The Bay from Cambridge Bay returned the scene of arguably one of their biggest triumphs ever in basketball: the Arctic Shoot-Out in Yellowknife earlier this month.

They came in as the defending champions on the men’s side and they went out still the champs but they went through a war to do it.

The Bay was taken to double overtime in the men’s final of this year’s tournament and overcame Team Dwayne Johnson by a score of 98-96 in one of the best basketball games ever seen in the North. It was a reversal of fortunes from the round-robin meeting between the two teams as The Bay were beaten in a game which also went to overtime.

Nathaniel Cziranka-Crooks of Cambridge Bay looks to get past the guard of Yellowknife’s Simon Markowski during the men’s final of the Arctic Shoot-Out basketball tournament in Yellowknife on May 12.
James McCarthy/NNSL photo

Peter Ohokanoak, the team’s captain, said the final was all about seeing who had more gas left in the tank.

“It’s a marathon weekend every year but then you remember that your opponents are just as tired and burned out as you are,” he said. “You just have to dig deep and we just dug a bit deeper.”

It wasn’t the easiest of rides to the final this year for the Bay as they lost its first two round-robin games and needed to win the third just to sneak into the playoffs. Fortunately for them, they did that and the run was on.

The final was just as much a nip-and-tuck affair as the round-robin meeting with the lead changing hands more than once. The waning moments of regulation time saw Team Dwayne Johnson up by three but The Bay had the last possession in regulation. They put the ball in the hands of Nathaniel Cziranka-Crooks and Travis Schindel of Yellowknife, who played with The Bay on the weekend, described how it all went down.

“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.”

That sent the game into bonus basketball and Ohokanoak said the job was to see who could outdo one another at that point.

“I think both teams thought about that – who’s going to make the big play?,” he said.

The first overtime session solved nothing, meaning a second overtime period was needed, and the closeness still prevailed. Down the stretch, it was Team Dwayne Johnson that had the last possession and they went for the win but Simon Markowski’s three-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out, giving The Bay the victory and a second straight crown.

“That’s the first time we’ve beaten that team,” said Ohokanoak. “Last year, we beat Fort Simpson (NWT) in the final and that was wild but this year, we finally beat Simon’s team. Hats off to them, though, because they’re one of the best teams in the North.”

Ohokanoak said both titles are satisfying and while the first one is the one he’ll always remember, winning it a second time makes it so much better.

“It’s such a relief to be able to defend that title,” he said. “You can never take away the feeling of winning it the first time but this year was more of a business trip. We had a job to do and I couldn’t be happier for the boys.”

And in case you’re wondering, the plans are already underway for a return trip and a shot at a three-peat.

“We always like going to Yellowknife because it’s such a great tournament,” said Ohokanoak. “But I know Simon and his team want another crack at us.”

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