THE PREMIERE WOMEN'S BRACKET
Klawock Prince Of Wales won its third straight Premiere Women's Bracket title Saturday by defeating Yakutat 70-53 in the 55th Annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament at the Juneau-Douglas High School.
Klawock guard Jean Jackson was awarded the Most Valuable Player award for the third straight time, making her the only woman to win the award since the Women's Bracket was introduced in 1999.
Jackson averaged 21 points for the tournament and her 25 points against Juneau on Friday was the top Women's Bracket performance of the week.
"It really means a lot to me," Jackson said. "Mainly because we went through the bracket the hard way."
Klawock and Yakutat took very different routes to the Women's Bracket final. Yakutat was awarded a first-round bye and cruised through the winners' bracket with a 30-point victory over Hoonah on Tuesday and a 22-point win over Juneau on Thursday.
Klawock took a much harder and longer route. Klawock lost its first game 70-51 to Hoonah, but then won all the way through the losers' bracket, defeating Angoon, Sitka and Juneau to earn a trip the championship round.
A big reason why Klawock lost to Hoonah in the first round was due to the absence of Christina Hamiltion and Polly Hamilton who were unable to join the team until Tuesday and Ellen Hannon who couldn't make it until Thursday's game.
Christina and Polly Hamilton made their presence felt right away with Polly scoring 20 points while Christina added 16 in a 107-63 whipping of Angoon on Tuesday. They combined for 19 points on Thursday against Sitka and 25 points against Juneau on Friday.
"Everyone is so busy. It's tough missing three key players," Jackson said. "I always think Ellen is the difference. I always play better when she's on the court with me."
In addition to Hannon's 15 points against Yakutat, she had averaged over 20 points in two games played and was honored with a spot on the all-tournament first team of the Women's Bracket.
"It's pretty neat to do it three years in a row," Hannon said. "And we did it the hard way. We knew everybody would be ready for us. We knew if we could keep it close, we would get it because Jean would come through in the end. They are really an unselfish team and fun to play with."
Klawock wouldn't have to wait for the end for Jackson to come through for her team early, scoring 14 of her 19 points, leading Klawock to a 41-23 halftime lead.
Klawock continued to pull away in the second half and after taking a 60-33 lead with 9 minutes, 12 seconds left in the second half, the Klawock players started taking their time to run out the clock.
"Klawock just played together so well," Yakutat's Rose Adams said. "We saw them play some other teams and just look good. We got tired and started sucking wind. We forced shots and never got in our rhythm."
Some concern was raised over the lighting in the gymnasium. About half of the ceiling lights on the south end were off or very low, causing a noticeable shadow over that end of the court.
"It didn't bother me that much," Jackson said. "We practice in Craig's gym and the lighting there is about the same so it wasn't so different for us."
"It bothered us at the beginning," Adams said. "But once you get playing, you don't think about it anymore."
Adams was the game's high scorer with 22 points and also earned a spot on the all-tournament first team. Teammates Connie Klushkan who scored 16 and Jasmine James who scored five points for the game earned spots on the all-tournament second team.
Klushkan averaged 16.3 points per game in the tournament and James averaged 9.7 points and showed a lot of hustle on defense.
"We'll be back next year," Adams said. "Last year we got third, this year second, hmm. What's next?"
But Klawock also has an eye on the future and will likely be the favorite again next year.
"Next year we'll be in better shape so we won't be so tired all the time," Jackson said.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.