It was a weekend spent on the hardwood for Grades 9/10 students as they played in the Yukon Schools Athletic Association Basketball Winter Classic Tournament.
After hard-fought games throughout, it was the Vanier Crusaders who came out on top of the Yukon basketball world.
Both girls’ and boys’ teams secured the wins in the championship games to earn two new banners to be hung on their gym wall.
Vanier girls outlast F.H.
The girls’ final opened the medal games. It was an action-packed contest even though it was low scoring. Vanier withstood a late F.H. Collins Warriors push to win 16-15.
The Crusaders looked like the stronger team in the first 20 minutes of the final - the games ran as they would in the NCAA, two 20 minute halfs.
Vanier used a strong defensive effort to build a large lead in the first frame.
They met the Crusaders ball-handlers near half and forced them into turnovers.
In the paint, the Crusaders stayed vertical and got their hands in the face of shooters forcing difficult shots.
Crusaders’ player Jewnwel Junsay said defence has been a point of emphasis during practice.
“We try to stay on D and try and push hard and watch our space,” said Junsay.
The Warriors eventually found their offence near the end of the first stanza.
They attacked the Vanier defence.
Because of their attack, F.H. got into the bonus and scored the majority of their points from the foul line.
Vanier led 14-5 after one.
The complexion of the game changed in the second, it was all Warriors.
F.H. got out on the break and scored easy buckets under the hoop. With 6:44 remaining, the Warriors cut the lead to two and then tied it shortly after.
Wel said even during the comeback the Crusaders just tried to stay calm.
“The big scoreboard was broken so we didn’t know what the score was,” said Junsay. “We just played our game and tried not to make any mistakes or fouls.
“Basically, we just tried to stay on D, stay calm and stay on our checks.”
With time waning, Junsay attacked the basket and drew a foul for a chance at two free-throws.
She missed the first but buried the second to put her team up by one. It was the point they needed as they took the game 16-15.
F.H. had their chances to take the lead, but the ball just wouldn’t pass through the cylinder.
Junsay said the Warriors have been one of their biggest rivals all year and it’s always a good battle when they play.
“They played really great,” said Junsay. “They played really hard and they are one of our biggest competitors this season.”
Vanier boys defeat Rams
The Vanier Crusaders and Porter Creek Rams capped off the Basketball Winter Classic Tournament in an entertaining game. The Crusaders used a strong second half to pull ahead and win the title 54-33.
It was a back-and-forth first half. Both teams brought their A-game. The defence on each side of the ball but was matched by even better offence.
The teams scored in a variety of ways, at the hoop, fast-breaks and even some threes were buried.
Vanier built a small cushion going near the end of the frame and went into the second half up 26-21.
The Crusaders in the second half were unrelenting on defence. They smothered the Porter Creek ball handlers, intercepted the passes out of the double team and got out on the break.
On offence, they whipped the ball around the three-point arc, breaking down the Rams defence. Using their quick passes, they got to the rim, and if not, they dished out to open shooters.
Vanier pushed to the final buzzer and defeated the Rams 54-33.
Crusaders guard, Ethan Wilkes, said it was nice to get the win over Porter Creek, who defeated them earlier in the day.
“We got beat by this team this morning but we came back really strong,” said Wilkes. “I’m really happy.
“They came at us hard. P.C. never gives up, every time we face them.”
Wilkes said the team made adjustments to their defence in their rematch with Porter Creek.
“It was, even if we got up we got to go hard like it’s first tip,” said Wilkes.
“It was just go hard on defence. The first game, we started slacking and we lost. We kept the pressure this game and came out with the win.”
Wilkes continued to praise the team’s defence saying it was what they worked on all year.
In the second, the Crusaders crashed the boards hard and generated plenty of second-chance opportunities. Wilkes said this helped them win the championship.
“Justin Flores had 13 rebounds and that’s nuts,” said Wilkes. “That’s the game changers right there. We are really small so 13 rebounds makes a big, big difference.”
On offence, because the team is small, Wilkes said they like to pass the ball around to get open threes. However, in the final, it was their drives getting them the buckets.
“We like those open threes,” said Wilkes. “It was actually surprising how many lay-ups we got. I was not expecting that many. This game I don’t know what happened. Everyone was just feeling it I guess.”
In their first game against the Rams, Wilkes said they took a lot of contested threes. During the final, he said the whole team was “feeling it” on offence.