Alaska’s basketball teams were sent packing with silvers in Arctic Winter Games basketball on Saturday at F.H. Collins Secondary.
The Yukon’s junior female and junior male teams both won gold with wins over Alaska in back-to-back finals on Saturday.
The Yukon’s males won 83-62 and the female squad won 69-60.
“I’m really happy and really proud of our team because we worked so hard for this,” said Yukon female high-scorer Colleen Prenoslo. “I’m really happy it all paid off.”
Whitehorse, which was hosting the Games for a sixth time, has been good to the Yukon’s basketball teams in the past.
The last time both teams won gold at the same Games was in 2000, the previous time Whitehorse hosted. Basketball was the only team sport that Yukon won gold in both divisions, though the Yukon came close with a gold and silver in both volleyball and curling.
In fact, 2000 was also the last time the Yukon’s female squad won gold.
“I think it helped us,” said Yukon female captain Robyn Fortune. “Everybody cheering really helped our energy, kept up the excitement, kept us going.”
With a pair of successful three-pointers at the end of the first quarter, Alaska took a 26-20 lead, expanding it to 29-20 at the start of the second. After slipping into a pair of tie-scores, the Yukon took the lead for the last time with Fortune sinking a jumper from the side of the key to make it 35-33. Prenoslo then drained a free-throw and put in her own rebound on the second throw to make it 38-33 at half.
Prenoslo helped the Yukon stay afloat in the third from the free-throw line, sinking five straight. She sunk 11 free-throws in total in the final.
“I’m usually pretty good at free-throws but I’ve had a rough time shooting the last few days,” said Prenoslo. “I’m really happy I got it back for this game.”
Prenoslo, who scored 40 points in the final, was the tournament’s high-scorer with 110.
“I think Colleen Prenoslo had an awesome game,” said Fortune. “She was weaving through them and they were fouling her every time. On defence she was also outstanding. She’s a key-player – look out for her at the next Arctics.”
Fortune was second in scoring in the final with 13 points and was sixth in the tournament with 56 points, one spot up from teammate Jenna Blanchette with 40.
“They all (played well) but Robyn Fortune did a really good job bringing up the ball and setting up plays,” said Prenoslo. “Our whole team just did a really good job hustling up and down the court and going for loose balls. I’m just really proud of them.”
The Yukon lost 69-63 to Alaska to end the round-robin for its only loss of the Games. It then defeated Alaska 57-51 in the playoffs before Alaska beat N.W.T. to get in the final.
In its first win over Alaska, the Yukon dropped a 17-point lead before squeaking out a win.
“We still won but we were really unhappy that we were up by so much and it was so close at the end,” said Colleen Prenoslo. “This game we were trying really hard to not let that happen again, but they brought it and it was hard to get that lead.”
“It’s pretty surreal. The Yukon girls haven’t won gold since 2000, the last time the Games were here,” said Fortune. “It’s pretty exciting.
“They’ve got some shooters, but we stuck to them like a piece of gum and by the end of the game we knew what flavour they were.”
The Yukon’s junior males also had to overcome a deficit in their final. Alaska came out hot with a string of successful shots, establishing a 10-2 lead over the Yukon. But the Yukon stayed on course, waited for Alaska’s hot-streak to finish, and ended the first quarter up 27-24.
“The fact that they were playing so well right off the bat set the tone for them,” said Yukon junior male head coach Tim Brady. “We were able to weather that storm and, as a matter of fact, that’s what we told our guys: that they were in the middle of a run and I didn’t think they would be able to continue shooting as well as they started.
“I thought eventually we’d be able to close the gap and that’s exactly what happened.”
After the opening quarter, the Yukon continued to expand the lead, especially in the third quarter, scoring 20 points to Alaska’s 10.
“Our defence got them to turn the ball over,” said Brady of the third. “That led to some quick and easy scoring opportunities for us.
“We were able to get everybody in the game and everybody played an important role and had a part to play in the final game. That was great for us and the entire team.
“In the fourth quarter we just exchanged baskets and managed to keep our lead intact and finish strong – that was what we were hoping for all along.
“I’m glad it’s over because there was a lot of pressure to maintain our focus and our intensity, which was high the whole tournament, and to not have a let-down.”
The Yukon junior males, who won gold in 2006 and 2008, went undefeated in the Games with a 5-0-0 record.
The final was the first time a team exceeded the 50-point mark against the Yukon at the Games.
Yukon co-captain Brian Prenoslo led the team in points with 28 in the final, followed by Gerard New with 14 and Jake Jacobs with 10.
Brian, like his sister Colleen Prenoslo, finished as the tournament’s high-scorer with 129 points, 42 more than Alaska’s Dyllon Mills in second. New was seventh for scoring with 65 points in the tournament.
“Brian worked very hard, as did all of our guys, to prepare for this tournament,” said Brady. “Obviously he has some skill, which is reflected by his ability to perform at a high level.
“Brian would set a lot of personal goals in his training – to come in early, maybe 20 or 30 mornings from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and work towards putting up 300 to 400 shots every morning. So his success and his ability to perform was directly related to his capacity to train in a very disciplined way. And he did that all winter long.
“He set a great example for his team in terms of his work ethic and his leadership on and off the court.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com