March 27, 2014 | Volume 44, Number 12

Klukwan keeps Masters title

For a third consecutive year, Klukwan battled Kake in the Masters division title game at the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament, with Klukwan repeating as champions, 67-59.

Klukwan took a 27-15 halftime lead Saturday in Juneau, and the scoring picked up steadily after intermission. Jeff Sharnbroich led Klukwan with 24 points, with nearly half his total coming from the free-throw line.

Sharnbroich went on to be named MVP of the four-team Masters field, while teammates Joe Parnell and Chris Wassman earned all-tournament honors. Players in the Masters bracket must be at least 42 years old.

Although Kake went on a scoring flurry in the second half, Klukwan did its best to shorten the game, holding the ball during lengthy possessions that drained the clock.

“Most people won’t stall, because it’s just in their nature to drive, but these guys are old and said, ‘That’s a good idea,’” Parnell said.

The win was much narrower than last year’s 63-35 pounding of Kake, when Klukwan completed an undefeated run through the bracket. That Klukwan team featured MVP Rob LaRose and Haines High School basketball coach Steve Fossman. With those two stars absent this year, Kake got the best of Klukwan in their March 17 tournament opener, 64-60.

That loss was part of a rough, 0-4 start for Chilkat Valley teams at Gold Medal. The Haines Merchants fell to eventual tournament runner-up Wrangell, 61-47, on March 16, and the Klukwan Chilkats followed with a 99-81 loss to Hydaburg, which went on to win the “C” bracket.

The Chilkats, hampered by a back injury that sidelined Andrew Friske, were eliminated after a second loss, 69-57 to Sitka, despite Stuart DeWitt’s 27 points.

The Merchants looked to be back on track after a 74-38 dismantling of Hoonah on March 18, but they were out of the tournament by the next night, falling to Kake, 86-70. Tyler Healy was an all-tournament selection for the Merchants, and Will Egolf earned the Sportsmanship award.

That left the Klukwan Masters as the last Chilkat Valley team standing by the fifth day of Gold Medal, with only an 0-1 record. Klukwan then reeled off two straight wins, 88-66 over Sitka and 60-55 over Hoonah, to reach Saturday’s championship game.

Klukwan took a big lead in the rematch against Kake, and then secured the win from the charity stripe.

“I am always scared they are going to come and drop six 3’s in our face, so there is never a time when we are comfortable, but when they started fouling and we were going to the free throw line, that was when I knew we had it,” Sharnbroich said in an interview with the Juneau Empire.

Scoring in the title contest included Sharnbroich, 24; Guy Tompkins, 14; Parnell, 12; Frank Coronell, 8; Wassman, 5; and Don Nash, 4.

The “B” bracket also featured repeat champions, with Angoon topping Wrangell, 94-80, led by the Jamestown brothers, Jordan and Ozelle, and MVP Clayton Edwin.

This year’s tournament also saw the return of the women’s bracket, which had been on hiatus since 2007. Yakutat edged Angoon, 54-51, in overtime for the 2014 championship. Hoonah and Kake also competed in the bracket.

The event recognized the members of the first women’s Gold Medal championship team, Prince of Wales, which topped the field in 1999. The team’s roster included resident Shannon Willard, who attended this year’s tournament.