The Yellowknife Eagles basketball program is all done for 2021-22 but not before a couple of teams hit the road for one last shot at the hoop during the long weekend

The Volvo Edmonton Challenge was the event which saw the youngest — U13 — and the oldest — U19 — groups of the program hit the court from May 20 to 22. Both teams competed in the silver division of their respective age categories and both ended up coming away with some success.

The U13 outfit was playing in not only its very first tournament but its first actual official games, period. Head coach Richelle Castillo noticed right away that the girls were in a bit of awe at the whole situation once they took to the court for the first time.

“The girls were really nervous because the atmosphere was totally different from what they’re used to,” she said. “You walk into this large building with so many courts. I think the nerves got to us in our first game but they adapted and overcame the nerves.”

Those nerves may have been the reason why the girls dropped a 48-18 decision in their opening contest to the Northern Hoops Selects of Edmonton. But they managed to right the ship in game two versus Infinity Basketball from La Crete, Alta., as they were victorious, 25-12. Game three was the big one as the U19 girls cam to cheer on the girls but Outwest U13 of Calgary managed to overcome that as they won, 41-29.

“The girls were really starting to get used to things by the second game,” said Castillo. “All eyes were on us in that third game and you could tell the girls were enjoying it.”

They would end up playing one consolation game against the Warriors U13 from Peace River, Alta., and finished on a winning note by a score of 29-16.

“They were pleased with themselves when it was over,” said Castillo. “I think they were surprised with the results — winning two games in Tier 2 in their first tournament together as a team.”

When it comes to the U19 girls, they were playing in the 17U Silver Division and the ages all worked out, said head coach Aaron Wells, even if the team age category looked a bit too old.

“If you’re 17 on Jan. 1, you’re eligible to play,” he said.

The girls would kick off against Supreme Hoops from Calgary and would end up on the wrong end of a 37-23 decision, followed the next day by a close 53-46 loss to the CABC Queens out of Red Deer. They would find the win column in their second game of that day with a 45-36 triumph over the Grads U17 of Edmonton.

“That was a back-and-forth first quarter,” said Wells. “We took the lead in the second quarter and never gave it up after that. There were times where we could’ve pulled away from them but they always found a way to close the gap.”

The final game against Outwest U17 of Calgary was perhaps the wildest. It went to double-overtime with Outwest prevailing, 48-43, in a game which featured a buzzer-beater for Outwest called off at the end of regulation time and sudden-death in the second overtime period after the first extra frame solved nothing.

So the record for the U19 squad was one win and three losses but Wells said the wins and losses weren’t the big thing to take away from this trip.

“The games were closer than they looked,” he said. “This was good for their development and good competition. It was one of those tournaments where we could go back down next weekend and someone else wins and someone else the following weekend. Anyone could have beaten anyone and that’s why our record doesn’t really show how well the girls did.”

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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