Friday, 13 March 2009

Big Moment arrives for Dinos

Big moment arrives for Dinos

By Rita Mingo, For The Calgary Herald March 12, 2009

Since the season began in October, the University of Calgary men's basketball squad has had one goal in mind, the objective that has urged the Dinos on every week through practice after practice, game after game.

The opportunity to capture that elusive national championship.

For a team that has gone through the year extolling the maxim of focusing on the moment, the moment has finally arrived.

"I think the key at nationals for our team, as I've said in the past, is stay in the present and we've done a good job with that so far," said head coach Dan Vanhooren. "If our kids can continue to do that, then they can achieve what they want. We're a good enough basketball team to do what we're going there to do."

The Dinos left for Ottawa and the CIS Final 8 tournament on Wednesday, primed to capture their first title in their seventh try. They're ranked second, fresh off a Canada West triumph at UBC.

Up first: Quebec champs Concordia Stingers, 10:30 a. m. MT on Friday.

The Stingers are the seventh-ranked squad and are led by first team all-star Damian Buckley and second team selection Jamal Gallier. They have one CIS title in their resume, won back in 1990.

"They're a good basketball team,"Vanhooren said. "They have Damian Buckley and Dwayne Buckley; those two kids are very good. They're a solid team.We're going to have to play our best basketball to win our first game."

"I expect them to be fast, athletic, more guard-oriented than a lot of teams," pitched in forward Henry Bekkering. "Those are the teams we've struggled with this year. We'll have to have our best defensive effort to pull through."

The tournament final is slated for 4 p. m. on Sunday.

"You're playing a top-10 quality basketball team,"Vanhooren said, "and the next team you play will be a top-10 quality basketball team. One game to the next is just a tough, tough opponent and that's why it's a national tournament.

"We're thrilled with where we're at.We're healthy.We're running our systems well. We're not turning the ball over. If we can stay in that frame of mind, then we should do well in the tournament."

Bekkering, the talented showman, yearns to end his five-year university career on the highest high possible.

"I think everyone's on an even keel,"he said. "You know, nationals and all the hoopla that comes with that, banquets and all-star announcements. We're trying to take this one game, one quarter at a time, and make it a process.

"If I get overly excited or our team does, that's when we start to make mistakes and we're not thinking. If we keep our cool, but still have that excitement to play within our team, within our parameters, we'll be successful. That's what I'm trying to preach to the team;play our game and not worry about any external factors."

At the other end of the spectrum is forward Tyler Fidler, who in his second season is starring in the big show.

"It's extremely exciting, not just for myself, but for the first-years, fourth-years, anyone who hasn't been there yet,"acknowledged one of the Dinos' future leaders.

"Dan's been really keen on being focused on every moment, on every play, within every quarter. I think we've done a good job on that these past two weeks and we're finally buying into it."

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