The Lights Out Yukon Invitational Basketball Tournament has now been held in Whitehorse twice and a Whitehorse team hasn’t won it.
After the title was brought to the Klondike last year, the title left the territory this time around.
Team N.W.T. defeated Whitehorse’s Gold Rush 71-58 in the final at Vanier Catholic Secondary School on Sunday.
“This is the first time we’ve sent a men’s team here in years,” said N.W.T.’s Damien Healy. “It’s fun to get a group of guys together to compete in a men’s tournament. We do a lot of coaching and volunteering with the kids, we travel with the kids to tournaments, but never really competed as a men’s (team). It’s fun to get out as an adult team and play.”
The two teams arrived in the final undefeated. Gold Rush led in the opening quarter, taking a 10-4 lead and finishing the first up 14-11. But the pill began to drop for N.W.T. in the second, establishing a 15-point lead at 36-21 and taking a 37-27 lead into halftime.
The Whitehorse team made up lost ground in the third, moving within five points on two free throws from Jeremy McCullough. Seconds later teammate Dave Stehelin made a steal in the N.W.T. end and capitalized to pull within three at 48-45 at the buzzer.
Team N.W.T. – made up of players from Yellowknife – opened the fourth with a 10-point run and continued to expand the gap until the end.
“It’s the way basketball goes. It’s a game that swings. They were hitting some shots when we weren’t,” said Gold Rush player and tournament organizer Colin LaForme. “It was well played both ways, well officiated, and that’s what you want in a championship. Some lead changes, some ups and downs – it makes for a good game.”
McCullough, who was named an All Star, led his team in points with 17. LaForme put 10 on the board and Stehelin eight.
N.W.T.’s Vincent Belanger led the game with 24 points, Simon Markowski had 14 and Bryan Laserich 13.
“It’s fun playing against them. They’ve got some big players,” said Healy, who is president of Basketball N.W.T. “Jeremy (McCullough) is a legitimate six-foot-11, and we don’t have a guy that tall in
Yellowknife. It’s fun playing against large big bodies. It kind of changes the flow of the game when you’re playing against someone that big.
“It was a fairly competitive game the whole way through, so we’re happy to come out on top. I appreciate them having us.”
In the third place game Sunday morning, the Whitehorse Prospectors defeated the Whitehorse Nuggets 92-80. Prospectors’ Dylan Salvisberg registered 38 points and teammate Aaron Diaz 18. Nuggets’ Will Checuti led his team with 37 points.
OCDC, an Old Crow-Dawson City team and last year’s tournament winners, defeated Yukon’s Arctic Winter Games squad 68-60 in the consolation final.
The second annual Lights Out tourney was hosted by the Yukon Men’s Basketball League, which has six teams this season.
“(The Yellowknife men’s league will) host a tournament in May and we’ll have to go and return the favour,” added LaForme. “We have a lot of guys in town playing ball now and we’re going to try to make sure we go to other tournaments so they come to ours and we create a northern basketball community.”
Will Checuti (Nuggets)
Dylan Salvisberg (Prospectors)
Alex Campbell (OCDC)
Jeremy McCullough (Gold Rush)
Morgan Gallagher (N.W.T.)
MVP Simon Markowski (N.W.T.)
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