It can be assumed that every player competing in Thursday’s basketball game knew it was their best chance to get a win under their belts.
In the end it was the Yukon that got it, making them the first team from the territories—boys or girls—to get a check in the win column.
“We knew they’d be bringing everything they had in playing us,” said Yukon head coach Tim Brady. “That was, in their minds, a winnable game for them and the closest competition they were going to have.”
Although the 84-55 score makes it seem like a one-sided game, Yukon’s boys’ basketball team fought hard through four periods to defeat NWT. While the win was celebrated, the close ties between the teams filled some with mixed emotions.
“For the last three years we had their athletes playing on a combined territorial team (at Nationals), so I know their coaches well and some of their players, so I take no joy out of beating them, but we were playing for keeps today,” said Brady. “We started out with lots of intensity and were pressuring them.”
“For them to come here and compete like they have is to their credit because it’s been difficult for them as well and I think they’ve done a great job with their kids.”
For the second game in a row, Yukon’s Logan Gray produced a double-double, with 13 points and 16 rebounds. But what impressed Brady was other players stepping up, with Logan Boehmer putting 19 on the board plus Riley Simpson-Fowler sinking 15 points worth.
“We had more rebounds than them and we shot better,” said Brady. “We had a great game from Ryan Sutherland, who rebounded and made some lay-ups and moved the ball better.”
Sutherland went from seven points in his team’s previous game to 16 against NWT.
“I think I started out rough in the first couple games and I found the confidence I needed,” said Sutherland. “I was mostly driving in (towards the net) today, but I shot the ball a lot.”
The day before Thursday’s game at Credit Union Place in Summerside, PEI, Yukon had their closest game of the tournament, losing 85-65 to PEI.
“Our goal yesterday was to play one possession at a time, and that’s easier said than done,” said Brady. “And we wanted to win as many hustle-battles as possible within those possessions as we could, and by that I mean we had to box-out and rebound the ball and limit the amount of opportunities for PEI to score, limit our turnovers, get back in transition-defence and get them to attack all five of our guys.
“And they really just worked hard with the intent of getting a little bit better and I think we did that.”
Leading the Yukon against PEI was Gray with 23 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Simpson-Fowler with 10 points and two rebounds.
“I don’t think the score was really indicative of how close it was,” said Brady. “They ran away from us in spurts, but I think we played a little bit better.”
Team Yukon began the Games with a 93-31 loss to Alberta, followed by a 86-35 loss to Nova Scotia.
Friday afternoon Team Yukon will be playing their final game, taking to the court against Newfoundland. With a win they will be leaving the Games with the highly respectable record of 2-3.
“If we could do that we’d just be so happy – to beat Newfoundland would be icing on the cake,” said Brady. “It’ll be a challenge, but we’re hoping to go out with a great effort.”
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