The last time the Vanier Crusaders won the Yukon title in senior girls basketball, its current team was barely into their elementary school careers.
That is, up to this past Saturday, when the Crusaders captured the senior girls title for the first time since 2005 at the Yukon Basketball Championships at Vanier Catholic Secondary.
They ended the decade-long drought with a 48-26 win over the F.H. Collins Warriors in the final.
“Our team has a lot of brand new players and to see us come this far – and a lot of us have played together throughout high school every year – it’s really awesome to see us come out together and get our first win against F.H., probably ever,” said Crusaders captain Kelly Mahoney. “It’s awesome to finally have a good win against them.”
The Warriors were the favourites going into the final. Not only did they win Whitehorse’s high school Super Hoops title, they were the defending Yukon champs, having beaten the Crusaders in last year’s final.
“We were missing two players who were starters this year,” said Warriors coach Ann Jirousek. “It was a different game not having our usual starters out there.
“Vanier really improved this season … They hit every shot.”
The Crusaders finished the first half up 18-13 and the third quarter up 29-23. They really turned up the heat in the fourth. Following a free-throw from Emily Ross, Mahoney hit her second three-pointer to take a 10-point lead. She finished the game with nine points and was named championship MVP.
“Kelly has put in so much work to get better and she’s been playing all summer, all fall, and playing with the boys, and just working to improve,” said Crusaders head coach Stefans Jackson. “She deserves this MVP. She’s put in the work.”
The Crusaders piled in the baskets right till the end, scoring nine points in the final two minutes. Jetta Bilsky pushed back an offensive rebound for two, Mel Moya stole and handed off to Kathryn Fortune for two and Bilsky tossed one in from the top of the key just before the buzzer.
As sharp as their offensive game was, it was their defensive game that won it for them, said Mahoney.
“Our defence, it was something new,” she said. “We thought it was something we would try … and we put all our strength into our defence because Jackson told us at the start of the season we will win games with defence and not offence. That really helped us, that when we started to push and that gave the opportunities to get down the floor and have some fast-breaks.”
“I could not be happier with the way they played defence today, it was just phenomenal,” said Jackson. “I’m pleased with all the girls, including the ones who didn’t play much.
“We had one girl with torn ligaments in her thumb and didn’t play, but she was the loudest one on the bench.”
With 11 points in the final, Fortune was named a championship All-Star, as was Bilsky, who double-doubled. Bilsky, who is only in Grade 9, finished the final with 20 points and 25 rebounds.
“She’s a huge part of our team and we’re so glad to have her play with us this year,” said Mahoney. “She was a major asset.”
Warriors Jacy Sam and Hanna Wirth, who scored nine and seven points, respectively, were also named All-Stars.
The Crusaders beat the bronze-winning Porter Creek Rams 55-41 in the semifinal.
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