Haines' Tiffany DeWitt, center, tries to fend off Craig's Jessica Lingley, left, and Sarah Dybdahl during their Womens bracket game in the 2016 Juneau Lions Club 70th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament at Juneau-Douglas High School on Thursday. Craig won 59-45.

Haines' Tiffany DeWitt, center, tries to fend off Craig's Jessica Lingley, left, and Sarah Dybdahl during their Womens bracket game in the 2016 Juneau Lions Club 70th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament at Juneau-Douglas High School on Thursday. Craig won 59-45.

Gold Medal: Tenacious defenses shine in W bracket

According to Haines’ Sarah Elliot, the women’s teams have “come out swinging,” at the Gold Medal tournament this week.

Elliot’s words rang true on Thursday afternoon, as Haines fell to Craig in a physical W bracket win for a trip to Saturday’s championship game. At final buzzer, Craig held onto a 59-45 advantage.

The winning side built their lead in the first half by earning steals through a tenacious man-to-man press and capitalizing on the hot shooting of Vanessa James, who hit an impressive five 3-pointers during the game.

James found herself open early and often.

“We were feeling good. We had our full roster today which really helped. … It made us feel a lot more confident and comfortable. … We had more guard help, being able to bring the ball up and help move the ball a little more and get more open shots. I think I played pretty well, I think I could do a little bit better helping my team get open and looking to dish,” she said.

James led all scorers with 29 points. Polly Hamilton followed her with 11 points. Tina Steffen added seven points for Craig.

Haines was led in defeat by Elliot with 11 points and Samantha Clay with seven.

Elliot said, “We started out in a 2-3 zone, and they have a shooter (James) and she just came out great, so we put Stoli (Lynch) on her. … She got on her and I feel like, once we went man and put (Lynch) on (James), then we did a lot better. But they just got a lead in the beginning when (James) just burned us. And then we kind of matched them, but it was hard to get back in the game,” Elliot said.

The game started tentatively as fans waited three minutes for a score before Elliot broke into the scorebook with a field goal. Haines scored sporadically in the first half, as they found it hard to penetrate Craig’s man-to-man defense. By 11:48 in the first half, Craig enjoyed a 13-2 advantage, a lead they would largely hold onto for the rest of the game.

Craig moves on to play in the championship game of the W bracket at 2:45 p.m. Saturday.

With one loss, Haines must beat Hoonah at 2 p.m. Friday to make it to the championship.

Haines' Samantha Clay goes down hard with a foul called on Craig's Jessica Lingley during their Womens bracket game in the 2016 Juneau Lions Club 70th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament at Juneau-Douglas High School on Thursday. Craig won 59-45.

Haines’ Samantha Clay goes down hard with a foul called on Craig’s Jessica Lingley during their Womens bracket game in the 2016 Juneau Lions Club 70th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament at Juneau-Douglas High School on Thursday. Craig won 59-45.

Craig's Vanessa James passes around Haines' Christine Hansen during their Womens bracket game in the 2016 Juneau Lions Club 70th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament at Juneau-Douglas High School on Thursday. Craig won 59-45.

Craig’s Vanessa James passes around Haines’ Christine Hansen during their Womens bracket game in the 2016 Juneau Lions Club 70th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament at Juneau-Douglas High School on Thursday. Craig won 59-45.