The Tyndall Thunder rolled their way to the championship in the inaugural 3-on-3 Community Classic last week.
The basketball tournament was the first event of the month-long Wesmen Classic at the University of Winnipeg, an annual December tradition now in its 46th year.
The Thunder, a team of 11- and 12-year-old boys selected from the Tyndall Park Thunder team in the Winnipeg Minor Basketball Association, went undefeated on Dec. 3 and 4 at the Duckworth Centre.
The team opened the tournament with a 19-4 win over the Whyte Ridge Warriors, followed it up with a 20-13 victory over the USANA Boys and edged the Junior Bisons ’01 15-13 to earn a spot in the final.
The championship game was a rematch, and was also a close game. The Thunder beat the Bisons 17-11 to take the trophy.
"It was a great learning experience," said coach Ric Guerra. "In 3-on-3 they were able to move much more freely compared to 5-on-5. Plus you can show off your individual skills and do more 1-on-1."
The coach said the best part of the different format was to allow the players much more offensive freedom. They had more room to make cuts to open space and move without the ball, he said.
Guerra said the main goal of the tournament was to find a challenging environment for some of his players who he hopes will move up to the WMBA’s Rising Stars league next season. He said he’s been coaching some of the players for almost four years, and it’s time for them to take their game to the next level.
"After the championship we went to practice (with the regular WMBA team), and we let the players talk to their teammates and share what they had learned," Guerra said.
Playing in a major tournaments setting—the Wesmen Classic continues throughout the month with youth, high school and university competition — was also a first for most of the players.
"It was a huge thing for them," Guerra said. "Three of the five hadn’t experienced playing in that particular venue, playing in a bigger gym with bleachers. It was a great experience for them overall."