Determination trumps height and age on the basketball court.
That’s what the Hidden Valley Elementary School Huskies Grade 7 girls basketball team proved two years running.
For the second year in a row, the Huskies won gold at the Yukon Grade 7 Basketball Championships last Saturday at Porter Creek Secondary School.
“They practise every morning, they practise every recess, they practise every lunch … and then we have our big practice in the afternoon after school, one day a week,” said Huskies coach Heather Boardman. “They are determined. They were enthusiastic last year when they were in Grade 6 and won gold then and this year they carried on.
“They worked and worked and worked and this year everything gelled for them again.”
The team, which has three Grade 6s and even a Grade 5 player, won its pool and then defeated a Whitehorse Elementary School team 36-30 in the final for gold.
“I have been coaching for an awfully long time and these kids listened to everything I said,” said Huskies co-coach Peter Harms. “We’re on the Internet trying to find out what else can we learn because they went past what I usually have to teach a Grade 7 (team). I said, ‘What else can we put into our game?’”
The Huskies team is creating a dynasty on the basketball court and the volleyball court.
Not only has the squad won the last two Grade 7 basketball championships, it has won the last two Grade 7 volleyball championships as well. In fact, the team also won bronze in the Grade 8 volleyball championships this season.
“They all had a goal to learn how to play the game and they did,” said Boardman. “None of them had played the sport before Grade 6.
“We’re maybe starting the sport a little bit younger than some of the other schools because we have a small school and when it’s cold in the winter you can do it at lunch-time.”
There’s even more to the story than a school of just 80 students winning multiple titles. The team’s roster has remained practically unchanged in the last two seasons.
The Huskies’ girls lost one player from last year to graduation and picked up two new players this year. In other words, last year’s titles in basketball and volleyball were won with just one Grade 7 player on board.
“I said, ‘One Grade 7, come on, get serious,’” said Harms of last year. “They said, ‘What can we do?’ and I said, ‘Work your butts off – you’re (almost) all Grade 6s.’
“They went on to win gold in volleyball and were so excited they came flying back, saying, ‘We did it! We did it!’ And then they asked, ‘What do we do for basketball?’
“I said, ‘Forget it, you’re short.’”
They may be vertically challenged, but so was Muggsy Bogues.
Unable to be a strong rebounding team because of their height – or lack thereof – the Huskies have made fast breaks and lay-ups their bread and butter.
Don Harding, who refereed the final, has been involved in the sport at the elementary level for 34 years. He was taken back by what he witnessed from the Huskies.
“They were smaller, but they were quicker,” said Harding. “Whitehorse Elementary had tall girls. They were taking three or four shots before they put it in because the Hidden Valley girls couldn’t get the ball. But in transition, the Hidden Valley girls were much better.
“At one point, after Whitehorse Elementary scored, Hidden Valley got the ball out of bounds, up the floor and there were three Hidden Valley girls under Whitehorse Elementary basket before Whitehorse Elementary got back in the defensive zone. That’s how fast they are.
“The Whitehorse Elementary girls are patting themselves on the back for getting a basket and the ball’s already in their basket at the other end.”
With rebounding the team’s weak spot, accuracy was also important for the Huskies – and they had it. In a shooting competition during the championships, the last four competitors to avoid elimination were members of the Huskies team. (Grade 7 player Line Jensen went on to win the contest.)
“They were just flying in there for lay-ups,” said Harms. “I didn’t just have one hot shot, because that’s easy to stop – the other team could double team (the player) … Anyone they pass to could do the same thing.
“They were just a powerful team that could work together.”
Harding, who used to coach for Takhini Elementary, is confident to say Saturday’s final was the highest scoring, cleanest Grade 7 basketball game he remembers seeing or refereeing.
“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and this was the best Grade 7 girls basketball game I’ve ever seen or reffed,” he said.
“(Grade 7 girls basketball) used to be like a rugby game: the ball would be in the middle and everyone would be diving for it, getting scratched and kicked. This game has really improved over the last few years.
“They played six baskets, three on each team, without a whistle – unheard of. I was so impressed. I have never seen that – ever.”
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