Destined to lose six of their top players to graduation this spring, the FH Collins Warriors will face an uphill battle next season.
In the meantime, the team can enjoy the fruits of victory – they defeated the Vanier Crusaders 67-56 in the senior boys’ final of the Yukon High School Basketball Championships at FH Collins Secondary on Thursday.
“I tried my hardest and played through the whole game and played with my team – basically went out and had fun,” said Warrior senior and tournament All-Star Joaquin McWatters. “We meshed in the second half pretty good. The third quarter we clicked, helped each other out.”
The Warriors lost 58-37 to Vanier in their previous encounter, pushing them to the bottom of the draw where they met the Porter Creek Rams, advancing to the final with a 73-59 win on Wednesday.
The Warriors took control in the second quarter of the final, growing a 12-9 lead to 30-18.
“We really make the game hard on ourselves; we make games that we should blow out into close games,” said Warriors head coach Jamie Shaw. “We did that tonight by missing easy layups.
“But our defence tonight was outstanding and we really forced them to do some things they didn’t want to do. And our offence started to come around in the second half.”
Leading the Warriors in points was senior Dylan Salvisberg with 20, followed by Tanner Coyne with 19, two of the six seniors, including captain Riley Simpson-Fowler and McWatters, the team will be without next season.
But things aren’t that bleak. The tournament MVP was Warrior Brian Hermosa, who is in just Grade 9, scoring 19 points with two three-pointers in the final.
“We have three strong kids returning in Owen Hedstrom-Langford, Brian Hermosa, Ken Valdez also in the ninth grade,” said Shaw. “And Owen is only in the tenth grade, so those guys will be around for awhile. So the future bodes well for this team.”
“He played a really good game,” said McWatters of Hermosa. “He’s a junior and he was outstanding on defence and offence.”
Going 16-for-62 from the floor and missing on every three-point attempt, the Crusaders weren’t in peak form. But helping keep Vanier in the game, especially in the third quarter, was tournament All-Star Jake Jacobs, with a smoking outside shot, scoring 18 of 22 points in the second half.
“He was challenged at halftime quite harshly,” said Crusaders head coach Sean McCarron. “We challenged him at halftime to make things happen and he responded really well.”
“We didn’t play our best game,” he added. “In the two games previous to that, in our wins over Porter Creek and FH, we shot the ball really well, we moved the ball really well, we defended the key well, and tonight we didn’t do those three things.”
Next season won’t be any cakewalk for the Crusaders either, losing six of their nine players.
In the girls’ final on Wednesday, FH Collins downed Porter Creek 70-54, going undefeated at the tournament.
Jake Jacobs (Vanier)
Gerard New (Vanier)
Joaquin McWatters (FH Collins)
Tanner Coyne (FH Collins)
Brady Bonnycastle (Porter Creek)
MVP Brian Hermosa (FH Collins)
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org