Fans left the Civic Centre stunned on Saturday afternoon as for the first time since 2014 a new champion was crowned in the Masters Division after New Aiyansh pulled off the upset over Hydaburg.
The game was a rematch of Thursday afternoon’s semi-final where the Gidmidiik squad topped Hydaburg 63-57. Still, the Alaska team had won five titles in a row for a reason, and after dispatching Bella Bella on Friday found themselves back in the championship game yet again.
It looked like a sixth straight title would be on the menu as Hydaburg launched out of the gate, an early 10-0 run putting them up 20-13 after one. Some hot shooting from Joe Young and Anthony Lindoff increased the lead to 34-26 at the half.
|New Aiyansh’s Justin Adams looks for his options on offence as T.J. Young and Anthony Lindoff close in on defence. Adams would go on to be named MVP of the tournament as his New Aiyansh side scored the finals upset of the tournament by dethroning Hydaburg. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
New Aiyansh began to close the gap out of the break though, spurred by Gene Wolff who had 10 points in the quarter, including a pair of threes. They managed to even things up at 45 all before Hydaburg built up a 52-47 lead going into the final 10 minutes. An 11-6 run to put Hydaburg up 61-53 in the fourth looked like an all too familiar script as the Gitmidiik fans watched their hopes begin to slip away. But, Gene Wolff and Rich Wolff began to light it up from distance at the perfect time, willing New Aiyansh back into the game. Still, the score remained 66-60 for Hydaburg as the clock wound down.
|Justin Adams from New Aiyansh plays keepaway with the ball as he’s defended by Hydaburg’s T.J. Young, while Noah Guno (12) and Sid Edenshaw (6) look for opportune positioning. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
With eight seconds to go Hydaburg was nursing a two point lead, with New Aiyansh set for the in-bounds pass. Possession fell to Rich Wolff, who many expected to drive to the hoop and attempt a game-tying shot. Instead Wolff went big, sending a last second three to the net and his team into the history books as the shot fell for the dramatic victory. The scoreboard read 67-66 for New Aiyansh, and the Hydaburg dynasty had at long last been defeated.
This is New Aiyansh’s first ever win in the Masters Division, and first title for the community at the All Native Tournament since 1999 when the Intermediate team won their second of back to back championships. Justin Adams was named MVP of the tournament. Adams scored 16 points during the final game, including several key field goals in the third quarter to keep the game close enough to mount an eventual comeback.
“You can’t really describe it,” Adams said following the game. “Obviously you know how good they [Hydaburg] are, they’re always in great shape. They beat us a couple of years ago in another good game, so you just have to go out there and play.”
“It’s very humbling,” Adams said of his MVP selection. “It was a team effort though to pull it out.”
As for that instantly famous final shot: “In the last timeout we drew that play up. I was originally supposed to go to the hoop, but they doubled early so I kicked it out.” Rich Wolff did the rest.
“You can’t say enough about the fans,” Adams added. “They keep you going when you’re tired and give you energy, it’s great to have that.”
|Justin Adams from New Aiyansh was named this year’s MVP for his efforts in helping his Gitmidiik squad to victory. Adams had 16 points in the final. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
All Native Hall of Famer Sid Edenshaw from Hydaburg received the Sixth Man award, while teammate Joe Young was named Most Inspirational and High Scorer. Bella Bella took home several awards, including Shawn Gladstone as Best Defensive player and Rod Chipeway as Most Outstanding. Bella Bella was also named the Most Sportsmanlike team.
|Having sat on top of the Masters Division world from 2015-19, Hydaburg will now have to wait until next year to try and establish a new streak of championships. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Hydaburg Hall of Famer Sid Edenshaw won the Sixth Man award, adding yet another trophy to his many accolades achieved over the decades. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Rod Chipeway was chosen as the Most Outstanding player for his efforts with Bella Bella. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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