In Gold Medal elimination games, you want a player like Jerry Riddlington in your corner — literally.
As Riddlington’s Yakutat squad sought to stay alive in the Masters Bracket, Sitka refused to go away and cut Yakutat’s lead to 12 points twice in the fourth quarter. Both times, Riddlington hit a three-pointer from the corner to extend Yakutat’s lead and help its fans breathe a little easier.
Riddlington hit a trio of 3s in the fourth quarter, propelling his team to a 66-49 win to stay alive in the tournament. Riddlington, who just turned 44, said he’s had to change his game over the years to become more of a shooter and that the corner three is his favorite shot.
“When you get all these injuries to your ankles, you kind of get smart about not driving to the hole anymore, so you kind of just pick your spot for shooting instead of driving,” Riddlington said.
His teammates also picked their spots well late in the game. Yakutat only made five field goals in the final quarter, but four of them were threes. Gary Klushkan led the way with 18 points for Yakutat, which advances to play in the 10 a.m. game Thursday against the winner of the Angoon-Hoonah Wednesday night game.
Sitka’s Sean Joslyn led all scorers in Wednesday’s elimination game, putting up 27 points in the losing effort. Though Yakutat led by double digits for much of the game, it felt closer than that. Yakutat only led by four points after the first quarter, and Joslyn seemed unstoppable at times as Sitka tried to mount a comeback.
It ended up not being enough, though, as Yakutat was able to close out the victory with the shooting of Riddlington and others.
“It’s either win or go home,” Riddlington said. “Give it all today, and if you lose you lose and if you win you stay another day, live another day, play another day.”
Haines women advance in convincing fashion
After starting the tournament with a close loss, the Haines women weren’t taking any chances in their elimination game against Kake. Haines — which won the 2016 and 2017 titles and appeared in the championship game in 2018 — outpaced Kake from the start, jumping out to a 24-point halftime lead and finishing with a 67-20 victory.
Skagway — a team many believe is the first women’s team from Skagway to ever play in Gold Medal — defeated Haines on Sunday by a 62-55 margin. Rachel Brittenham, playing for Haines in her first-ever Gold Medal appearance, said she thought the new-look Haines team was still getting on the same page during that game, and found its stride against Kake.
Brittenham said they wanted to run fast, and they did just that against Kake. Brittenham sprinted her way to 25 points, pacing the aggressive Haines squad.
“We know that we can definitely push the ball, so we had that run-first mentality, and look for each other, look for our shots and be active on defense,” Brittenham said, “and I think we did that.”
Fran Daly added 17 points for Haines, and Louise Kadake led the way for Kake with 10 points.
Brittenham lives in Colorado, but her parents live in Haines and she’s been regularly coming to Haines for the past 20 years and considers it her second home. Through two games at Gold Medal, she said she’s been blown away by the atmosphere.
“It’s amazing,” Brittenham said. “The type of support here was more than anything I was expecting. The fact that they have so many fans traveling from all these villages, it’s an energy that you rarely see anywhere else. I think it’s really special.”
Haines men leave no doubt
It was over almost as soon as it began.
The defending B Bracket champion Haines raced out to a 22-0 start against Hoonah, building that lead to above 30 before halftime and cruising to a 67-32 victory. With the win, Haines advanced in the loser’s bracket, poised for a matchup with either Hydaburg or Kake. Hydaburg defeated Haines on Sunday, sending Haines to the loser’s bracket.
Haines only played seven players, and three of them did almost all the scoring for Haines against Hoonah. Tyler Swinton led the way with 35 points, and Dylon Swinton and Kyle Fossman each scored 15. Tyler Swinton sunk seven three-pointers. Tyler Watkins scored more than half of Kake’s points, finishing with 17.
Wednesday’s victory was Haines’ second in the loser’s bracket, coming after a 97-51 victory over the Alternates — a team of last-minute additions — on Tuesday.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.