March 31, 2011 |

Merchants speedy, but Angoon zips by them

You don’t often see a basketball player get down the court faster than Andrew Friske, Stuart DeWitt and the human deer, Kyle Rush, but Angoon of the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament "B" division pulled it off Saturday, time after time.

Angoon topped the Merchants in Saturday’s championship, 115-106.

Grayton Edwin, who played for University of Alaska-Fairbanks last year, scored 32 points and won tournament MVP. He was too fast and too accurate a shot for Haines. On Thursday night, though, Haines almost beat the very same team in a great game but couldn’t get over the hump, losing 95-92.

On Friday, the Merchants played Hydaburg in the losers’ bracket and beat an always tough team. Tyler Healy, terrific throughout the tournament, scored 47 points, the basketball equivalent of landing a 40-pound king salmon. It’s not easy.

Behind with six minutes to go, Hydaburg started fouling Haines to stop the clock and turn over the ball, but the Merchants responded by making 25 of 27 free throws, an outstanding percentage.

On Tuesday, the Merchants took a one-point thriller over Huna. One jaw dropper was seeing Rush get the inbounds pass after a Huna basket, then sprint full speed into a Huna player who stepped up to take the charge. The impact was so strong they both went airborne about a foot before landing on their backs.

There is nothing that is more exciting and causes happiness than winning a close Gold Medal game and there is nothing sadder than losing a close one. The Klukwan Masters felt the sadness after losing to eventual champion Huna on Tuesday, despite a four -point lead with four minutes remaining.

The Masters then lost Wednesday to Kake by two points. With the score tied and 10 seconds to go, Kake stole the ball and got a basket as the buzzer went off. I had the distinctly unpleasant opportunity to watch the game winning shot go over my fingers by about an inch as I tried to block it.

Jason Shull played magnificently for the Klukwan Chilkats of the "C" division and got good help from David Buss and Danny Thomas but was overmatched by the top quality teams that go to Gold Medal.

Also overwhelmed by the high-quality ball was the Klukwan B team in the "B" division. Bo Graham, David Berry, and Adrian Nash played with zeal but went out in two games. Watching their games was like going fishing and not catching anything.