Two teams take part in a men’s division game during the 2020 Lights Out Yukon Invitational Basketball Tournament in Whitehorse. (Sandy Gordon/Creating Kilter Photography)

Lights Out Yukon Invitational Basketball Tournament bigger than ever in sixth year

“Honestly, it was the smoothest tournament I think we’ve run yet”

The sixth annual Lights Out Yukon Invitational Basketball Tournament was held Feb. 5 to 9 in Whitehorse.

With 27 teams in four divisions and just under 300 total players, this year’s tournament was the largest one to date.

In addition to the typical men’s and women’s divisions, this year also included boys’ and girls’ youth divisions as well.

“We weren’t sure kind of how it would turn out,” said tournament coordinator Lianne Fordham. “But I think overall the tournament was a huge success.”

A number of teams travelled from outside of Whitehorse for the tournament.

Three teams travelled down the Dempster from Inuvik, N.W.T. — a men’s team, a boys’ team and a girls’ team — and two teams took part from Haines, Alaska — a men’s team and a women’s team.

Additionally, a women’s team from Vancouver made the trip to Whitehorse.

“Honestly, it was the smoothest tournament I think we’ve run yet,” said Fordham. “There were very few hiccups. Every game started on time — I don’t think there was a single delay even with some overtime games.”

On the court, there were champions crowned and tournament all-star teams named in each division.

The Porter Creek Rams beat the Senior Vanier Crusaders 63-54 to win the boys final.

The boys all-star team included Haril Oriel from the Rams, AJ Abba from the Inuvik Eagles, Rastus Maxfield from the F.H. Collins Warriors, Sam Wanless from the Senior Crusaders and Matthew Baual from the Junior Crusaders.

In the girls final, the F.H. Collins Warriors beat the Senior Vanier Crusaders 48-44.

The girls all-star team was made up of four players — Leesha Setzer from the Inuvik Eagles, Maren Bilsky from the F.H. Collins Warriors, Heather Mislang from the Junior Crusaders and Alyssa Cuenza from the Senior Crusaders.

The men’s championship game saw Big Bigness defeat AK Sport Shop 92-78.

The all-star team included Ryane Lane from Big Girls Don’t Kawhi, Darcy Hill from Pain Killers, Dave Stehelin from Big Bigness, Neil Talsma from FCBLY, Tyler Swinton from AK Sports Shop and Elijah Day from True North All-Starz.

Strathcona beat the Whitehorse All-Stars 94-56 in the women’s final.

The women’s tournament all-stars were Sky Hodgson from Snow Storm, Denise Busayong from Strathcona, Krysha Rubio from Hoar Frosts, Chrystal Pringle from Frost Bites, Fran Daly from Haines Merchants and Kate Olynyk from Black Ice.

Fordham said the tournament has really become a fixture on the basketball calendar in the Yukon.

“Instead of just a Yukon tournament, it’s now the Yukon tournament almost” said Fordham. “It’s nice to see. … It’s really well-run and well-organized in terms of accommodating everyone’s needs and flight times and schedule times.”

The tournament held games at all three Whitehorse high schools, with tournament play starting for local teams on Wednesday and Thursday, with the rest of the teams getting into the mix from Friday onwards.

In the women’s division, Fordham said the team from Vancouver, Strathcona, was a cut above the competition and were very well-received.

“The team from Vancouver was ridiculously strong. Those women are like super athletes,” said Fordham. “I think even though they came up and they dominated this tournament, their grace and poise and willingness to teach and to grow the sport and their love for the sport and how gracious they were to everybody here and how thankful they were to come, I think really stood out.”

She said she hopes the team is able to return in future years, perhaps for some sort of skills camp to further grow and spread the game in the Yukon.

While this year’s tournament was already double the size of last year, it seems there is still plenty of room to grow – particularly in the youth divisions.

Fordham said there was a team from Sitka, Alaska, willing to make the trip but unable to do so because of expensive flight options and an inconvenient ferry schedule. She said Dease Lake, B.C., was also interested in sending a team.

“I think it’s just a matter of making it work and making it swing for everyone,” said Fordham. “And also getting on it a little bit earlier, too, as the American teams … have their schedules set in September.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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