Friday, 13 March 2009

Ravenous Ravens on Mission

Ravenous Ravens on mission Last year's heartbreaker gives No. 1 seed extra motivation

By SHANE ROSS, Sun Media

Ravens star forward Aaron Doornekamp guards teammate Aaron Chapman during practice at Scotiabank Place as Carleton gears up for its quarter-final tonight. (Darren Brown/Sun Media)

A new CIS men's basketball champion will be crowned this weekend.

Last year's champs, the Brock Badgers, missed the OUA playoffs with an 8-14 record, so they will not be back to defend their title when the Final 8 begins today at Scotiabank Place.

Wouldn't matter.

Just as they have been the last six years, the host and top-seeded Carleton Ravens would still be the team to beat. And they can be beaten, although rarely. In 34 games against CIS rivals this season, they lost only once, 80-68 to Windsor back on Nov. 7.

And who could forget last year's tournament?

Certainly not the Ravens.

After winning five straight CIS titles in Halifax, the Ravens were upset in double overtime by the Acadia Axemen in the semi-finals when the tournament was moved to Ottawa.

"Thinking back to last year, seeing some of the fifth-year guys not get what we worked for all year was difficult to watch," said Ravens fifth-year guard Rob Saunders, the CIS defensive player of the year. "Being in that position now, I need to play every minute like it's my last."


The Ravens play their first game at this year's Final 8 against another Atlantic opponent, the wild-card St. Francis Xavier X-Men.

Tonight's quarter-final pits the country's top defensive team in the Ravens (63.3 points per game) against the highest-scoring team in the X-Men (87.8).

But St. FX with be without its top scorer, Tyler Richards, who is under investigation for an alleged assault.

The Ravens beat the X-Men 83-61 over the Christmas holidays.

Carleton will look to Saunders and fellow fifth-year stalwarts Stu Turnbull and Aaron Doornekamp, the 2008 CIS player of the year who is also coach Dave Smart's nephew.

Smart, the CIS coach of the year, also coached Doornekamp's brother, Ben, and nephews Mike and Rob Smart, who were standouts in the early 2000s.

In fact, next season will be the first in his nine years as Carleton coach that Smart won't have a relative playing for him.

But he might want to adopt forward Kevin McCleery, judging by the way he's been playing lately.

The 6-foot-8 Ottawa native has come into his own this season, finishing third on the team in scoring, and will be expected to assume a leadership role next year, his fifth.

"He's been a huge factor in most of our big wins," said Smart. "His confidence level as an offensive player this year has added another dimension for us."


The second-seeded Calgary Dinos are led by fifth-year forward Henry Bekkering, a 6-foot-6, 235-lb. machine whose highlight-reel dunks have made him one of the most exciting CIS players to watch.

Message to officials: Keep a spare backboard handy.

The No. 3 UBC Thunderbirds, meanwhile, just want to get past the first round, which they haven't done in the past four trips to the nationals. They'll be looking for guard Chris Dyck to lead a balanced offence that averaged 85 points this season.


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