Sunday, 8 March 2009

That time of year again

First off, thanks for the numerous notes of congratulations over the past months on our fourth child (already closing in on one year old) and other notes about the blog. They are all truly appreciated. As it turns out, I miss this stuff alot more than I'll care to admit and am resuming posting thoughts whenever possible. Hope everyone across the country enjoyed their conference championships and are preparing for a great week here in Ottawa where not only are the CIS Nationals being held but OFSAA "AA" and "AAA" beginning Monday.

We're very happy for John Campbell and the Dalhousie Tigers after their victory over St. FX on Saturday night. X was undermanned and except for a five minute stretch in the third quarter when 6'3" Josh Beattie (Bedford, N.S.) completely took over the game with his perimeter shooting, the X-Men were in the game and made some runs down the stretch that the maturing Tigers were able to overcome. Still, led by but not limited to Beattie's phoenominal stretch in the third quarter when he scored 17 (?) consecutive points including 4 3's which gave Dal a 17 point lead, breaking open a tight game, Dal was very worthy of the victory, led by as active and consistent defensive effort as has been displayed in the Campbell era at Dal. Campbell, a former OUAA East All-Star at Laurentian in the late 80's and coach of the successful Voyageurs women's program later, is in his 7th season at Dal and after a ton of hard work turning the morbid program around has the Tigers at the Nationals. AUS tournament MVP Simon Farine (Toronto Northern) is the Tigers' obvious offensive leader however it was apparent especially Saturday night in the X game how far Dal has come defensively as group. In the quarter-court, Dal's on-the-ball "d" was exceptional, limiting X's AUS MVP Christian T-Bear Upshaw's drives into the lane and when ball penetration brought help, Dal's rotations and close outs were crisp and precise, making life difficult for X's perimeter shooters. X did get their running game going in spurts, mainly off their full-court pressure when the Tigers turned it over. Off misses, Dal's transition "d" was solid. No doubt credit at least in part for Dal's ability to make life miserable for teams defensively needs to be given to first-year assistant coach Dave Nutbrown. For those who can remember back about a decade and prior, Nutsy's Acadia team characteristically were extremely tight defensively, pressuring the ball, rotating and energizing countless runs off their "d". Dal has also benefited from the steady maturation of a pair of GTA products, 6'3" second year athletic wing Yannick Walcott (Toronto Northern), who is much more polished offensively especially with his perimeter jumper which he shoots with much more confidence and 6'7" Sandy Viet (Mississauga), who has battled injuries for it seems his entire career. Walcott has emerged as a future all-AUS candidate and Viet, who earlier in his career looked like he was going to be a face-up 4 man with limited defensive skills, showed Saturday that defensively especially he has learned to slide over in help to protect the paint and as he continues to fill out physically is now battling for the difficult rebounds so vital to closing out tough defensive possessions for the Tigers. Another former GTA all-star, 6'2" lefty Stephen Lopez (Pickering), is still learning the nuances defensively but brings energy and explosiveness when guarding the ball and getting out in transition offensively. Don't forget 6'7" veteran post Germaine Bendegue, a former AUS all-star who is picking his spots more effectively on the offensive end and remains athletic enough to alter shots in the paint and rebound. Also 6'3" Andrew Sullivan, who has seen his looks drop off this season but Sullivan remains potent from the perimeter and a key cog in the Tigers 8 man rotation. Dal remains a young team but one that has been together for a couple of years and more importantly plays together. They have a tough first round opponent in UBC but expect the Tigers program to remain Top 10 contenders for years to come.

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