Sunday, 9 December 2007

Getting Caught Up: Canada West Recap

The first half of the season ended last weekend with a number of noteable matchups, including another in the series of rivalry games between traditional foes UBC and UVic plus a number of matchups in Ontario involving top teams. This week I hope to get readers caught up with how the first half ended for contending teams across the country, beginning this morning with a quick catch-up in CANADA WEST... Despite losing two all-conference potential starters at the beginning of the season and then getting out to a 3-6 start overall including a five-game losing streak, UVic Vikes have shown that defending and rebounding are a receipe to staying in games by winning 7 of their last 9 games including a huge 92-76 win at UBC. Although the Vikes were defeated 64-61 in their second game at UBC when 6'6" Tyler Hass missed a game-tying three at the buzzer, UVic (9-3 in league play) has re-established themselves as a contender for the Pacific Division championship, sitting just one game behind the T-Birds (10-2). 6'3" Chris Dyck continues to show that he is a legitimate candidate for Canada West Player-of-the-Year, breaking a late-game tie by scoring 8 consecutive points down the stretch of the second game against the Vikes to allow the Birds to salvage one of the two games. UBC shook up their starting lineup in the second game, inserting 6'5" Graham Bath and bringing 6'2" Alex Murphy off the bench, although Murphy still played 26 minutes in the game. UBC's sharpshooting 6'3" Blane Labranche, who overcame an early-season ankle injury to emerge into one of the top three point shooters in Canada West, was held in check by UVic, going 0-12 for the weekend including 0-8 from downtown, being held scoreless in both games... Calgary Dinos continued their strong play in the first half, winning their last 7 in a row to lead the Central Division at 9-1. Calgary's 6'6" Henry Bekkering had back-to-back 23 point games in the two wins against Saskatchewan Huskies, the first game being a blow out and the second game being tight to the very end at 72-70 with about 2 minutes remaining before a couple of big threes allowed Calgary to win 83-74. In that second game, Calgary went to the line 26 times in the second half against 6 trips for Saskatchewan. The third quarter foul count was Saskatchewan 11, Calgary 3. The Huskies were ravaged by injuries in the first half including wrist and ankle injuries to 6'7" Andrew Spagrud, who hobbled his way through the final two weekends of the season. The latest Huskie to be sidelined was 6'0" fifth-year guard Jordan Harbidge, who missed the Calgary finale with an ankle injury. Calgary has shown they are one of the top teams in Canada West and are undefeated at home with their only league loss coming at Simon Fraser. The Dinos will get an opportunity to meet a tough non-conference opponent as they open the Wesmen Classic against Acadia Axemen and then start the post-New Year portion of their Canada West regular season with a two-game matchup on the road in Edmonton against the Alberta Golden Hawks on Jan. 4th and 5th. Also lurking on the schedule is a January 19th date in Brandon against the Bobcats. Like most teams on the rise, an ability to win big games on the road is sometimes the largest leap necessary to be ready to contend for a national championship and the Dinos should get that opportunity in the second half... The Bobcats are running away with the Great Plains conference with their only blemish a 13 point loss at Alberta. Brandon played much of the first half without 6'9" Yuri Whyms which gave 6'7" Stevens Marcelins an opportunity for more minutes. 6'3" Dany Charlery and 6'5" Adam Hartman have combined to lead the Bobcats in most games with the steady play of fifth-year point guard Yul Michel also key. Brandon will also be at the Wesmen Classic after Christmas.

LETHBRIDGE BRINGS IN EX-TORONTO ALL STAR FROM MOTHER TERESA: The young Lethbridge Pronghorns had a tough first-half, going 0-10, but Head Coach Mike Connolly continues to find ways to upgrade his roster, which turned over almost completely after last season. Connolly, who is originally from Cobourg, Ontario, played his university basketball at Lakehead and then spent several seasons as an assistant coach to Ken Olynyk at the University of Toronto in the 1990's, apparently still has some strong contacts in the GTA. The Horns will be bringing in 6'3" Danhue Lawrence (pictured), a former City of Toronto all-star, who will be eligible to play immediately after Christmas. Lawrence last played high school for the perennially-strong Mother Teresa Titans of Toronto's Catholic league in 2004-05, helping lead the Titans to the Ontario "AAAA" OFSAA championship game and later garnering MVP status in the Michigan vs. Toronto all-star game. He sat out the 2005-06 season despite receiving a bunch of interest from Canadian schools and then played last season (2006-07) at Barton County (KS.) CC, where he appeared in 25 games, averaging 3.2 points, 1.6 rebounds per game in 7.1 minutes per game, shooting 26.7% from downtown. Lawrence was also at the National Team training camp when it was held at RMC in the summer of 2005 and is attempting to make the transition from an undersized post player in high school to a wing/backcourt player at the CIS level. Regardless, Lawrence represents a solid recruit for Lethbridge and should be in the middle of the Pronghorns rotation from the get-go.

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