THE CLASSIC 'A' BRACKET
Tenakee Tribe coach-player John Martin Sr. ran his hand over the championship trophy from the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament's Class A Bracket and smiled.
His team, a late addition to the tournament when another pulled out, was taking the trophy home to Tenakee after a 98-85 victory over two-time defending champion Sitka American Legion Post 13 Saturday night at Juneau-Douglas High School.
Not only had Martin's team won the tournament, but the 65-year-old Martin twice got to take the court with his three sons -- Garvin, Showalter and John Jr. -- and his grandson James Wilson. He also got to make a statement for Tenakee Tribe, which is one of the five landless tribes in Southeast Alaska.
"How do you top this winning the Lions' Gold Medal Tournament," Martin said as he watched his team celebrate. "I'd like to thank the Gold Medal Tournament and the Lions for taking a chance on us. I'd guess my most important statement is Tenakee is one of the five landless Native communities in Southeast, and I have to put in a plug for the other four -- Haines, Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan."
"I wouldn't miss this for the world," said John Martin Jr., who traveled from Sisters, Ore., to join his family for the tournament. "You can't write a better script than this."
While much of the crowd's attention was understandably focussed on Tenakee's two guests from Fairbanks -- bracket MVP Bogdan Popescu and bracket top defensive player Devin Dawkins -- Tenakee showed some of its local players can keep up with the tournament's top bracket.
Five Tenakee players finished in double-figure scoring, with Dawkins leading the way with 28 points. Popescu added 19 points, while Showalter Martin had 17 points, Matt Carle had 12 and Wilson scored 11. Nine different Tenakee players scored in the game.
"Today was one of the best team efforts we've had," Popescu said.
"I think everyone accepted their roles on the team," said Carle, a former player from Hydaburg and Juneau-Douglas high schools who played with Dawkins and Popescu at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
John Martin Sr. said his sons played together at Haskell Indian Junior College in Kansas and when they were there they beat a junior varsity-redshirt team from the University of Kansas the year Kansas won the NCAA title (1988). Wilson, who joined Dawkins on the five-man all-tournament team, graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1999 and said he hopes to catch on at a junior college next year.
Sitka was able to stay close to Tenakee early in the game, trailing 13-12 before Tenakee went on an 11-4 run. Sitka closed the margin to five points, but Tenakee went on another run and led by 15 with just over four minutes left in the first half. The two-time defending champions were able to pull back within five points, 45-40, at halftime.
In the second half, Tenakee pulled away and eventually led by 30 points, 89-59, when Showalter Martin hit one of his five 3-pointers. By then the crowd was chanting, "We want Pops," so John Martin Sr. checked himself into the game. For much of the last four minutes of the game, Tenakee tried to get him an open shot so John Martin Sr. could join in the scoring. Unfortunately, that was about the only thing that didn't go Tenakee's way Saturday night.
"I wish they'd been able to give us a better run, because I like a closer game," Showalter Martin said. "We've got a great ball club. Everybody was stepping up."
Randy Nutting scored 17 points to lead Sitka, which also had five players reach double figures. Robert Miller added 14 points, while Rich Krupa had 12 and the duo of Jason Schlein and Brendon McMahon had 11 points apiece. Miller and Krupa both earned all-tournament honors for Sitka.
"These are good people," Krupa said of Tenakee. "This is definitely good (for the A Bracket). They deserved to win."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.