Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

EYES ON THE RIM – Ethan Wilkes takes an off-balanced jumper during the Ice Cold Invitational tournament, a series of intrasquad games, Friday at Vanier Catholic Secondary School.

Image title

Photo by John Tonin

UP AND UNDER — Angelo Caringal skies under the basket during the Ice Cold Invitational intrasquad tournament at Vanier Catholic Secondary school on Friday.

Crusaders basketball still getting after it

Because of COVID-19, the city's three high schools are not competing in their usual season.

By John Tonin on February 9, 2021

Because of COVID-19, the city's three high schools are not competing in their usual season.

In a normal, non-pandemic year, Superhoops would be in full swing and the Yukon Championships would be on the horizon. Those athletes who play club ball also don't have Outside tournaments to look forward to.

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the Vanier Crusaders are still finding ways to get competitive games in, so when the stakes are again high, they will be ready.

"I want to give them the competitive atmosphere," said Vanier coach Sean McCarron. "They aren't doing their regular trips with school or club ball and there is no season.

"They have been missing the ability to compete."

To have the athletes vie in game-like scenarios, McCarron set up weekly tournaments on Friday afternoons where the hoopers could apply what they learned in practice.

"So far, we are two weeks in, I am happy with their focus and their care level," said McCarron. "This is a way to have fun, let them compete, and earn some bragging rights."

McCarron said his basketball experiences growing up led to the inspiration to hold the weekly tournaments.

"You have your season but the rest of the year it is all pick-up ball," he said. "You are on your own, self-coaching. I want these tournaments to have that feel."

Vanier was also the home to spring league, drop-in pick up games before the pandemic hit.

The first mini-tournament was on Jan. 29 and was aptly named the Tip-off Classic. On that day, Team Gage defeated Team Sam 14-13. The senior players were made captains of the four teams.

On Friday, the event had a rebrand to the Ice Cold Invitational. After an intense set of games, the title contest came down to a rematch of the Tip-off Classic.

Although the same teams, Team Gage and Team Sam, the outcome was different.

The games are played in the half-court, two games go simultaneously. On Friday, they played four-on-four. Each contest is 13 minutes unless the score is close; then they play first to 11, as an example.

During the game action, McCarron films the players and splices together video afterward.

"I use it as a coaching opportunity," said McCarron. "I show them positive and negative plays, call them out and also compliment them.

"It also allows me to figure out what needs to be changed. On Tuesdays, we practise. So this week we will work on finishing, footwork and spacing. They need to be unpredictable."

Although the games are for bragging rights, McCarron said there is an eye toward next season.

"It isn't just for fun," said McCarron. "We are looking to build to next year's team. You can think of it as an extended tryout because I won't be able to keep over 24 boys.

"Right now, they have their long-term goals and they are getting in the reps and they are getting better."

McCarron said he plans to run the league right through to the summer, or at least go until graduation. After the March break, he said, he will do a re-draft of the teams so the players get an opportunity to play with different kids.

Although, as McCarron said, there is "no substitute for the competitive games," the Crusaders hoopers are still getting after it, preparing for when they can compete against other schools and teams again.

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