The Porter Creek Rams senior boys basketball team put on an early-season clinic for the competition this weekend in the inaugural Road to the Gold tournament in Whitehorse.
The Rams went undefeated in four games, and posted an impressive 102-80 win over the Juneau Douglas High School’s Crimson Bears in the final on Saturday at Porter Creek Secondary School.
“Everyone played solidly, some guys stepped up when others weren’t doing their best, it was an overall effort from everybody on the team,” said Rams’ captain Chad Curlew, who also won the MVP award for his spirited play.
“I think I played well, but it was an all-around effort and everyone deserves this trophy.”
Curlew’s energy brought the whole team up, said coach Logan Wedge.
“He’s our heart and soul.
“He’s very fast, very gritty — he’s not a real big kid, but he’s tough and strong, and goes the extra mile if he has to,” he said.
With only three practices under its belt, the Rams weren’t as smooth as they’d like to be, according to Wedge.
Power forward Tim Beaver sat out most of the first half after fouling three times in the first three minutes of the game.
He came back in after halftime, and dominated in the paint, rebounding and scoring almost at will.
The large amount of fouling certainly slowed the game down but, fortunately, the Rams were solid from the free-throw line.
Rams’ starters are all veteran players: Curlew, Beaver, Zack Carey and Sam Johnson, and sharp-shooting point guard Sina Kazemi, who seemed to have a magnetic connection to the hoop from three-point land.
Juneau managed to take a small lead just before halftime, but Porter Creek’s speed resulted in several quick steals and they capitalized on the turnovers to regain the lead, which they held until the final buzzer.
“We’re a fast team, a lot of teams can’t keep up with us, especially at the ends,” said Beaver.
“We played pretty good, and we’re just going to get better, we’ve got a lot of tournaments coming up, and we’ll keep practicing and getting better.”
In the girls’ final, it was the NWT’s under-17 rep team facing off against a tough Juneau Douglas High School squad.
NWT played a tough game, but gave up way too many turnovers. Juneau capitalized on nearly every steal or rebound, and ended up winning it 62-45.
“I was pleasantly surprised, all the competition really played hard,” said Juneau coach Kerry Lindley.
“All our games were close in the first half, but the other teams couldn’t handle the pressure for the whole game.”
Juneau’s Kristen Pratt was named MVP.
The NWT may have held a slight advantage, as its teams have been playing together longer than the high school teams.
Basketball season just started within the last couple of weeks for most schools.
In all, boys and girls teams from Porter Creek, Vanier, FH Collins, Haines and Juneau’s Douglas competed, as well as NWT and the Yukon’s Regional Training Centre teams (junior aged players from grade seven-11).
Although there was no local team in the girls’ final, the FH Collins squad had a good tournament, going undefeated before losing in the semifinals.
FH’s Noria Deacon and May Nguyen were named to the tournament’s all-star team. NWT’s Alison Denitt and Hailey Grayston, and Juneau’s Kay Sanders were also named to the all-star team.
The boys’ all-stars were PC’s Tim Beaver and FH Collins’ Tony Nguyen, as well as NWT’s Quincy Thomas, Juneau’s Eric Gross and Haines’ Kyle Foster.
Basketball Yukon organized the tournament to give senior high school players in the territory an opportunity to compete with teams of a similar skill level.
“We haven’t had a tournament in Whitehorse in a while,” said Wedge.
“We’re a big enough community to support it. We have good facilities … it’s nice to have these teams come in, instead of just Vanier over and over, or FH over and over again.”
After the success of the weekend tournament, Basketball Yukon president Tim Brady is looking ahead to next year’s Road to the Gold.
“We’d like to be able to make it an annual, hopefully we could expand on it — I’d like to get a team from Nunavut here next year … always good to have Alaska, and it would be great to get teams from BC or Alberta.”