When church ends this Sunday the religion of basketball will begin.
“Gold Medal is the grandpa of all tournaments,” Lion Monarch Dr. Walter A. Soboleff (1908-2011) once said.
Soboleff saw the first Gold Medal in 1947 when Petersburg came by fishing boat to take the championship.
He would let teams sleep and eat at his ministry in the Presbyterian Memorial Church.
“As long as they didn’t make too much of a racket bouncing balls all night,” Soboleff said.
Soboleff knew the tournament was a great source of community pride and a gathering time for villages throughout southeast Alaska, but he also maintained that suicide rates and alcoholism declined in villages as players became new people on the court.
“Sh yáa.awudanéiyi a kwáan,” Soboleff once told me in Tlingit during an interview. “Respect People. Respect yourself, too, and other people will respect you.”
The 71st Annual Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Basketball Tournament starts Sunday with all eight teams in both the B and C brackets taking to the Juneau-Douglas High School gymnasium floor.
Last year, Angoon defeated Hydaburg,102-86, for the B bracket championship, their seventh, and 14th overall for the community from Admiralty Island.
Angoon’s Jonathan Jack Nixon scored 25 points, with Curtis Lane adding 22, John Croesmun Jr. scoring 18, and Clayton Edwin, 16. Hydaburg was led by Devin Edenshaw scoring 31, Darren Edenshaw, 25 and Vinny Edenshaw, 21.
The two squads have dominated the B bracket since 2010 when Angoon stopped Hoonah’s bid for a three-peat, and started its own streak only to have Hydaburg break it up in 2012 and 2015.
There is a high probability they will be among the last squads this year.
The talent pool is vast, however. Kake, Haines, Hoonah, Metlakatla, Wrangell and Yakutat provide enough athleticism to keep fans believing a trophy is coming to their community.
Last year, Klukwan won its first C bracket championship, 100-90 against Metlakatla. This was the sixth overall Gold Medal title for the boys from the Chilkat River area.
Stuart Dewitt scored 33 points and led a balanced Klukwan offense that saw five players notch double digits (Andrew Friske 17, Jason Shull 13, Jesse McGraw 13, David Buss 11), while Metlakatla’s Richard Hayward scored 34 points (Willie Hayward 25, Archie Dundas 11).
- 10 a.m. (C) Kake vs Klukwan
- 11:30 a.m. (B) Angoon vs Kake
- 1 p.m. (C) Filcom vs Ak Caches/James Gang
- 2:30 p.m. (B) Yakutat vs Hoonah
- 4 p.m. (C) Yakutat vs Hoonah
- 6 p.m. (B) Metlakatla vs Wrangell
- 7:30 p.m. (C) Metlakatla vs Angoon
- 9 p.m. (B) Haines vs Hydaburg
Sunday’s winners play again on Monday while the losers face elimination games on Tuesday.
The Master Bracket begins 2 p.m. Monday with a rematch of last year’s championship between Kake and Hoonah. Angoon will play Sitka in the 9 p.m. nightcap.
Kake stopped Hoonah, 70-64, to earn its second Masters championship, and 19th overall team title for the community on the northwest coast of Kupreanof Island.
All-tourney selection Kip Howard led all scorers with 20 points, tourney MVP Jay Peterson added 18 and Lloyd Davis, 15. They all return this year along with dynamic tournament guard Rudy Bean.
Hoonah was led by Tierney Bible with 16 points and Albert Hinchman, 15. They will return along with all-tourney picks Kamal Lindoff, Louie White, Greg Garcia and Ken Willard.
The Women’s Bracket begins Tuesday with Angoon facing Yakutat at 12:30 p.m. and Haines playing Hoonah at 7:30 p.m.
Last year, Haines topped Craig, 54-49, for its first ladies title, and 12th team title for the community located in the northern part of the panhandle.
Since the women’s bracket returned to the tournament in 2014 there have been three different champions: Yakutat, Hoonah, and Haines. All three return this year.
Angoon and Yakutat were not at last season’s tournament but lost some close contests in the prior two tournaments and will be in contention.
Haines returns tournament MVP Alisa Beske and all-tourney selection Stoli Lynch.
Hoonah returns 2016 all-tourney selection and 2015 MVP Taryn White.
Juneau Lions Club President Edward Hotch said the tournament allows players and fans to visit with old friends and family.
“It’s a time of celebration and fellowship, creating new memories and sharing past memories and reliving the days gone past,” he said.
This year’s tournament also celebrates the 100th anniversary of Lions Club International.
Since its founding, the association has spread to all corners of the globe, offering community services, disaster preparedness and relief, environmental services, health and wellness, international relations and Lions’ opportunities to work with youth.
- High schoolers tackled a serious topic at this year's annual student government conference: gun violence at school. They listened to a presentation from an organization called Sandy Hook Promise learned about their peers efforts to prevent gun violence on campus.
- Visitors to military bases who don’t have compliant IDs will have to be accompanied by military personnel, which the leaders say will be impractical.
- Southeast Alaska’s independent ferry system is working its way out of a ridership slump. Numbers are up on the Hollis-to-Ketchikan route.
- For most of the state, the entire month of March has been clear and cold.