Yukon’s boys basketball team saved their best for last.
The team logged their strongest performance in a 60-59 win over NWT to end the Western Canada Summer Games in fifth on Monday.
“I was a little nervous there for a minute,” said Yukon head coach Tyler Bradford. “It was nice to win a game, especially against our arch rivals, NWT, who played their hearts out. They played great.”
As the score indicates, there was plenty to be nervous about. Not only did Yukon squeak out a one-point win, the U-15 team came back from down 29-20 in the second quarter.
“The boys really picked it up in the second half. The defence intensity was amped right up,” said Bradford. “(Assistant coach Mike) Reynolds made a great half-time speech to them. We all talked a little bit, but coach Reynolds was in there at the end and got them fired up a bit.
“The boys just came out in the second half with great intensity and really shut them down in the third quarter.”
The third quarter was clearly the turning point with the boys in red and white outscoring NWT 18-7, ending the quarter up 46-39.
“We came out in the second half wanting the win more than they wanted it,” said Yukon captain Jon Koltun, who topped out with 11 rebounds. “Energy and effort is what won us the game.
“I’m proud of how our guys played today, and all the effort we put in during the second half.”
Doing the most damage against NWT in the third was Yukon guard Bryan Hermosa. Not only did he tie the game 32-32 with a jumper from the top of the key, he then assisted Brady Dendys’ basket for the lead. Hermosa Shot 50 per cent from the floor, racked up 21 points, nine steals and 14 rebounds in the game.
“We played well, made our team work,” said Hermosa. “We got some big steals and played hard.
“It was a good experience for me.”
Yukon’s stats improved across the board in the game.
Yukon sunk just 23.1 per cent of field goal attempts against Manitoba and 26.8 against BC. Things were worse from the free-throw line, draining just seven of 32 free-throw attempts against Manitoba and four of 17 against BC.
Against NWT, Yukon shot 35.9 per cent from the floor and 37 per cent from the free-throw line.
However, not everything went smoothly. Yukon lost numerous possessions with over a dozen travelling violations throughout the game.
“Their pressure defence was really good and our guys got a little flustered,” said Bradford. “We called a time-out and got them to calm down there in the end. I think they were a little flustered with the pressure.”
“Happy feet, I guess,” added Koltun.
In their two previous games, the Yukon sunk a total of just one three-pointer, but Yukon’s Player of the Games, Chris Carino, filled that gap in the stats. Against NWT, Carino hit four of nine three-point attempts, many at rather vital times, topping out with 16 points. He also racked up 11 rebounds and sunk a free throw with 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give his team the all-important 60th point.
“He’s a great shooter. He was putting down shots when we needed it,” said Koltun. “He played great defence today. He just had a good game today.”
“It was nice to see Chris break out after a couple tough games, to come back and have a strong game for us,” said Bradford.
The Yukon squad was pushed into third in their pool of three teams with a 75-32 loss to Manitoba on Saturday and an 84-26 loss on Sunday to Team BC.
In both games, the first period was the Yukon’s best.
The team went basket for basket with BC in the first three minutes of the game, up to 6-6. However, after a lineup change in the other end, BC made three straight steals, capped with successful fast breaks, eventually growing a 21-point lead by the end of the first period.
Against Manitoba, Yukon finished the first quarter just six points back at 15-9.
Hermosa was Yukon’s Player of the Games against Manitoba, leading the team with 15 points and nine rebounds.
“Bryan is a fantastic player with an outstanding offensive game,” said Bradford on Saturday. “He just naturally knows what to do with the ball and can get around guys. He’s a gifted player.”
Dendys, who was Yukon’s Player of the Game against BC, also had a strong game against Manitoba, putting up eight points and 12 rebounds.
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