Merchants’ Kyle Fossman drives around Angoon’s Aquino
Brinson in the championship game.
Michael Penn photo.

The Haines Merchants won its third B Bracket championship title last week at the 73rd annual Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament at Juneau Douglas High School, while the Women’s, Klukwan and Masters teams all placed second.

The Merchants lost their first game to Hydaburg, and had to fight their way back through the loser’s bracket in a week-long competition that was scrappy and physical, said Merchants’ Tyler Swinton.

“We started getting worn down but we caught a rhythm. It was a pretty physical tournament. “People had to get stitches and stuff like that. I have a scrape across my face, I got an elbow in the eye. It was that kind of basketball,” Swinton said. “It got harder and harder as the time went on but we started playing better as a team.”

The Merchants started beating teams by more than 20 points as they battled through the tournament to reach the championship game against Angoon. In the final matchup they kept control during the first half, but Angoon caught their stride in the second.

“We were up by 17 at one point,” Swinton said. “They came back. It was a really good game. I’ve never seen that gym as noisy. In the third quarter they were cutting into our lead.”

Angoon cut the lead to single digits and each team shot back-to-back three pointers as the seconds ticked down. “They definitely played a good game against. They started being really aggressive and got some steals, made some threes and were close to tying the game,” Swinton said. “We got a few rebounds at the end and made some free throws and were able to close it out.”

Angoon had to foul the Merchants in an attempt to regain possession, but Haines converted at the free throw line and won 88-80.

Klukwan player and Women’s team coach Jason Shull said the Merchants played an outstanding physical tournament. “Our Haines B team was one of the scrappiest teams I can remember seeing ever,” Shull said. “I’ve been playing for 20 years. They did all the little things, getting run over by people when you’re setting picks, blocking out. It was awesome to watch. They played fantastic and took care of business.”

Shull said the Women’s championship game against Skagway was a tough game all the way through. Haines fell to Skagway by seven points early in the tournament. In the championship, Haines kept the lead in the first half, but Skagway battled back with a late push. Haines player Krista Kielsmeier said although they had a three-point lead going into the fourth quarter, Skagway outscored them 11-0 and emerged with the title.

Rachel Brittenham was a new addition to the Women’s team. Brittenham played Division 1 college basketball at Wofford College where she set a record for assists. That skill showed as she dumped the ball to Fran Daly who scored on multiple drives, Kielsmeier said.

Klukwan lost their first game against Hoonah, but came back to beat them for a shot at the championship against Hydaburg. “It was a very physical, high-paced game,” Shull said. “We had gotten behind early in the game and spent the whole time battling. We cut it to six or eight points in the third, but we couldn’t quite get over the hump.”

The Masters bracket, for players older than 42, also had a Haines representative this year. They emerged from the tournament in second place.

Klukwan’s Michael Ganey was named best defensive player in the C Bracket. In the same bracket, Andrew Friske and Stuart DeWitt were named to the all-tournament team. In the B Bracket, Merchants’ Kyle Fossman was named the most valuable player. Swinton and his brother Dylan Swinton were named to the all-tournament team. James Hart was named best defensive player. In the Women’s bracket, Fran Daly, Samantha Clay and Brittenham were named to the all-tournament team.