December is the time of the year when Kodiak Island sports enthusiasts start preparing to root on the hometown hardwood heroes. And that usually means the Joe Floyd Christmas Tournament, a holiday hoops tradition dating back to 1967.
However, there will be no Joe Floyd Tournament in December this year with the world amid a global pandemic. The Alaska high school hoops season doesn’t tip until Jan. 11, and who knows if the 54th installment of the tournament will happen in 2021. We can only hope.
Throughout December, we will be flashing back to past moments that have happened at the Joe Floyd Tournament. First up, the 2009 tournament. Why is the 2009 edition memorable? It’s the last time the Kodiak boys won their tournament. Yes, it has been that long since the Bears came out on top.
The 2009 field consisted of Kodiak, Bethel and Tikigaq. Tournament officials couldn’t land a third off-island team, so Kodiak’s junior varsity filled in and played the two visiting schools.
Kodiak, coached by local legend Amy Fogle, overcame deficits in both contests to win The Floyd for the 17th time.
After watching opening-night festivities from the bleachers, Kodiak opened not only the tournament but the 2009 season the next day against Bethel, who started the tournament with a 67-63 win over Tikigaq.
Trailing 50-49 in the fourth quarter, Kodiak closed out the game’s final 3 minutes with a 15-0 run to grab a 64-50 victory. Mikel Garner hit the bucket that started the run and gave the Bears the lead for good. Kodiak trailed by five at halftime.
Big man Raphael Matautia led all scorers with 24 points. Teammates Austin Cowley and Garner each contributed nine points.
It took a more significant rally to beat Tikigaq the following night. The Harpooners were not your run-of-the-mill 2A team. They were the 2008 2A state champions and defeated 4A opponents Chugiak, Service and Kenai during the regular season.
“All these kids are whalers, so they have no fear,” coach Rex Rock Sr. told the Daily Mirror in 2009.
They had no fear against 4A Kodiak, using outside shooting to build a 35-17 second-quarter lead.
Fogle, who led the Kodiak boys (2001) and girls (2014) to undefeated seasons, was not pleased with her team’s effort in the first half and let them know that at halftime.
“You have to compete, play and do the things that we want you to do on the floor,” she told the Daily Mirror in 2009. “If you don’t want to play organized basketball, there are other avenues out there.
“Point Hope is a very, very good basketball team. It doesn’t matter if they are 2A, 3A or 4A; they are a good basketball team. I just really didn’t feel like we were competing.”
The Kodiak players’ intensity picked up in the second half and the deficit was wiped out when a Cowley 3-pointer put the Bears on top with 6:12 left in the fourth.
Five points from Zach Watkins and a three from Garner had the Bears in front 54-45 midway through the final stanza.
Game over. Wrong. The Harpooners clawed back and an Adam Sage bucket punctuated an 11-2 run that tied the score at 62 with 47 seconds remaining.
On Kodiak’s ensuing possession, Mitchell Tacata corralled a Watkins’ missed shot and put it back in for the game-winner 13 seconds later.
A pack of Bears blocked Raymond Koenig’s driving layup at the buzzer to preserve the win.
“The thing that I was really impressed with is that we didn’t try to win the game in the first four minutes (of the third quarter),” Fogle said. “We just sort of broke into their lead, little by little.”
Garner led four Kodiak players in double-figures with 19 points. Cowley tossed in 11, while Tacata and Matautia each had 10 points. Watkins scored all nine of his points in the fourth.
Despite his team going 1-2 in the tournament, the junior Sage was selected as the MVP for netting 63 points. Garner, Matautia and Cowley earned all-tournament honors.
In the girls’ tournament, 4A power Dimond won its fourth Floyd title with a 54-21 win over Kodiak. The Lynx also beat Grace Christian (65-27) and Bethel (64-15).
“This is a very good tournament. The community does a great job. You can’t go wrong with the hospitality,” Dimond coach Jim Young told the Daily Mirror in 2009. “I tell my girls you may never play in front of a crowd like this again. That is the really neat thing. The atmosphere is really awesome.”
The 2009 Lynx team was led by junior guard Keiahnna Engel, who later played at Boise State University and the University of Alaska Anchorage. Engel scored 57 points in the three games and was voted the girls’ MVP. Engel tallied 19 points against Kodiak.
“She is very good,” then-Kodiak coach Brett Larsen said. “She pretty much makes them go. She gets going, and everybody else gets going.”
Kodiak finished 2-1 in the tournament, beating Grace Christian (50-26) and Bethel (41-13). The Bears’ Megan Grupp and Joanna Garcia earned all-tournament accolades.