It was a small international basketball tourney, but there was a lot of national pride on the line Thursday through Sunday in Skagway, Alaska.
All three Whitehorse high schools sent their senior teams to dunk some American competition at the Don Hather Basketball Tournament.
On the surface, it was high school versus high school, but the tournament boiled down to Canada against the USA, with every game a match-up between Yukoners and Alaskans.
Mirroring last year’s results, the Canadians took the boys’ title with five wins to the American’s four. It was the opposite on the girls’ side with the US winning five of eight games.
The Porter Creek Rams didn’t just do well as a school in Skagway, the boys’ team went undefeated over three games – the only Whitehorse team to do so – downing the Skagway Panthers 56-36, the Juneau Douglas Bears 52-28 and the Thunder Mountain Falcons, from outside Juneau, 56-38.
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“I’m proud of my guys, they played well over the weekend,” said Rams head coach Logan Wedge. “Defensively, we were pretty tough. We held a lot of teams to low scores.
“Rebounding wise, we were the best team there. We have a lot of height, guys like Brady (Bonnycastle), Peter (Hanson), Soleil (Stimson), Robin (Smith) – it’s nice to have a bunch of guys that are six-two and up. It’s made life a lot easier.”
Leading the charge for the Rams was co-captain Cameron Weeks with 44 points in the tournament, including 28 against the Falcons. Also racking up points was co-captain Robins Smith with 31 and Peter Hanson with 26.
“Robin Smith led us in scoring the first two games and played really good defence,” said Wedge. “Especially in the first game against Skagway, he ended up scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter to really take over.
“Theoron Richards had a really good weekend defensively. He didn’t do a lot of scoring, but that’s not his role.”
Going undefeated for the second straight year was the Skagway Panthers girls’ team. No ordinary team, the Panther girls were last year’s 2A state champions with a 29-0 season record.
Included in the Panthers’ 3-0 run was a 46-30 win over the Rams girls’ team, who won their other games, going 42-36 over Juneau Douglas and 43-23 over the Angoon Eagles.
“It’s one of those tournaments where you increase your pace, increase your intensity, or you get run over,” said Rams head coach Trevor Hale. “It’s a great opportunity for the girls to see how basketball is played at the next level and up their game to match it.”
Ram Shannon Thompson was her team’s high scorer with 34 points over three games, while teammates Jenna Blanchette and Mikaela Lane produced 24 and 22 respectively.
“They were strong every game,” said Hale of co-captains Thompson and Katie Lowey. “Shannon is the points scorer and she gets lots of glory, but it’s quite often Katie who steals the ball and gets it to her.”
The FH Collins Warriors boys’ team failed to get three wins like the Rams, but they did arguably play two of the most exciting games of the tournament, coming back from 10 points down against Skagway Saturday night in front of a full crowd of Panther fans to win 41-34, and pushing Juneau Douglas into the tournament’s only overtime, losing 58-55 in Sunday’s final game.
“We played very interesting first halfs against Skagway and Juneau Douglas,” said Warriors head coach Jamie Shaw, implying his team was not playing to their full potential. “It was brutal how we played. After halftime, the guys were able to regroup. In both games we only played halfway through the third quarter to the end of the game.”
The Warriors, who were missing three starters at the tournament, also defeated Thunder Mountain 49-40. In Skagway, captain Riley Simpson Fowler surpassed the 20-point mark in all three games, scoring 68 points in total, while teammate Dylan Salvisberg put up 50 and Joaquin McWatters scored 17 points worth.
“Joaquin McWatters was outstanding,” said Shaw. “He was awesome. He had the block of the tournament against a big guy from Juneau. I love how he plays – he brings all the energy in the world to the game.
“Riley Simpson-Fowler, our point-guard, handled every time they pressed us and he rarely turned the ball over. He didn’t shoot the ball up to his expectations, but defensively he was outstanding.”
The Warrior girls’ team went 1-2 in Skagway, winning 30-24 against the Angoon Eagles, and losing 52-17 to the state champion Skagway Panthers and 42-34 to the Juneau Douglas Bears.
Putting the biggest dent in the opposition was Warrior Nesha Wright with 21 points, followed by Jennifer Curtis with 19 and Helen Hedstrom-Langford with 15.
The Vanier Crusaders did not fair as well as their Whitehorse counterparts with both teams going winless at the tournament.
The Crusader girls cut short their stay in Skagway due to members of the team wanting to attend Sunday’s tryouts for Team Yukon’s volleyball team for the Western Canada Games. As a result, the Crusader girls were the only of Whitehorse’s six teams to only play two games, losing 45-29 to Skagway and 44-13 to Juneau Douglas.
“I was really impressed with how my girls played Friday night against Skagway,” said Crusaders head coach Nicole Morgan. “Being it was the first game of the season, against the former (Class 2A) state champions, I thought they played a really solid game. As a result of that they were pretty tired the following morning when they had to go up against Juneau Douglas and we just didn’t have the legs under us that game and it was a pretty disastrous result.
“The Skagway coach was saying to me, there’s a lot of potential there if these girls keep at it.”
With some of the team’s players unable to attend the tournament, four Grade 10s were brought up to fill the lineup. However, captain Robyn Fortune did attend, leading her team with 17 points over the two games.
“She’s going to be a real key player for us this year and we’re really looking to her for lots of leadership,” said Morgan.
Vanier’s boys’ team was in a similar predicament as the girls, with about half of its senior players away, competing in another tournament in Mission, BC. Looking on the bright side of things, the tournament provided some of the younger players with valuable game experience, said Crusaders co-head coach Jon Hale.
“Actually, the weekend was fantastic for us,” he said. “In terms of the knowledge and experience that those boys gained – that was half a team that’s sort of new to senior boy’ basketball. We had a lot of the young guys playing and they just gained a lot of experience playing that calibre of basketball, so it was really good for them.”
Within their three losses – 53-41 to Skagway, 58-42 to Juneau Douglas and 51-35- Thunder Mountain – Mason Gray led the Crusaders with 39 points, followed by Ryan Mahar with 25 and Matt Pollard with 12.
“They held their own there; it wasn’t like they were blown out,” said Jon Hale. “Especially against Juneau yesterday, we had a really tight game against them. We just had one bad quarter in the third, where we only scored two points, and that really set us back.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com