The F.H. Collins Warriors senior girls had the weight of a nation on their shoulders as they took to the court for the final game of the Don Hather Basketball Tournament, a three-day event that finished Saturday in Skagway, Alaska.
After splitting eight Canada-versus-U.S. games (Whitehorse against Alaska) it came down to the F.H. Collins Warriors against the Skagway Panthers, the two-time defending 2A state champions.
Unfortunately for the Canadian side, the state champs were too much for the Warriors, winning 48-21. Since the U.S.-versus-Canada format was installed, Canada has never won the girls’ side of the tournament. (Canada’s boys teams from Whitehorse’s three high schools won their side of the tourney for the third consecutive year.)
“Our shooting was awful; it wasn’t what I hoped it would be,” said Warriors head coach Ann Jirousek. “Otherwise they played quite well. Defensively they were quite good; they moved the ball around well.
“I think we’ll have to tighten up the rims a month before we head down to any Alaska tournament from now on. Their rims are a little bit tighter than our Canadian rims are.”
However, the Warriors did pick up a win, going 40-26 over Alaska’s Angoon Eagles before losing 41-31 to Juneau’s Thunder Mountain Falcons.
Over their three games, Warriors’ Nicole Bendera produced 24 points, Markie Bailie 17 and captain Nesha Wright 11. Amassing the most was point guard Jennifer Curtis with 33. Curtis and Wright were named to the tournament All-Star team.
“Jennifer also competes in biathlon so her time is pretty limited to how much training we can do,” said Jirousek. “We also didn’t have (teammate) Dahria Beatty because of skiing, so we were fortunate to have Jennifer along. This is her fourth year playing senior basketball. She started in Grade 9 with me, as well as Nesha, so it’s nice to see them … able to carry quite a bit of the load now.”
The Vanier Crusaders was the only Whitehorse girls team to leave with a winning record. It defeated Angoon 43-17 and Thunder Mountain 41-40 – the closest game on the girls’ side of the tournament.
Down by one, with just a few seconds left, Crusader Colleen Prenoslo gave a pass to Shae-Lynn Boyko, who drained it from the side of the key for the win over Thunder Mountain.
“We weren’t sure how well we’d do because you always hear of how well trained the U.S. teams are – basketball is their sport – so I was really pleased with the performance of the girls,” said Crusaders head coach Ed Frison. “As the tournament went on, they just got better.”
Leading the charge for the Crusaders, who won their first two Super Hoop games of the season in Whitehorse, was Prenoslo with 40 points at the tournament. Teammate Robyn Fortune sunk 24 points worth and Boyko 22.
“Defensively, I’d have to say Colleen (Prenoslo) and Hannah (Frison) were top guns there,” said coach Frison. “I think it was our defence that really shined through and allowed us to win the last two games – certainly the last one.
“Offensively, Robin (Fortune) was up there in points and Colleen (Prenoslo) was up there in points, but it was a shared thing. We don’t do a positional offence, we try to maintain a motion offence and that way keep everything pretty balanced.”
Like the Warriors, the Porter Creek Rams were held to one win, going 27-21 over the Angoon Eagles. They lost 46-13 to Thunder Mountain and 47-11 to Skagway.
“I’m really happy with the performance of the girls,” said Rams head coach Trevor Hale. “We haven’t had a lot of games, so to go into Skagway and play the two-time defending state champions, and play them hard, was a real accomplishment for us.
“We’re in a major rebuilding year. There’s basically 14 girls playing basketball at Porter Creek between (Grades) 9 to 12, so it’s tough to put a real solid group on the floor. If the girls had in skill what they have in heart, we’d be flying.”
A building year indeed. Having lost many of its top players to graduation last year, the Rams went to Skagway with two Grade 10s and two Grade 9s on the team, including Hannah Milner, who was third on the team in scoring with 12 points.
The biggest producer for the Rams was captain Amanda Mervyn with 15, followed by Megan Lanigan with 13.
“We graduated hard last year,” said Hale. “We’re in a rebuilding year, but the future looks good.”
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