For the third year in a row, the Hydaburg masters team made it to the top of the All Native Tournament mountain, beating New Aiyansh 88-84 to take home another championship.
“It feels great,” team coach Clinton Cook said. “It feels great to bring another championship back to the U.S.A.
“It’s a sense of pride when you come and play for your community. It uplifts our communities and it’s a joy to win.”
Hydaburg entered the final game with confidence, having already beaten their rivals from Old Massett in the winner’s bracket semi-finals to secure their spot in the championship game.
New Aiyansh had already lost an earlier matchup against Hydaburg, which knocked them down to the loser’s bracket. However, the team was able to rally, and beat Bella Bella, Skidegate and last year’s finalists Old Massett in the semi-finals to give themselves a rematch with Hydaburg and a chance at the title.
Both teams started the game well, but it was New Aiyansh who put together the game’s first run in the second quarter. Hydaburg had a 21-20 advantage at the beginning of the quarter, but New Aiyansh proved to be worthy opponents, outscoring the defending champions 22-11 to take a 42-32 advantage into the second half. Cook said his message to his players was that another championship would only come if they play better defence.
“You’re not going to win by giving them all the points, and it starts on the defensive end,” he said. “Every possession counts, you’ve got to play defence and on the other end you’ve got to put it in the bucket.”
At the beginning of the third quarter, Hydaburg immediately set an aggressive defensive tone, with guards Joe Young and Devin Edenshaw pressing Aiyansh’s ball handlers full court, getting steals and pushing the pace the other way.
“We’ve got faster guards,” Edenshaw said. “So we were going to try to pick up the pace so we could try to turn it into offence.
“It was just trying to get them scrambling and not let them set up.”
Hydaburg went on an 18-8 run to tie the game at 52-52 midway through the quarter. After that, it was a back-and-forth contest through the fourth period until Hydaburg was able to pull away thanks to some clutch shooting from Joe and TJ Young.
“We trust those guys to take the big shots for us, and they came through again,” Cook said.
With the victory, Hydaburg has won its third straight title.
Aiyansh top scorers – Justin Adams (26), Phillip Clayton (20), Gene Wolff (16)
Hydaburg top scorers – Devin Edenshaw (28), Joe Young (23), TJ Young (21)
MVP – Joe Young