The Hydaburg (AK) Warriors will compete tomorrow for the 2023 All Native Basketball Tournament Masters title following a win over Prince Rupert this afternoon (Feb. 17)
The five-time champs from 2015 to 2019 took the long route to the finals after being ousted to the elimination bracket in the first round by Gitxsan (Hazelton) by a single point. What followed was six games in four days during which they weren’t really challenged again until today.
They say basketball is a game of runs and that was on display today as the lead changed hands multiple times.
At the end of the first quarter Hydaburg held the lead, but Prince Rupert came to play and by the half had grown a lead of six at 31 - 25.
Hydaburg came out on fire in the third, however, putting up 21 points to Rupert’s 8. The run continued into the fourth quarter until the hometown team were down 13.
Rupert may have been down, but they certainly weren’t out as they steadily chipped away at the lead and, with just 36 seconds on the clock, tied the score at 63.
With just 18 seconds left, Hydaburg got the advantage back with a two-pointer.
Prince Rupert pushed hard to even it up again with the clock winding down, perhaps a bit too hard, as a foul with less than 10 seconds left put Anthony Lindoff at the line for two free throws. He was good on both putting the game out of reach for Rupert.
For only the second time in seven games TJ Young was not the top scorer for Hydaburg as Deven Edenshaw took the honours with 26 points on the day.
Hydaburg Coach Clinton Cook said it is really satisfying to be back at the All Native after missing last year.
“COVID left us out, but we’re back, we love it here,” he said. “We’re here to represent our Nation, our village, we’re back in the finals and we’re happy to be there.”
And they are looking for revenge. Now two-time champion Gitimidiik (New Aiyansh) took a sixth title from Hydaburg the last time the team from Alaska attended.
“We’re pretty confident, last time we played Aiyansh they beat us on a buzzer beater,” he said. “That left a sour tast the last time we were here, so we definitely want redemption.”
The key, he said, is going to be recovering after an arduous week in which their opponents will be well-rested having played only three games to Hydaburg’s seven.
“Try to get healthy, try to get some rest, we’ve got a guy with an injury, get him back and leave it all on the court,” he said.
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