They were the champs of the regular season and they’re now the champs of the playoffs as well.
The Avery Cooper Nuggets are atop the mountain in the Yellowknife Basketball Association after defeating the Bureaucrats in the deciding game of the best-of-three final at Sir John Franklin Gymnasium late last month. It was a repeat of last year’s final series, which went the way of the Bureaucrats.
It’s the first championship for the Nuggets and captain Chad Hinchey said it’s a much better feeling being on the winning side of things.
“Matt Craig and I started this team a few years ago and we’ve been in the final three times now, so third time’s the charm,” he said. “The core of this team has been together for a while now and I felt like we had the team to do it. It was just getting over that last bump and we did it this season.”
As mentioned, the Nuggets were the regular season champs, finishing with a record of 18 wins and four losses, two wins better than the Jazz. Finishing first gave the Nuggets top seed in the playoffs, where they awaited the winner of the quarter-final between the WINMAR Spartans and Ideal Woodworking 76ers in the semifinal. The Spartans would emerge victorious, but were promptly swept by the Nuggets.
The Bureaucrats had to take the long way to get to the final. They finished third following the regular season and had to win their quarter-final over the Great Slave Lakers to get into the final four. A sweep of the Jazz in the semifinal put them into the final versus the Nuggets for the second year running, but they weren’t able to repeat this time around.
Hinchey said the difference in the deciding game of the final was Mark Mathisen.
“He just took over the game in the fourth quarter,” he said. “He was doing a bit of everything: hitting big shots, playing great defence.”
Hinchey also said they threw a different defensive set-up at the Bureaucrats in that last game.
“When you can contain their two best players, that evens things up,” he said. “I felt our defence was really strong and with Mark dropping a bunch, it was ours.”
There’s still some basketball left to be played this season as the Arctic Shoot-Out will tip off this Friday at St. Pat’s and Weledeh Gymnasiums.
Hinchey said the Nuggets won’t be together as a unit for that tournament, but he knows they’ll be well-represented.
“A lot of our guys are already signed up to play with other teams,” he said.