The Metlakatla Merchants advanced to the Mighty B bracket championship game of the Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament, hanging on to defeat Hydaburg 88-84 on Thursday.
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Clinging to a narrow two-point lead entering the final minute of play, Metlakatla converted 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to thwart a final rally by determined Hydaburg.
Anthony Gogert, who scored nine points for the Merchants, sank all four of his free throws in the game's final 30 seconds.
"We wanted this for a long time," Gogert said. "Those guys are our buddies and we grew up playing against them. We weren't aiming for any other team but this one."
With Hydaburg trailing 81-79, Devin Edenshaw missed the front end of a one and one with 42 seconds remaining, leaving the door open for the Merchants to begin amassing the free throws.
Edenshaw did his best to redeem himself, scoring four points in the final 32 seconds of play. Both buckets came on determined drives in the lane that twice pulled Hydaburg to within one point of Metlakatla.
But Metlakatla's determination showed when it mattered most.
"We were all just hungry," Merchants' player Willie Hayward said.
After spending most of the first half launching 3-point shots from nearly everywhere on the court, Metlakatla went inside in the second half. Bryan and Willie Hayward consistently drove to the basket. Bryan finished with 18 points, and Willie scored 19.
"We definitely stepped it up in the second half," Willie Hayward said. "We really started pushing it down low in the second half."
Meanwhile, quick and physical Hydaburg displayed flashes of brilliance throughout the game. The team often put together scoring runs that pulled them ahead of the Merchants. Devin Edenshaw swarmed to the ball and repeatedly recorded steals that turned the momentum back to Hydaburg.
Darren Edenshaw led all scorers with 32 points, but the Haida couldn't overcome a Metlakatla team that spread the ball around and refused to go away.
Of the six Merchant players who registered points in the game, they scored an egalitarian 19, 18, 15, 15, 12, and nine.
"They (Hydaburg) are a dynasty so its great to get a 'W' out of these guys," Gogert said. "But it's not over yet."
Metlakatla will now face either Hydaburg or Huna ANB in the Mighty B championship game on Saturday.
Hydaburg moves to the loser's bracket to take on Huna ANB tonight.
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