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SILVER LINING – Team Yukon U17 girls pose with their silver medal trophy on May 22 at the Swoosh Volvo Edmonton- Challenge. Most of the girls will be competing at the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games in August.

Yukon U17 girls’ team brings silver home from Edmonton

The Yukon U17 girls’ basketball team has captured silver at the Swoosh Volvo Edmonton Challenge.

By Morris Prokop on June 3, 2022

The Yukon U17 girls’ basketball team has captured silver at the Swoosh Volvo Edmonton Challenge.

The tourney took place May 20-22.

The team will be competing at the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games Aug. 6 to 21.

Team Yukon had 14 players at the tournament. They’re only allowed to take 12 athletes to the Canada Summer Games.

The age range is 13 though 18.

“Because we are the Yukon, we’re allowed a couple of overage players,” explained head coach Jason Peters.

He described what led to the team snagging silver.

“We played a tournament a month before in Edmonton. The girls were extremely nervous. They haven’t really had an opportunity to compete in almost two years just because of COVID. They didn’t feel very worthy of competing and they didn’t think they were ready.

“I do what I always do ... the coaching staff tries to bring fun, so I think we landed on a Thursday at 12:10. By 1:10, we were in the West Edmonton Mall. We let them shop their hearts out for eight hours. Maybe that contributed to our first game – last time we were in Edmonton we didn’t do very well our first game.

“But then something happened, in that second game, where they became competitive. So the second and third game, we lost ... our previous tournament down there – but then we competed and my whole goal is just to compete, knowing that they haven’t played – and then in the consolation final, we ended up winning the game and that was a huge moment for our season.

“And then all of a sudden ... they’re believing they can compete. They know they can compete. And they know they have the talent. Once you wrap that all together, it really helps the rest of your season.

“So we went down to Edmonton last weekend. We flew out – I think it was at 6 a.m., so I knew the first game at 2 p.m. was going to be rough but we powered through it and we won ... you could tell they were tired but adversity is something teams have to adapt to and we did.”

Team Yukon gutted out a win over the CABC Queens, 44-41.

“We came out early on Saturday and we played flat but we won. And that told us – it takes a lot to learn how to win. Learning how to win is a process, I believe. And they’re starting to learn that even if they play flat, they won.”

Team Yukon scratched their way to another win, this time over Outwest U17 in a low-scoring affair, 26-21.

“And then we went into Saturday afternoon to a playoff game – a crossover game. We finished number one in our pool and we played the number two team ... we were flying. We were running the fast break. We were spreading the floor – we were just unstoppable! And our defence all weekend was just insane,” recalled Peters.

“That is our strength. We are building everything around our defence.”

“The other unique thing is our scoring comes from all over the floor. It’s not just one person or two people. It’s everybody. And that’s a sign of a true team.”

Peters went on to describe the team’s philosophy.

“One of the things we’ve decided is we give everybody an opportunity. We almost play them like a hockey bench – minute and a half on the floor and they’re off.

“So run your hearts out, press, run the fast break, do anything you can in that minute and a half, do good things and good things will happen –and everybody plays. I think that’s a little unique, too, because most of the time you have your top eight players at this level but we play all of our team. Every player is on the floor and it’s equal time.”

“The girls are doing an amazing job and we’re really proud of them. They’ve gone from a U12 team to a C17 team in three months. They’re really developing. It’s not just their skill level, but their basketball knowledge and when they ask questions, they ask the right questions. You can tell they’re really engaged in the process.”

Team Yukon easily handled the Warriors BasketBall HSG team from Peace River 51-25.

“We went into the final – this is a really unique experience for me. I’ve been coaching for 33 years and I’ve coached Canada Games before and provincial teams – I’ve never seen a team so tight.

“We did not play well in the final but it’s because they’ve never been in that position where they’re coming home with something and that really had a detrimental effect on our performance in the final.

“Yes, they knew that they would be coming home with a silver but they were just – we missed so many shots. We missed shots that we don’t normally miss. I think we combined for eight missed layups and I think it was 14 ‘bunny shots’ from three feet out and it was just due to their nerves,” recalled Peters.

The Team Yukon girls fell to the Rustlers U17 team 34-12.

“So our step now to rectify that is we’re going to be working with a sports psychologist to help them. Because ... Canada Games is not a small stage. My team will be part of the top 144 basketball players in the country. So when they go out and play Canada Games, it’s a different level. We’re not playing club teams; we’re playing other provinces’ and territories’ best, so we want to make sure that we’re ready for that,” related Peters.

The girls weren’t exactly heartbroken over settling for silver.

“I don’t think it mattered ... they were ecstatic about coming home with something. You could tell they were just so shocked ... a month ago, they didn’t have that belief that they could do that and all of a sudden, coming home with a trophy was a huge thing,” related Peters.

“So we’re playing the long game. We realize Canada Games is going to be tough competition. But what we’re shooting for with this team – we’re looking at the Arctics (Games). We think we’re going to be in a great position – either win it, or come home with a medal, because this group is now believing themselves. That’s all you can ask.”

They’re leaving on the 30th of this month to Langley (B.C.) for the Western Canadian Championships.

“What we’re trying to do is just build on the competitions before Canada Games because it’s so hard here. It’s $10,000 to access a competition, right? With flights, accommodations, tournament fees and meals, so it’s not cheap,” said Peters.

“I’m trying to talk Basketball Yukon into creating a high-performance program on the women’s side because I think that’s what’s needed. I’ve coached back in New Brunswick within the Canada Basketball Nike Centre of Performance a number of years ago and one of my assistant coaches, Natasha, has played in it. She was one of the participants in Saskatchewan. So we do have some knowledge of it and we’d really like to start developing these opportunities.”

The assistant coaches are Natasha Weniger and Diedre Davidson.

Peters pointed out that the team has another unique approach to the game.

“We don’t run an offence. We run options. I hear coach after coach after coach saying ‘I watched your game and I can’t figure out what the hell you’re doing!’ But that’s great, because it’s really hard to defend ... if you don’t know what’s coming.

“What we do is we take every player and we build them up. ‘This is what we want you to do. This is option one, this is option two, this is option three and some of them have up to eight options. And they’re using them during games and that’s why ... I think they’re having so much fun.”

Peters said “I think the coaches are really connecting with the athletes. We’re doing things that it doesn’t sound like have happened before up here.

“We really bring a social side to it, too and that’s what a number of our players are mentioning. A lot of them are individual sport athletes and they’ve never had this ... they really enjoy the team mentality just because they have people to rely on and there’s hanging out together,” Peters added.

“This is probably the nicest team I’ve ever coached. The girls are all so respectful and they show up on time and they thank you after practice and they’re good to each other.

“I’m really happy to be part of the program and happy for the opportunity but I think we’re doing some great things here.

“Don’t be too surprised in the next little while if you start seeing them being on the podium more and more and more.”

Comments (1)

Up 1 Down 2

Susan Close on Jun 3, 2022 at 9:23 pm

I am so impressed with the team energy for collective competition. The coaching team is developing athletic leadership with mindful attention to learning. Their respectful responses reflect the thoughtful way they are being coached. Good luck! We are all cheering for you!

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