Written by Peter de Vooght
Important note: Pitt was killing the warm up to the game with retro Adidas Air Force logoed green warm ups giving them a solid first impression to appreciative spectators. As we looked forward to the actual game from the press booth, it appeared that physically these teams should be evenly matched.
In an interesting note, the NWT team is made up of players from Yellowknife's two high schools: St. Patrick's and Sir John Franklin. Neither school has enough students to field an entire team, therefore the two schools combine for the 11 players that are here for the ‘No Regrets’ tournament. At home the boys actually play in a men's league since they have nobody else their age to play. A big thank you to the dedicated NWT coaches for allowing these young men an opportunity to play the game they love. Playing a bunch of other high school students should be a walk in the park compared to their games back home!
On the other side Pitt Meadows head coach Rich Goulet comes into the tournament with a young team that is still finding its identity. No doubt his 47 years of coaching senior boys basketball, 38 of which have been at Pitt Meadows, will serve to create a competitive team in the tournament and as their season unfolds.
At the tip, the centres for both teams, Pitt’s # 34, Giovanni, and NWT #35, Liam Larocque, look to be geared up for a tough 1 on 1 matchup down low. Early on it is clear coach Rich Goulet certainly hasn’t lost his spark as he confidently directs the Pitt team from his chair.
Starting into the first quarter the common theme was the quickness of NWT guard #7, Patrick Yatco, carving up the Pitt defense. But Pitt’s #34 was a steadying force on offense as he finished strong at the rim and was having his way on the offensive glass. NWT pushed the tempo every time up the floor with #7 leading a deadly fast break. A few slick finishes from #9, Moe Gassim, made it a close game halfway through the first quarter. The length of NWT’s backcourt made it extremely difficult for Pitt’s guards to get any clean looks. However Pitt’s tight offensive set continued to get them opportunities, albeit contested ones.
There was great energy from the NWT bench as their defensive chants definitely got into the heads of their opponents with a few resulting turnovers. An enormous block from NWT #35 served as an exclamation mark on this first quarter performance and he even made a 3 from beyond the arc to show his range. Score after 1st quarter NWT 19 - 14 PM.
Going into the second quarter Pitt had yet to find an answer for big NWT #35 as he continued to pound the ball down low. Nothing seemed to be going right for Pitt in the second with shots not falling and turnovers that led to easy fast breaks for NWT. Pitt #5, Mateo, and #1, Tato, hit much needed back to back 3’s midway through the second as they clawed their way back into the game. Things started to get a bit tense on both sides as these teams clearly knew the importance of a win on opening night. Continuing with their newfound momentum, Pitt got into an offensive rhythm and took a four point lead with two minutes left in the half.
At halftime #35 appears to be winning the battle of the bigs with a number of impact plays and 9 points. Halftime score PM 33 - 28 NWT.
· Leading scorers:
· NWT #35 Liam Larocque & #7 Patrick Yatco with 9 points each
· Pitt #1 Tato 8 points
· Foul trouble:
· Pitt #15 Ryan with 3 fouls
Both teams came out trading baskets in the third quarter as it appeared both squads were finding their touch on offense. Should either team buckle down on defense, it could steal the game. Things continued to be tight midway through the third with only six points separating them. Pitt is using a balanced attack while NWT is relying on their deadly duo of #7 and #35. PM 46 - 39 NWT at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The tension boiled over with a pair of technical fouls. It was increasingly clear how much both of these teams wanted the win. The teams and coaches showed high intensity as the offenses continue to pump out buckets. For NWT to win this game they needed to lock down Pitt’s guard play. As the 4th quarter progressed, the effects of the long journey and time change appeared to be catching up with NWT as the players tired down the stretch. But they did not quit. An ‘And-One’ from Pitt’s #15, Ryan, seemed to be a decisive moment in securing the W. All credit to NWT credit though as they certainly did not lie down. They continued to crash the boards, trying to chip away at PM’s lead. Unfortunately, with two minutes left, it seemed to be too little too late with Pitt stretching its advantage to 17 points. Realizing their fate, NWT cleared the bench and allowed the younger guys to get some playing time. It turned into a comfortable win for Pitt, but with some excellent raw talent on the NWT side they will definitely be fun to watch over the weekend. Final score PM 73 - 51 NWT.