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BATTLING FOR POSSESSION – Crusaders player Josh Rumbaoa (5) fights the Thorne Bay player for the ball during the championship game of the Don Hather Tourney in Skagway over the weekend. Photo submitted by JEFF BRADY

Crusaders prospect for gold in Alaska

The Vanier Crusaders travelled to Skagway for the Don Hather Tourney over the weekend.

By John Tonin on January 8, 2019

The Vanier Crusaders travelled to Skagway for the Don Hather Tourney over the weekend.

The boy’s team went undefeated on route to the finals where they overcame a late surge by Thorne Bay to edge out the gold medal winning 58-55.

Since the tournament came on the heels of the holidays, the Crusaders had little to no opportunities to practice beforehand. Head coach Sean McCarron had one message for the team.

“Play excellent defence,” said McCarron over the phone. “With not a lot of practices lately it is hard to get into an offensive rhythm, but you can always play defence.

“If you are having troubles scoring, then you have to make sure the other team is not getting easy baskets. The defence stepped up in the final and got steals and forced bad shots. We are not a big team so we use our speed and athleticism to our advantage. We usually play man-to-man, but we did use some zone in other games of the tournament. We had a strategy for every team.”

The Crusaders, according to McCarron, won their four previous games fairly comfortably.

However, in the championship game, the team had to contend with a late rally by Thorne Bay to hold on for the win.

“We stormed out to a 15-2 lead, we played really well to start the game,” said McCarron.

“We were up 10-15 points the whole game. In the fourth, our legs got the worst of us and we got fatigued.”

Thorne Bay managed to pull ahead by one point with two minutes remaining, but the Crusaders were able to get a key three-pointer and although they shot a poor 1-7 from the free-throw line, the one make was enough to seal the win.

The Crusaders are a younger team featuring seven Grade 11s and only three Grade 12s. Regardless of age and their inexperience in the jump in intensity, McCarron says the team persevered.

“In senior, teams aren’t intimidated,” said McCarron. “The American teams usually have a few Grade nine players so they have no fear. The team found ways to persevere and adapt and found ways to win.”

In the Crusaders first game of the Superhoops season, they jumped out to a large lead over the Porter Creek Rams in the first half only to see it evaporate, eventually resulting in a loss.

The ability to finish teams off is one thing McCarron says his team needs to work on.

“We got to get better at finishing the other teams,” said McCarron. “We were on fumes near the end, the team who executes and stays out of foul trouble will be able to win.”

McCarron said the tournament was really good, and that it is always intense.

“One big difference is that they (the American teams) pick up full court more and are more aggressive on defence,” said McCarron. Competition in Alaska is very intense, they are all gunning for the state championships. One thing that is really different is there is no shot clock in Alaska.”

After prospecting and finding gold in Alaska, the Crusaders will now focus their attention on the rest of the Superhoops season.

“I’ve got a long list of improvements going forward but the team is getting the process,” said McCarron. “This was a good confidence boost for us in how we were able to adjust to different teams. Versatility is key going forward, and we will see if we have the formula to compete with F.H. and Porter Creek.”

McCarron said his team deserved all five wins in the tournament.

“It’s not always about the wins it’s about how you are getting those wins and are they making you better?” said McCarron. “You don’t mind losing if the team leaves everything on the court and executes properly, you can build off of that.”

Other notable finishes from Yukon teams include the F.H. Warriors and the Vanier Crusaders girls’ teams both making it to the semifinals before falling to teams from Klawock, the eventual champion, and Thunder Mountain.

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