The Klukwan Chilkats repeated as Dick Hotch Memorial Basketball Tournament champions on Feb. 16, holding off the Southeast Warriors in the title game.
The Chilkats, who posted a 6-0 record in the tournament, led 57-39 at halftime, sparked by Stuart DeWitt’s 18 points. The Juneau-based Warriors surged in the second half, eventually trimming the margin to 74-72, but Klukwan went on to win, 97-89.
DeWitt, the competition’s Most Valuable Player, had 27 points for the game. He drained six 3-pointers, including five in the first half. Fellow Haines High School graduate Andrew Friske added 22 points. Michael Ganey and Harry Rietze also were in double figures for Klukwan, with 13 points apiece.
The Haines Merchants, Harbor Heat and Hoonah also entered the event. Hoonah was playing even with the Chilkats in their first round-robin game, despite having only six players, until a leg injury to one of their posts sidelined him for the tournament.
The Harbor squad, which finished as runners-up in 2013, has found a formula for bringing excitement to the competition, as Michael T. Ward’s team mixed Glacier Bear alumni with Juneau stars. Richard Bachman and James Hart were All-Tournament honorees for the Harbor, along with Bubba Larson of Juneau.
If there was anyone who shook up the early stages of the tournament, it was Larson, who quarterbacked Juneau-Douglas High School to the 2007 state football championship.
Larson was seemingly a typical post player in his first game, relying on his size advantage and strength for baskets from close range. In game two, he started playing point guard, unleashing a barrage of 3-pointers, fadeaway jumpers and the occasional Iverson-esque crossover dribble. Larson went on to be the tournament’s top point-scorer, tallying 204 points, an average of 34 per game. But, he may have tipped his hand early.
When the Harbor faced the Chilkats in the winners’ bracket for the right to advance to the championship game, the Chilkats put DeWitt on him. At Juneau-Douglas, Larson was listed as 6’4, giving him nearly a foot on DeWitt. While he didn’t officially shut Larson down, DeWitt made life exceedingly difficult for the versatile sharpshooter, challenging him with a combination of speedy perimeter defense and physicality, even stepping in to take a charge at one point. DeWitt fouled out with several minutes remaining, but the game was well in hand.
The Harbor appeared on its way to a rematch with the Chilkats, but the Warriors pulled off the upset, 84-76, in overtime on Saturday night. The Warriors knotted up the score, 69-69, on a last-second layup, and then pulled away from the foul-plagued Heat.
Cody Hotch and Jacob Hotch were All-Tournament selections for the Warriors, as were Friske and Rietze of Klukwan, and Bryan Combs of the Merchants.
Ryan Cook, Neil Erickson, Daniel Klanott, Reuben Loewen, Jesse McGraw and Aaron Nash also were on the Klukwan roster.
At the awards ceremony following the championship game, long-time tournament director Larry Sweet thanked DeWitt and Friske for helping organize the tournament this year. DeWitt said tournament sponsors “came through big” to make the event happen.
DeWitt earlier edged Friske in the men’s 3-point shooting contest, making 19 in a minute to Friske’s 18. Sam Clay was the women’s champion. Former Haines resident Brian Koenig received the Sportsmanship award.
Sweet also announced that DeWitt was named Most Inspirational, following his return from injury.
“It was told to me that it was told to him that he’d never play ball again,” Sweet said. “He battled back through that, battled back through a broken leg, and is here today.”
Charles Williams earned recognition as “Best Fan,” and Lawrence Willard, who competed for Dick Hotch on Klukwan squads, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“He’s been a great sponsor for the tournament, a true friend, doing whatever we needed possible, whether it be running to the store or running up to the ferry, picking people up, running to the airport,” Sweet said.
Sweet, who said he’s had “a tremendous 27 years” running the tournament, then drew a standing ovation when he shared, “This is my last one.”
“After 27 years, I am going to turn over to Stuart DeWitt, who is most capable,” he said.