The winds of change blew through the Don Hather Basketball Tournament in Skagway, Alaska, on the weekend.
Hurricane-force winds of change.
At the tournament, in which every game is a match-up between Whitehorse and Alaska teams and is scored as Canada versus the U.S., the Whitehorse senior high school teams went winless in nine games.
The U.S.‘s clean sweep comes after Canada won the boys’ side of the tournament the three previous years between 2010 and 2012.
Representing Whitehorse were senior boys teams: the F.H. Collins Warriors, the Vanier Crusaders and the Porter Creek Rams.
“We were just outclassed down here,” said Rams head coach Paul MacDonald. “We’re down here for the experience and I was happy with their effort. But it’s the same old story: we’re up against kids who have been playing a high level of basketball all their lives. Basketball is king in Alaska.”
The Porter Creek Rams came the closest to pocketing a win, losing 38-37 to the Skagway Panthers Saturday evening. The game was Alaska’s fifth victory of the tournament, clinching the win for the Americans.
The one-point loss followed what was almost a massive comeback by Porter Creek.
After falling behind 22-2 in the first quarter, the Rams pulled within 10 points of the Panthers on consecutive steals and layups by Peter Jensen in the third.
Rams’ Myles Blattman then made a steal and fed it to captain Breyin Wiens who sunk a hook shot to make it 38-37 with two minutes to play. Wiens then had a shot rattle out of the basket in the final seconds of the game.
Jensen and Wiens finished the game with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
“They have a lot of heart, they have a lot of drive, they pick their teammates up when the going gets tough,” said MacDonald.
The Crusaders, who are the only undefeated team in Super Hoops (the Whitehorse senior high school league), let momentum slip away during a 54-33 loss to the Juneau-Douglas High School Bears from Juneau.
Vanier had a 19-18 lead at the halftime buzzer, but a late foul by Crusaders captain Josh Tobias gave the Bears’ Jacob Thibodeau three free-throws, all of which he hit.
“He’s my starting point-guard, but he’s only Grade 10,” said Crusaders head coach Sean McCarron of Tobias. “So he’s got a great future, but he has to learn that some of those decisions are not in the best interest of him or the team – that was his third foul, so it put him in foul trouble.”
“In the first half they were full-court pressing us and they were really crowding the back-court. So we were able to break their press most of the time, which allows us to fast break. In the second half they were able to knock down shots. They made a lot of outside shots, made their free-throws. They’re a good shooting team.”
The tournament ended Sunday with a 10-point game as the Warriors lost 54-44 to the Panthers.
“We missed a lot of layups – a lot of easy points – so we make the game really hard on ourselves,” said Warriors head coach James Shaw. “Our guys calmed down to make it a close game, but the deficit from the first half was just too much for us to come back from.”
Also competing for the U.S. was the Thunder Mountain Falcons from Juneau.
All three Whitehorse teams were missing valuable players. Some were out with injuries and Filipino nationals were unable to cross the border into the U.S.
“When you’re missing your starting point-guard – that’s the hardest position on the court,” said Shaw. Ken Valdez “couldn’t come across the border.
“Injuries hurt some of the teams. Kyle Wallace didn’t get to play today and that’s a big factor when you have an experienced player who doesn’t get to play,” he added.
“We only had two guys on the bench,” said MacDonald. “Two of my starters from the regular season weren’t here. And I have two players on my team that are in their first year playing basketball.”
Because the hosting Skagway school was unable to field a female team, the girls’ side of the tournament was cancelled for this year. However, a handful of female players saw game-time with the Panthers and the Crusaders. Playing for Vanier were Colleen Prenoslo and Linsey Eby.
Pronoslo was the Crusaders’ second-highest scorer in Skagway with 23 points, behind Noah Kitchen with 50. Captain Tobias had 22.
Warriors’ Bryan Hermosa led Whitehorse in scoring with 58 points, ahead of captain Owen Hedstrom-Langford with 47.
Wiens, who was named to the tournament All-Star team, was the Rams’ top-scorer with 45 points. Teammate Jensen racked up 29 and Blattman 17.
Hermosa and Tobias were named tournament MVPs, along with Skagway’s Airk Cochran.
Tobias also won the tournament’s free-throw contest Saturday.
“We tried hard, we just couldn’t execute well,” said Shaw. “That was the difference. The Americans are better shooters right now.
“In previous years the Canadian teams were a little bit better.
“We had a chance in all three games and it just came down to execution.”
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