Saturday, 17 March 2007

Saturday Morning in Halifax

The City of Halifax's unpredictable March weather threw many of us for a bit of a loop as freezing rain hit the downtown core making driving (and walking the hills) a bit of a challenge. The unpredictability hit the Metro Center as well as each of the 4 league champions were defeated yesterday and last night including #1 seeded Concordia and #2 UBC, setting up a pair of very interesting semi-finals this evening including the hometown St. Mary's Huskies tangling with Brandon and the fourth and final meeting of the season between the bitter National Capital rivals Carleton and Ottawa.

Once again, I remember why I love coming to this event so much and why the many years I've been in Halifax for the Nationals has helped shape my obvious addiction to CIS basketball. The event has always been first class in my opinion, beginning with Executive Director Phil Currie's leadership, John Keefe's tremendous work as the Communications person and the many other personalities involved in the game including Bob Adams, Dale Stevens and the many coaches and fans out here. Although I am excited that the next 3 tournaments will be held within 10 minutes of my home in Carp, Ontario, I will miss getting off the airplane, smelling the ocean and fog and then filing into a cab to talk CIS hoops with the cabbie for 45 minutes (which happens EVERY year) on the way into downtown. Halifax can truly make the claim as "Canada's basketball capital" since the game is ingrained in the culture of the people in Atlantic Canada and Halifax and my sincere thanks goes out to the people here for the great memories... and still two days to go !!!

I was fortunate enough to be able to call a pair of games on the web cast yesterday and I had two tremendous partners in Scott Morrison, Head Coach of Lakehead, for the Brandon/Windsor game in which the Bobcats took the game over late in the first half against a Windsor team experiencing their first taste of this tournament. Barnaby Craddock had his team prepared, especially mentally, because at the key point of the game, with Dany Charlery on the bench with 4 fouls early in the second half and Windsor already in bonus, had his team run tremendous offensive sets to get great looks as Brandon showed wonderful discipline and pulled away under the most adverse circumstances. It was a ton of fun working with Scott. I also was fortunate to work with Mike Katz on the Carleton/Acadia webcast and unfortunately for the home side, the Axemen did not put forth their best game as the Ravens dominated from start to finish. Coach Katz first was introduced to me in the late 70's when I was a fledgeling baller at Chaminade College School in Toronto and we were asked to play a non-league game at George Harvey C.I. against one of Mike's first teams. Mike introduced me to my first real look at a game adjustment as one of our guys made his first 6 or 7 shots by the middle of the second quarter (ok it was me who made all those shots) and Coach Katz at that time put his best defender (former Mac Marauder Maurice Armstrong) on me and I rarely got a solid look the rest of the game thereafter. It has been a pleasure watching Mike mentor my good friend Dave DeAveiro and I have learned a tremendous amount about the game myself from watching and talking basketball with Mike over the years. It was a great honour to work the game last night with one of Canada's most successful coaches of all time. As well, much thanks to Dale Stevens, the tireless CIS basketball supporter who helped make everything run smoothly, Wayne Kondro, who, with all due respect to the multiple other reporters covering the game, in my opinion is without a doubt the leading CIS basketball journalist in the country - he proves it every year - Howard Bloom, who has the energy and initiative basketball in this country needs to increase the profile of the sport to where it belongs, and Bob Adams, who patiently put up with my table banging during one of the games involving one of the team's from Ottawa, compromising some unwritten rules around press row. What I learned is that I am a fan of the game first and, not being trained as a journalist, it is difficult to put old loyalties behind me easily, which to be completely objective, you must. Hopefully this site is as objective as it can be given my lack of formal training in the nuances of "reporting".

Other thoughts from Day One... Mark McLaughlin is the real deal. Dwayne Buckley can guard people, make no mistake about it, but McLaughlin was tremendous taking Buckley (and other Concordia defenders) off the bounce in yesterday's St. Mary's upset, shaking Buckley many times and either pulling up for fundamentally-sound, mid-range jumpers, getting to the rim or kicking out. Ike Uchegu was also very good although he didn't shoot a high percentage, he got himself down low with great positioning and the Huskies were able to play inside/out for the majority of the afternoon. I also thought that once again Ross Quackenbush proved he is one of Canada's top and most underrated coaches - Ross has this relaxed way about him in person and on the phone - but deep down he competes and this season is another testament to his ability to prepare and motivate his kids - the Huskies probably got the short end of the stick with calls down the stretch - to move into Saturday's semi-final. The Gee-Gees (for those who don't know, I was an assistant coach with the Gee-Gees last season and a part of the program since DeAveiro took it over 6 seasons ago and prior to that an assistant with Dave under Jack Eisenmann when we made the Final Four in '92-'93 losing to X in Coach Konchalski's first national championship) again made life interesting for their fans with 11 second-half points left on the free throw line, several unforced turnovers, a few missed layups and by far the best individual effort of the tournament thus far from 6'4" Casey Archibald who showed why he was First Team All-Canadian. But in the end, Ottawa ran solid stuff down the stretch, highlighted by a pair of great looks by 6'9" Dax Dessureault, some big shots from 6'5" Curtis Shakespeare, a great second half and first big game in a couple of months from 6'5" Jermaine Campbell and another All-Canadian-like effort from 6'4" Josh Gibson-Bascombe. And when the Gee-Gees needed stops down the stretch, they got them, holding the T-Birds scoreless for at least 4 straight key possessions, although it hurt UBC that Archibald had to leave the game briefly after cramping up severely - he had authored at least 3 long-range facials - NBA 3's - in the mouths of Donnie Gibson, Sean Peter and then Gibson-Bascombe, to keep UBC within striking distance. Tremendous effort by the T-Birds and Gee-Gees. We look forward to another great day of balling today here in icy Halifax. Stay tuned for the usual coast-to-coast look at what made news in CIS men's basketball over the past 24 hours.

Chris Kallan's article on St. Mary's win appearing in this morning's Halifax Daily News Huskies Stun Stingers in nailbiter ... also, Chad Lucas from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald gets front page coverage of St. Mary's win over Concordia including a great shot of an elated Mark McLaughlin after the game SMU Stings Concordia Finally, the aforementioned Wayne Kondro's report on St. Mary's upset win over Concordia Concordia knocked from the top

Windsor Lancers and Mary Caton got front page coverage in this morning's Windsor Star after yesterday's loss to Brandon Hope shifts to next year

The Halifax Daily News reports on Ottawa's upset win over #2 UBC Gee-Gees provide second upset of the day also, Wayne Kondro's report on Ottawa's victory over UBC Gee-Gees steal the Thunder Howard Tsumura from the Vancouver Province provides the UBC angle to yesterday's upset loss to #7 Ottawa Fourth time still unlucky for T-Birds Tsumura also did a nice interview with T-Birds star Casey Archibald Q & A with Casey Archibald

Canadian Press article from yesterday's action that appeared in the Ottawa Sun and a number of other dailies this morning Gee-Gees, Ravens have CIS semi date Chris Kallan also reviews Acadia's loss to Carleton, the largest margin in 44 years of the tournament Defending Champs Dominate Axemen Chad Lucas' article on Carleton's domination of Acadia Ravens Hammer Axemen Wayne Kondro's look at last night's Carleton win in the Ottawa Citizen, done as Wayne properly points out, with defense The Canal War is ON

James Mirtle's nice, nostalgic article about the volunteers over the past 24 years who have made the Halifax-based Nationals such a wonderful event throughout the years Halifax volunteers bid adieu to their own March Madness

Neate Sager provides his thoughts on tonight's semi-finals in his excellent blog "Out of Left Field" Tonight's the night... for the real final also David Larkins from the Brandon Sun offers his thoughts on Day One on his "The Point After" blog The Point After-Day 1

Adam Richardson from the Halifax Daily News touches on the lack of a bronze medal game at the CIS Nationals No Third Place in this tourney

Adam Richardson from the Halifax Daily News also has a report on the volunteers at the tournament Volunteering a labour of love

Chris Cochrane from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald discusses the possibilities of the nationals returning to Halifax at some point and the emotion the organizing committee will feel on Sunday at tournament's end No guarantee tournament will ever return

Toronto Star article on yesterday's games Concordia bounced

Finally, the CIS Final 8 web site provides a comprehensive look at the tournament including game stories, stats, photos, schedules and everything you need to know about the tournament Official Final 8 web site as well here is a link to the CIS web site for men's basketball CIS Site

As well, here are a couple of links to articles on the Nationals Day 1 Predictions from Joe Scanlon plus Day 1 from the Nationals

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