is not over. This is the first time we've actually gone through the winner's bracket so we need to focus on the championship game and play Saturday like we did tonight."
In the game's waning moments, Haines leaned on its two 6-foot-9 forwards, brothers Ben and Will Egolf.
Ben Egolf scored 10 points in the second half, while Will's 10-foot jumper tied the game at 90 with about four minutes left.
Friske's finger-roll layup put Haines up two, but Devin Edenshaw answered to tie the game.
After two Will Egolf free throws, Hydaburg's emotional leader, Matt Carle, hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:45 left to put his team up 95-94.
Will Egolf scored 16 points in the win while older brother Ben added 22. The duo also combined for numerous rebounds.
"It makes a huge difference," Friske said. "It wears on teams, having to constantly box out and be aware of two 6-9 guys. It's an advantage to have two guys of that height, 13-and-a-half feet of Egolf."
Carle led Hydaburg with 27 points, including four clutch 3-point shots.
Both squads came out firing as Will Egolf opened the game with a thunderous breakaway dunk. Hydaburg's Devin Edenshaw responded with a 3-pointer.
The fast-paced, back-and-forth start typified the entire first half as both teams appeared undaunted offensively.
Hydaburg knocked down six 3-pointers ,while Haines' Stewart DeWitt made three beyond the arc in a nip-and-tuck first half.
Neither team led by more than seven points as Hydaburg led 53-51 at halftime.
Haines awaits the winner of tonight's game between Hydaburg and Metlakatla. The championship final will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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