Local basketball teams gear up for tournaments

You might have found it hard to believe that the 15-and-under girls’ basketball team was down by only three points at halftime, considering…

You might have found it hard to believe that the 15-and-under girls’ basketball team was down by only three points at halftime, considering that the final score was 65 to 33.

But the game wasn’t about winning or losing, it was about preparing.

Saturday morning at FH Collins high school, the 15-and-under Team Yukon was poised to pull off an upset over the 17-and-under team, as it played an exhibition game in preparation for its trip to Kamloops, British Columbia, for the Canadian Under 15 Boys and Girls Basketball Championships.

“We were right with them for half the game,” said 15-and-under head coach Sean McCarron. “We won the second quarter. Then the U17 team’s experience and their shooting started to pick-up.”

“I can’t say enough about how well they did there,” said the 17-and-under coach Tim Brady, referring to the exhibition game.

“They hung with us for a while and it wasn’t until we really had to get on our girls to pick up their intensity that we could separate ourselves from them.”

Although both the boys and girls U15 teams went winless last season in Canadian tournaments, the coaches of both teams feel they’re about due.

“They were an extremely hardworking team, but they had some trouble against the bigger provinces,” said McCarron, speaking of his team in the Western Canada Games last year.

 “These girls didn’t get much of a break, because it was Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, so four very tough teams.”

“So, at Nationals a lot of the time, PEI will show up, or Newfoundland might show up. And you know you’re going to have a game. But this team is very prepared to do well and compete, so we’re looking at big things at this year’s nationals.”

“They are hard workers and they’re really dedicated to basketball,” said Tyler Bradford, the new head coach of the 15-and-under boys’ basketball team.

“For April and May we had 30 boys out for a training centre … From those 30 we cut it down to the 12 we’re taking with us.”

The girls’ team, made up of 12 Whitehorse hoopsters, has only three returners and three players that are just 14-years-old.

“We’re still going to be a pretty young team. This team, we have a lot more speed, and we’re going to be pretty aggressive — I’ve got four girls over five-ten,” said McCarron.

However, youth does not always translate to inexperience.

“Half my team has gone to Nationals for soccer, so I don’t think they will be as intimidated as last year’s team,” said McCarron. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Both teams play their first games on Tuesday.

The girls will be facing Ontario at 9 a.m. and then B.C. at 8:15 p.m.

The boys’ team, which is made up of 11 Whitehorse athletes and one Haines Junction athlete, are facing Newfoundland at 9 a.m. and then Quebec at 8:15 p.m.

All games can be watched online at basketball.bc.ca.

The girls’ 17-and-under team is also about to take on the rest of Canada in a series of tournaments that will take the players away for two weeks.

They will be travelling to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to compete in the Bluenose Classic from August 11 to 13. Then the team will be travelling to Prince Albert Island for the national tournament, which takes place August 19 though to the 23.

In last year’s tournament, the 17-and-under team failed to win a game.

“I think they found it a real eye-opener,” said Brady, who moved from the boys’ team to the girls’ this season. “They never had an opportunity to compete in that kind of tournament.

“They had some good moments, but they struggled.”

Like last year, the U17 team is not just Yukoners, but includes two players from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut and three from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

“The national governing body, Canada Basketball, recognizes the fact that none of our territories have the population base to consistently field our own team,” said Brady.

“They allow us to find athletes if we can arrange it … It’s quite an undertaking.”

Brady hopes that a strategy used for the boys’ U17 team last year might produce similar results.

“We’ve tried to identify the games we have the best chance of success in and focus on those game,” said Brady. “Like Prince Albert Island, Newfoundland or Manitoba — those are the teams we targeted last year on the boys side, and we were very fortunate to get two wins.”