The 2019 Arctic Shootout basketball tournament will be a year to remember for the players of the Beaufort Delta True North All Starz, who made it to the semi-finals for the first time in all of their years competing in the tournament.
Dennis Dulay, the organizer, coach and player for the True North All Starz, said he was surprised with the team’s success.
“The last three years that we joined, the first year we didn’t win anything. We went 0-4,” said Dulay. “Last year, we managed to squeeze in one win. It was a very weird, odd, surprising win. We were expecting something similar again, but this year we won three.”
The team finished with a 3-2 record in the Yellowknife tournament, which took place from May 10 to 12.
“Surprisingly, it was a successful run. We don’t expect anything. We just go there, play and participate. But then, we actually ended up winning three games,” he said.
The difference maker, he continued, was the team’s ability to formulate specific strategies against each opposing team.
“We looked into really putting up a game plan against every team that we played. In game, we learned how they were playing and adjusted defense and offense towards that,” he said. “That’s why I think we won a couple of games, because we figured each team, their strength and weaknesses, and we adjusted to it.”
Dulay added that another factor in the team’s success was the addition of Sasha Olekshy, who dominated the paint alongside his teammate Douglas Keevik.
“Sasha and Doug were piling up the points for us. That was our plan too. I knew that they can get their way inside, so that was the plan that I put up,” said Dulay. “They were our first option. Give them the ball anytime we can and punish them down low.”
All of the team’s players came from Inuvik, with the exception of Tuktoyaktuk’s Noah Gruben and Brent Carlyle.
In previous years, Dulay said that the team consisted of around 10 or 11 players. This year, however, they only had seven.
“We were very shorthanded. That was our weakness. We were the shortest team in the tournament. All the other teams were composed of at least 10 players. A full roster,” he said. “Us, we had seven. Two people on the bench. We had a couple players who were supposed to join us but they couldn’t make it.”
This was Dulay’s first year as both a player and coach for the team, a group that he said had exceeded his expectations.
“The guys were fantastic. They were all in. They understood that we have to do our best to win and do whatever we can to win, to make the best of it and enjoy it,” he said.
As for next year’s tournament, Dulay said that he’s hopeful that the team will come back stronger.
“Hopefully we have more guys coming in. I think next year all of our guys are planning to come in. The young guys want to join too,” he said.