Alaska dunks NWT again

Boys and girls basketball teams fall in gold ulu finals at 2016 Arctic Winter Games

James McCarthy | Nuuk, Greenland
March 11, 2016

Both of the NWT’s basketball teams at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games knew the road to gold would be paved through Alaska.

Problem was The Last Frontier put up a big roadblock this time around.

Walter Strong/NNSL photo Nuuk, Greenland - March 11, 2016 - Deline's Tristin Dolphus spins the ball while she eyes up her free throw, revealing AWG 2016 markings during the girls basketball final game.

Walter Strong/NNSL photo
Nuuk, Greenland – March 11, 2016 – Deline’s Tristin Dolphus spins the ball while she eyes up her free throw, revealing AWG 2016 markings during the girls basketball final game.

The girls were up first and right off the bat, Alaska used its size and speed to overpower the NWT. In the end, the scoreboard showed just how overpowering it was – a 94-46 win.

“We outshot them but that’s just the way sports goes sometimes.”
-Aaron Wells

Coach Nikki Grobbecker said it simply wasn’t meant to be.

“We all had to come in 100 per cent ready to go and it just didn’t go our way,” she said. “Alaska put up a good fight and we knew it was going to be tough.”

Because the NWT didn’t have a large presence in the paint, Grobbecker had to change the game plan to make up for a lack of a post player down low. The other thing Grobbecker had to contend with was quick Alaskan guards who could hit the fast-break at any time.

“They can make some quick moves because of that and they’re tough to defend against,” she said.

The fast break forced Grobbecker to also back off of the press and employ a two-three defensive stance, which sees two players stay up high and the other three players down low.

The big positive, though, is that the girls got back to the gold ulu game for a second straight Games and that’s a success in Grobbecker’s eyes.

She said the team worked extremely hard to return to the big game.

“It’s something they should be proud of and it’s a huge accomplishment,” she said.

There was a scare for Team NWT in the third quarter as Deline’s Tristan Dolphus hit the ground hard and suffered a suspected concussion after being fouled. She was taken from the venue in an ambulance and there’s no word on her condition as of Friday.

Walter Strong/NNSL photo Nuuk, Greenland - March 11, 2016 - Yellowknife's Patrick Yatco passes off to teammate Gabe Klengenberg during the gold medal boys basketball final.

Walter Strong/NNSL photo
Nuuk, Greenland – March 11, 2016 – Yellowknife’s Patrick Yatco passes off to teammate Gabe Klengenberg during the gold medal boys basketball final.

The boys, meanwhile, walked into the gold ulu game against Alaska as the defending champions, but they looked like anything but in the early going. In fact, neither team looked as if they wanted to win as points came at a premium. But Alaska was simply too strong down the stretch and ended up going away winners, 65-52.

Coach Aaron Wells said it was an struggle offensively, just like the first game against them.

“We just couldn’t get our shots going,” he said. “We’re usually a good outside shooting team but we just struggled. We outshot them but that’s just the way sports goes sometimes.”

The boys did run into some undisciplined play in the third quarter which cost them a few points thanks to free throws but Wells said he didn’t think that cost the team at all.

“The bench technical foul was a bad one to take and I don’t know who said what,” he said. “I don’t think that was an issue.”

More than half of this team will have a chance to come back two years from now when the Games are in the South Slave region and Wells said this was a chance for them to see what it’s all about.

“It’s a learning experience for them,” he said. “We’ll take these guys to nationals later this year and we’ll be better having done this. A silver medal is a big achievement and these kids will see that down the road.”