The bronze medal game in junior male basketball at the Arctic Winter Games was like a gold medal game to the teams playing.
Intensity rose with every basket, emotional strain was visible on the players’ faces, and at the end there was elation on one side and heartbreak on the other.
“It felt like a gold medal game,” said Yukon head coach Tim Brady. “It was pressure packed, it was intense, it had all those elements of a championship game.”
Yukon took the bronze with an 89-84 win over Nunavut last Friday.
As excited as Yukon was to win, they remained relatively composed after the final buzzer. Both squads have players who are teammates on the pan-territorial men’s basketball team that trains together during the summer.
“We know most of those young men over there through our all-territory camp. Two of them stayed with us this July and lived with us, played on our all-territory team, so we know all these boys. So it’s elation, it’s disappointment,” said Brady, who had Nunavut players stop by to offer congratulations after the medal ceremony.
“We tried to be modest in the acceptance of this medal because we’ve been on that end before, we know how that is.”
“We’re good friends with them so we’re also sad to see them that way,” said Yukon co-captain Chris Carino. “All we can do now is be modest with our win and help them keep their heads up.”
Adding to Nunavut’s disappointment was the loss of a couple sizable leads during the game.
Nunavut was up by nine points with six minutes left in the fourth and was still up by seven with three minutes left on the clock.
Yukon began to close the gap when Carino sunk three three-pointers. Co-captain Bryan Hermosa pulled his team within one with a basket and drained two free throws to put Yukon up 85-84.
Yukon’s Josh Tobias then made a steal in the final minute and capitalized on it with a basket. RJ Siosan drove to the rim with under 20 seconds left to bring it to the final score.
“In the fourth quarter we stayed composed as a team, we fought back, hit a couple threes, we did some smart plays,” said Carino.
“Bryan made some smart passes and RJ nailed the pin in the coffin. That sealed the deal for us.”
Nunavut also had an eight-point lead in the first quarter at 16-8 before slipping behind 30-28 at half.
Siosan led the team with 30 points in the bronze game. Carino had 21, Hermosa 20 and Tobias 12, including two third-quarter three-pointers.
Carino was fourth in scoring in the tournament with 108, six points up from Siosan in fifth.
Hermosa wrapped up with 73 points for eighth overall in the tournament. Tobias was fourth on the team with 60.
“I feel great. This game was like a gold medal game for me,” said Hermosa. “This team is awesome. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”
“It’s a privilege to be here,” he added. “Being part of Arctic Winter Games two times, I feel awesome for that, being able to participate and being able to compete with the top athletes around the Arctic.”
Yukon finished third out of five teams in the round-robin with a 2-2 record.
They lost 79-78 in their first game with a buzzer-beater from Alaska.
Yukon squeaked out a 75-73 win over Nunavut with Ian New draining a pair of free throws to put Yukon up in the end.
Yukon lost 75-57 to Northwest Territories, who went on to take gold with an 88-77 win over Alaska in the final.
The Yukon squad dominated Greenland 91-19 to end the round-robin.
Yukon was the defending gold medalist in both junior male and junior female divisions.
“I’m grateful I got to see my dad, he flew all the way from the Philippines just to watch me play,” said Carino. “I’m really thankful for his support and especially my team and coach, the time we put in, the hard work.”
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