Thursday, 21 February 2008

Bears, Dinos Preview by Wayne Thomas

Provincial Rivals On a Collision Course... Any Dinos - Bears series is usually played with great emotion, energy, and determination, but when the Division Championship and home court for the Canada West Final Four are on the line, the intensity is magnified. Calgary (18-4) and Alberta (16-6) have both had terrific regular seasons with the difference being Calgary's 3-1 advantage in head to head battles.... These are two teams which racked up a big point total in winning games against the other, and the two prominent scorers are the 5th year guard, Alex Steele of the Bears and the 4th year power forward, Henry Bekkering for Calgary. The two tied for 3rd in Canada West scoring at 21 ppg, but they did it in very different ways; Bekkering features an all-out assault on the rim, while Steele often bombs from long range. Give credit to each player, though, because they can both change up when the opportunity presents itself ... Bekkering has hit from beyond the arc, and Steele is adept at taking it inside. For Alberta, 6'11" Richard Bates, and 6'5" Andrew Parker have been key players in a strong finish to their season, and they are both capable of chalking up double digit numbers. Bates' size inside has to be negated, and Parker's frenetic energy and improved outside shooting can be a motivator for the Bears. Their point guard CG Morrison, a 6'3" outside threat, is back after having missed the middle part of the Alberta schedule with an injury, and his presence takes some of the load off of Steele.... For the Dinos, Robbie Sihota, 6'6", 3rd year post has averaged 18 points over the 4 league encounters with U of A, and his scoring and rebounding have been key to Calgary success. Sihota will be glad to see the return of 6'8" post partner Ross Bekkering, who has recovered from an ankle injury and will bring his league-leading rebounding and 12 pts. a game scoring to the table. The point guard spot has been a bright spot for Coach Vanhooren as he lauds the play of the 6' Jeff Price, a 3rd year transfer from Mount Royal College, Calgary. Price has more than held his own against all the top guards in Canada West, and led the league in FT % at 88%, in assists at 5.2 per game, and was 6th in 3pt. FG% at 43%. Scott Leigh, Justin VanLoo, and Harvey Bradford started all three Semi- Final games last weekend for Alberta, with Bradford and VanLoo, both 6'5", playing good defense inside and doing their share of rebounding. Leigh, their 2nd year point man is a good outside shooter and defends well. Calgary counters with the 5th year ex-Bear, Cody Darrah, who will be especially motivated to perform well against his hometown team, and with the Dinos freshman phenom, Tyler Fidler, who can spell Darrah or another perimeter player. Coach Vanhooren has also called upon 3rd year SAIT transfer, 6'5" Josh Lovestone, the undersized, but strong and combative post to shake things up in the paint. Notes ... Coach Horwood, in a radio interview earlier this week, made some interesting comments about coaching pressure, describing how "I suffered for each game of the series ...." , and revealing just what a mental toll coaching playoff basketball can take. The veteran coach offered "how much it hurts (to lose)", in response to a question about his empathy for the Saskatchewan coaches and players. Horwood put it well when he said " I have empathy for all coaches and players; we all work so hard all year." Horwood also suggested his Bears were a different team than they were 6 weeks ago, and they are playing better defensively, more consistently, and have out-rebounded everyone over the past several weeks. Horwood said "Our guys have a different attitude ... we get contributions from different people." Coach Dan Vanhooren of Calgary, who played for Horwood at U of A is happy with his team's preparation for the series and feels " ... we may have another gear." He is looking for his team to turn up their game, take advantage of home court, and "win the battle on the glass". Game time is 7:00 pm both Friday and Saturday at the Jack Simpson Gym.

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