Resilient Crusaders come back for Yukon title

The Vanier Crusaders had a fire to put out in the senior boys final of the YSAA Yukon Basketball Championships on Thursday at F.H. Collins Secondary.

The Vanier Crusaders had a fire to put out in the senior boys final of the YSAA Yukon Basketball Championships on Thursday at F.H. Collins Secondary.

The Porter Creek Rams came out red-hot and were burning up the scoreboard. The Crusaders, meanwhile, stayed cool under the collar, which made the difference in the end, said Crusaders head coach Sean McCarron.

“We knew they would go on a run at some point – it happened in the first five minutes – but we didn’t panic because there was a long time to play,” said McCarron. “We’ve been through it before, which helped.”

The Crusaders had a big second half to win the Yukon senior boys championship 86-73 over the Rams.

“We’ve been doing this all season,” said Crusaders captain Jon Koltun. “We’ve been starting out flat, having troubles at the start of games. Our whole team is just super-resilient. We just keep fighting. There’s no quit on our team.”

Captain and Rams All-Star Breyin Wiens led the charge out of the gate, sinking back-to-back three-pointers to put the Rams up 8-2. The Rams took their biggest lead of the game at 19-8 on a free throw from Kyle Lowes. Porter Creek ended the first quarter up 22-15 and reached half up 36-31.

Vanier was a different team in the second half. Crusaders All-Star John Apostol put two on the board, and teammates Josh Tobias and Louis Aguinaldo each put up three-pointers to give Vanier a 39-38 lead.

Apostol, who led the Crusaders with 30 points, then sunk a free throw and an outside shot to put Vanier up 44-40. Aguinaldo had four three-pointers in his 14-point performance.

“They started firing,” said Rams head coach Paul MacDonald. “They must have been 65 per cent for the first couple minutes. They were making outside shots. McCarron is an awesome coach, he picked apart our little zone down there. So they were hitting outside and when they weren’t there, they were pounding the ball inside.”

A win by Porter Creek would have been the completion of a Cinderella story. The Rams had a dreadful start to the season, going winless in their first 12 games. The team didn’t get its first win until mid-February in the Rams’ final regular season game, beating the F.H. Collins Warriors 88-63.

“We had nothing left in the tank,” said MacDonald. “We won the two playoff games; we beat F.H., we beat Vanier. That took everything we had.

“We never gave up, but they have more firepower on that team,” he added. “We had more hustle the other night, they had more hustle tonight. That’s what it comes down to.”

Koltun, who had seven points in the final, was named tournament MVP.

“It feels great. It was unexpected; I thought someone else on the team was going to get it,” said Koltun. “But I’ll take it.”

The Grade 12 player just returned to action for the playoffs after missing two months with a concussion. Koltun took an elbow to the head during a regular season game.

“I could notice it in the cardio, that’s for sure,” said Koltun. “The guys were setting me up for easy shots.”

Lowes led the Rams in points with 22 while his captain, Wiens, who fouled out early in the fourth quarter, had 17.

Porter Creek’s Scott Peterson, plus Ken Valdez and Bryan Hermosa from the third place Warriors, were also named to the tournament All-Star team.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com