The best was saved for last in the Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament Women's Bracket title game Saturday.
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Juneau Custom Electric guard Tanya Nizich scored the game-winning basket as time expired to lift her team to a 76-75 win over the Metlakatla Git' Taquan. Juneau avenged a loss to Metlakatla in last year's Gold Medal final.
With only 6.3 seconds remaining in the game and trailing 75-74, Nizich took a quick outlet pass from Anya Carlson-Vandort and drove the length of the court to score the game-winning bucket.
"I took a quick look at the time and was just making sure," said Nizich, who was named the tournament MVP. "I didn't care who I needed to get through, I just knew that I needed to get there."
Metlakatla out-rebounded Juneau most of the game, but Carlson-Vandort's clutch board of Talia Marsden's missed free throw proved crucial. Her rebound and alert pass led to the winning play.
All Tournament team
Jennifer Thomassen, Petersburg
Martine Hayward, Metlakatla
Neely Humpherville, Metlakatla
Talia Marsden, Metlakatla
Kara Lockhart, Juneau
Heather Clark, Juneau
Anya Carlson-Vandort, Juneau
Tanya Nizich, Juneau
Nizich, who scored 37 points in the win, glanced at the clock after taking the ball, streamed through three defenders and went to the basket.
Vera James posted 18 points for the Git' Taquan and got their fast break going early. Marsden also established herself as a low-post force, scoring 22 points, while Martine Hayward's long distance shooting led to 15 points.
In the first half, Juneau shot poorly from the perimeter. With Juneau unable to hit 3-pointers, Metlakatla led early. Kendra Cesar came off the bench for Juneau, however, and got her team back into it with defensive intensity as Juneau trailed by four at halftime.
Juneau continued struggling with its shooting in the second half, but Nizich kept her team in it by driving to the hoop and hitting her free throws.
Cesar scored 15 of her 17 points within a seven-minute stretch as her play helped Juneau seize a 65-61 lead with less than seven minutes left in the game. It was Juneau's first lead in the game.
Juneau utilized strong full court defensive pressure to create numerous problems for Metlakatla in the backcourt, and their offensive system opened up opportunities for several players.
"The press was effective for us, as long as we got back and covered that last man under the basket," Nizich said.
Both teams traded leads for the remainder of regulation, yet the last minute occurred at a lightning pace.
After Nizich hit an open 3-pointer, Neely Humpherville threw a long pass to Marsden underneath to give Metlakatla a 74-72 lead.
Juneau came right back with Nizich on the drive to tie it again at 74-74 with 15 seconds left. With the ball, Marsden drew a foul and made the first free throw at the line with six seconds left in regulation.
Then it was all Nizich.
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