When it comes to championship games in tournament play, they’re either studs or duds.
Never let it be said that this year’s games weren’t duds and while they may not have had the thrill of Kawhi Leonard’s rattler to win in Toronto on Sunday, they were still exciting.
The girl’s champions this year are the Deton Cho Eagles as they knocked off the Funky Bunch in an all-Yellowknife affair, 62-57, a game which Eagles head coach Aaron Wells said was a back-and-forth affair for most of it.
“There was probably five or six lead changes and I don’t think anyone had more than a six-point lead throughout the whole game,” he said.
In a game as tight as this one, there was bound to be a run of some sort and it came for the Eagles in the fourth quarter as they went on an 8-0 clip to nose their way out in front.
“I kept telling the girls in every timeout or every break we had the our run was coming,” said Wells. “Three minutes left is when we went on our run and got somewhat of a comfortable lead, not that any lead is really comfortable, but that run kind of sealed the deal for us.”
From there, the Funky Bunch was forced to foul to stop the clock, putting the Eagles on the line every single time as they were in the bonus situation, and Wells said he wasn’t worried whenever that situation popped up.
“We have a good free throw-shooting team and I had faith in whoever is on the floor that we can hit them,” he said. “That being said, we definitely made sure our 80 per cent or higher shooters were out there.”
The Eagles went unbeaten in the tournament, which mirrored their season in the Yellowknife Basketball Association as they went unbeaten during the regular season and through the playoffs as well.
Wells said this was the cherry on top of a great season.
“That’s a pretty big accomplishment,” he said. “I know the girls had a hard time in this tournament last year so this was a great way to close it out in Yellowknife.”
While the women’s game was a nip-and-tuck affair, the men’s game was a marathon. Literally.
The Bay from Cambridge Bay returned to defend its title as they went up against Team Dwayne Johnson from Yellowknife and it ended up becoming one of the best games of basketball seen in Yellowknife in quite some time.
The Bay ended up on top after a double-overtime thriller, 98-96, in a game which featured several swings of momentum, last-second heroics and plenty of excitement for everyone.
The Bay had to do it the hard way this time after losing their first two round-robin game but bounced back to win the third and never lost a game after that.
Travis Schindel joined up to play with the champs this year and said it was a hungry team that went out for the playoffs.
“The boys handled the Hawks well in the semifinal,” he said. “It was a close game at halftime but we closed it out.”
The last-second heroics came courtesy of Nathaniel Cziranka-Crooks from The Bay as he drained a three-pointer in the dying seconds of regulation time to send it into bonus basketball.
“We’re down three with four seconds to go,” said Schindel. “We called a timeout, got our shooters on the floor, the ball skips over to Nathaniel, pump fakes and strokes the three.”
The first overtime period solved nothing – though Schindel admitted his team should have won it then – and so it was off to a second overtime.
“We just kept on pushing, kept on taking it to the hoop and we knew it would happen,” said Schindel.
Team Dwayne Johnson had the final possession of the overtime session and they went for the win as Simon Markowski took a contested three-point attempt but it rimmed out, giving The Bay the win and a successful defence of their title.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” said Schindel. “They fundraised a lot to get here and it’s a real dedicated group of guys. It was a grind this year and I’m black and blue all over but it was a great weekend.”