Friday, 13 March 2009

Ravens Ready for Redemption

Ravens ready for national redemption

By Sigrid Forberg, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Last year, after five consecutive national championships, the Ravens were set to swoop in and clinch their sixth straight in the comfort of their hometown. But the disappointing loss to the Acadia Axemen in double-overtime ended their aspirations for topping the University of Victoria’s record of seven straight titles.

Carleton University is hosting the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball championship March 13-15 at Scotiabank Place. It will be the second year in their three-year hosting contract.

Stuart Turnbull, the team’s captain, plays guard for the Ravens and was just recently named the Ontario University Athletics East player of the year. He says while the loss last year was a real disappointment, he doesn’t feel as nervous going into the tournament this year.

“I think there’s less pressure this year,” says Turnbull. “We don’t have to worry about the record so we can just go out there, have fun and try our hardest.”

Head coach Dave Smart says winning the nationals is about more than just hard work.

“So far, we’re doing well but a lot of things can happen,” says Smart. “We won five in a row and every one of those we could have lost in the same way as the semi-final last year. I mean you get a call, you don’t get a call. You make a shot, you don’t make a shot. Things just didn’t fall our way.”

Smart says he isn’t changing anything about the team’s practice schedule with the tournament coming up.

He adds that since they’re fortunate enough to play three of the best five national teams in their league, they understand the level of competition they will come up against.

One of these elite teams is the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. In recent years, the Gee-Gees have become worthy opponents of the Ravens – Smart even said they might be the better team.

The Ravens and Gee-Gees faced off in the OUA East men’s basketball championship in the Raven’s Nest at Carleton University on March 4.

The game certainly lived up to the hype of the rivalry between the two teams. It was a fierce and fast-paced game throughout the first half – the Gee-Gees scored their first basket in under 20 seconds. It was back-and-forth until the Ravens pulled ahead in the third quarter. Carleton ended up winning the game 82-61.

Nemanja Baletic plays forward for the Gee-Gees. He says the team is disappointed with the loss, but that they definitely tried their hardest and didn’t give up until the final buzzer.

The Gee-Gees beat the University of Windsor on March 7 to secure a spot in the tournament.

Baletic says he thinks the rivalry between the two Ottawa-based teams is one of the strongest in Canadian basketball, and he hopes to get a chance to play against Carleton again.

“It’s like when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object,” says Baletic. “But it’s something positive – it brings out the best in us, forcing both teams to work their hardest.”

And David Kent, the manager of Marketing and Communications for Carleton Athletics, says rivalries like this make the tournament more exciting.

“My hopes are simple,” says Kent. “I want to see the better calibre teams play because that makes it a better calibre tournament and we have to remember that we are also hosting next year. If all the games are bad by large spreads, that turns people off. People like nail-biters to the end and that is what I hope we give them.”

And given the expectations, competition and bitter rivalries, the tournament is sure to deliver great basketball for both local and national fans.

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