In the end, two in a row was too much to hope for.
Hot off their 84-55 win over NWT, the Yukon boys’ basketball team continued to play fierce ball against Newfoundland on Friday, but were unable to overcome a weak first half, ending their stay at the Canada Summer Games with a 62-44 loss.
“I think we played a great defensive game the whole game; they did an incredible job on defence,” said Yukon head coach Tim Brady. “We just got a few more easy layups, we stole the ball and scored, which was great, and that brought the scoring a little bit closer.
“And we tried to play up that little bit of emotion.”
To their credit, the Yukon squad played one of their best quarters in the third, doubling their points in the first four minutes and changing the score from 31-12 to 37-24.
“We slowed it down a bit and changed up our press break a little, so that allowed us to get more run-outs and more easy points,” said Yukon post player Logan Gray. “Some of our bench players stepped up huge today, which is good to see.”
However, Newfoundland subdued the Yukon in the fourth, going on a six-point run as the territory’s team allowed multiple turnovers, a problem that has plagued the team for most of the tournament.
“Our turnovers, again, are what got us,” said Brady. “It’s hard to be successful when you give the other team multiple opportunities to score.
“With our age and the kids that we have, we’re just not that skilled with the ball yet. These guys are young and when you see them match up with some of these (other teams) they’re pretty small, they’re not as mature, they’re not as strong right now in their development.”
In the two previous games, Gray produced a double-double, but topped out with five points and 11 rebounds against Newfoundland.
Yukon’s other regular top scorer, Riley Simpson-Fowler, who drives to the rim like a freight train, not only was his team’s high scorer, but the game’s as well with 12. Helping him get there were two three-pointers and hitting four of six free-throws. He also made seven steals.
Yukon’s second highest scorers were Jake Jacobs, Ryan Sutherland and Dylan Salvisberg, each with six points.
“This is the best Newfoundland team I’ve seen in 20 years, so this is a very tough team, and our guys battled their hearts out against them,” said Brady. “It was a fight the whole game and I’m proud of our kids’ energy and what they did.”
Yukon began the Games with a one-sided 93-31 loss to Alberta, followed by an 86-35 loss to Nova Scotia on Tuesday. Playing on the main court at Credit Union Place in Summerside, PEI, on Wednesday, Yukon had its closest game, losing to the home team 85-65.
“I think this was a huge experience throughout,” said Gray. “At the beginning we were always shaky, turning it over all the time. Now we have crisp passes, getting it to everyone’s hands, getting layups off the break instead of turning it over. So I think we calmed down a bit and have meshed as a team now.”
Thursday’s success over NWT makes the boys the only team from the Yukon—individual sports aside—that produced a win at the Games.
“We knew we were competitive with NWT and if we played our game we could beat them,” said Gray. “That’s what we did—we took care of business.
“And we were competitive with some of the other teams, so it was a good time.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org