The return of a few key players and a big second half was a winning recipe for the FH Collins Warriors in the senior girls finals of the Yukon High School Basketball Championships at home on Thursday.
After taking a l0-point loss to the Porter Creek Rams in the Super Hoops final, the Warriors welcomed Dahria Beatty, Jennifer Curtis and co-captain Kendra Murray back from the Canada Winter Games in Halifax, to help go undefeated in the championships and win 70-54 over the Rams in the final.
“Everybody got in, so it was a really team effort,” said Warriors head coach Ann Jirousek. “They collapsed on Dahria quite well tonight, and we figured they would, so we had a lot of different options to run off of that.”
The Rams’ attempt to keep Beatty
weighed down was for good reason. Not only did Beatty lead the game in scoring with 31 points, she scored 13 of her team’s 14 points in the first quarter.
However, it wasn’t until the final minutes of the first half that the Warriors started to pull away. After finishing the first quarter down 15-14, the Warriors expanded a 22-20 lead to 27-20 in the two minutes before half with a pair of outside baskets from Nicole Bendera and Curtis and a free-throw from Beatty.
The Warriors then widened the gap further to 33-20 with two more outside shots from Nesha Wright and captain Helen Hedstrom-Langford, in addition to a steal and conversion from Murray.
“I think we calmed down during halftime,” said Hedstrom-Langford. “I think in the first half we were playing a little scattered. So at half we decided to slow it down, see if we could control the ball more, and that seemed to work.”
“Their press rushed us, and I think they got nervous – they didn’t have any problem beating it the entire first half,” said Rams head coach Trevor Hale. “There was a real sense of urgency and we just started throwing the ball away. I can’t put my finger on it; I was trying to figure it out all night. We went from keeping this press steady to throwing the ball away.”
The majority of the Rams’ third-quarter points came from free-throws, and mostly from Jenna Blanchette, sinking seven of nine from the line. Unfortunately for the Rams, Blanchette, who led her team with 19 points, missed the fourth quarter due to another engagement. Teammates Shannon Thompson and tournament All-Star Katie Lowey also missed the fourth after fouling out.
With the win beyond reach, the Rams did mitigate the loss in the final second, with Shelby Hurlburt sinking a three-pointer from mid-court at the buzzer.
“It was a good game, they came out strong – they’re a good team, I have a lot of respect for them,” said Hedstrom-Langford. “We just wanted to bring our A-game and get it done. We talked about what we needed to do and it worked out well.”
Following Beatty in scoring for the Warriors was Wright with 10 points and Murray with eight. Not only is Murray, along with Beatty, going to the Haywood Ski Nationals this week, she was selected as the tournament MVP after the final.
“She’s an amazing athlete – she’s going to ski nationals tomorrow morning, so I wasn’t sure how much her and Darhia would play,” said Hedstrom-Langford. “I’ve played with her for five years and she’s a great person, a great player – she’s actually my co-captain.”
The Rams’ other top scorers were Kerstin Burnett with 12 points and Thompson with eight.
The girls’ final was originally scheduled for before the boys’ final on Thursday, but the Rams and the Vanier Crusaders – who finished third (last) – consented to moving it up a day so the Warriors could compete with their full squad.
“The other teams were quite gracious of the change, because we would have been missing Kendra and Dahria,” said Jirousek. “And Kendra is in Grade 12, so this was her final game.”
Robyn Fortune (Vanier)
Jenna Thompson (Porter Creek)
Helen Hedstrom-Langford (FH Collins)
Katie Lowey (Porter Creek)
Dahria Beatty (FH Collins)
MVP Kendra Murray (FH Collins)
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com