Another stellar entry from Wayne Thomas detailing Canada West weekend play entitled "Upset ? What Upset ?", an apt title given the parity reigning in the conference thus far this season.
Fraser Valley beats Saskatchewan ... Alberta edges UBC ... Winnipeg knocks off Calgary ... Manitoba shocks Victoria. Why are we surprised at any of these results? This is obviously a league where we have one of several factors at play : parity among most teams, and ‘on any given night’ .... a lack of 1 or 2 dominant teams; a regression toward the middle; more talent spread through the league.
So perhaps we need to think less about upsets, and give more teams the respect of believing that they may have a chance to win any time out.
Regina (4-0) has enjoyed 2 home weekends, but you have to hand it to Coach James Hillis and his Cougars, who swept 2 reasonable teams in Lethbridge this past weekend ( 94-85, 67-60 ) and Brandon on the previous week. Paul Gareau , who is returning to action after sitting last season, has been a big leader on offense, while 2 Regina high school rookies Brendan Hebert, a 5’11” point, and Matt Campbell, a 6’4”, lefty wing man have made early contributions as well.
Manitoba (4-1) is giving us confirmation that they are a much-improved team, and Coach Kirby Schepp and his Bisons were full marks for their Saturday 79-78 OT win at Victoria to gain the split. 3 road wins vs. B.C. schools is a big deal for a program which was 4-16 a year ago and Eric Garcia (18 ppg), Sean Maxwell (12.5 ppg), Richard Reimer(7.6 rpg) , and company have the attention of the rest of Canada West.
Alberta (3-1) caught and passed ‘powerhouse’ UBC in the final minutes in Edmonton on Saturday (88-86) to grab a split in that series, with their talented sophomores getting the job done ... Todd Bergen-Henengouwen-29 pts., Jordan Baker- 17 pts/11 boards. Daniel Ferguson, the 4th year transfer from Berry College, is averaging 23 ppg, and shooting 60%, while Baker has a floor game (4 assists/game) to match his uncanny rebounding ability (11 rpg).
UBC goes from ‘Big ‘Birds‘ to less fearsome creatures with 2 losses in their 1st 6 games, after a 17-1 season in 2009-10. They have, however, played some of their toughest Canada West opponents, in Saskatchewan, Trinity Western, and Alberta, on 3 consecutive weekends to start the season. UBC goes well when Josh Whyte is on top of his game, and he had non-MVP numbers last Saturday, but still leads the team, with 19 ppg, and 6 rpg. UBC is the deepest team, and Coach Kevin Hanson should get them flying in formation.
Trinity Western (4-2) got their frustrations out by beating Thompson Rivers unmercifully in a pair of non-contests last weekend (97-57, 117-67) ... talk about kicking them when they’re down ! jacob Doerksen is averaging 21 points and 8 rebounds, and Tyrell Mara gets 9 boards and scores 12 ppg. If they get the killer instinct against top teams, they have the talent and depth to be solid contenders. We await further results.
And then there’s Calgary, Victoria, and Saskatchewan ... flip a coin, and you may get ‘heads we win’ or ‘tails, we lose’. Calgary has an understandable lack of flow, as Coach Dan Vanhooren tries to meld together 9 new faces on a 15 man squad. The return of Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, probably not until Christmas, will be a real boon to the cause, meanwhile, Tyler Fidler is averaging 12.5 rebounds and 18 ppg. He is getting great help from Andrew McGuinness, a 2nd year guard, whose 15 ppg, give the Dinos another bonafide outside threat. One of toughest rookie post men in years has to be Matt Letkeman, who is as competitive as they come.
Victoria was coming off a very big win at Saskatoon, and playing the ‘upstart’ Bisons in Victoria ... the Vikes win Friday (92-64), and look convincing doing it ... they then turn around and absorb a tough 1 point OT loss on Saturday, as Manitoba breaks the Vikes defense down. Ryan McKinnon averages 14 ppg, but has too many turnovers, as does Zac Andrus, who can be a deadly 3 pt. shooter himself.
Saskatchewan is the biggest puzzle, in that they can score at will, with import guard, Jamelle Barrett leading Canada West in scoring at 26.5 ppg, but they appear to have lost the hard-nosed attitude towards defense. The Huskies are learning that you cannot defend a championship; you have to win one with your new team. The depth is a question mark, at least, until now.
Brandon is still not a well-known commodity, as Coach Gil Cheung attempts to piece together a cohesive group after having lost their top 4 scorers from a year ago, when the once proud ‘Cats were only 7-13 on the season. They are 2-2, with a new star in O’Brien Wallace, averaging 19 ppg, and 60% from 3 pt. range, and a good big man in Isaiah James, who grabs 8 rebs. per game and scores 11 ppg.
Now we come to 3 teams with the same record, who, for now, are trailing the field in Canada West...
Winnipeg (1-3) looked very athletic in beating Calgary 78-67 on Friday, with newcomer Benny Iko hitting 18 pts. and claiming 10 rebounds. Nolan Gooding averages 18 ppg, and, if guard Nick Lother (22 ppg), can involve more teammates in the offense, instead of looking 1st and always for his own shot, the Wesmen can win some more games. Fraser Valley (1-3) need that win on Sunday vs Saskatchewan, and Coach Barnaby Craddock may see some light at the end of the tunnel, with Zeon Gray (17 ppg, 6 assists), Joel Friesen (20 ppg), and Sam Freeman providing the leadership . The Cascades, with some tighter defense, will still give top teams trouble.
Lethbridge (1-3) has had a rough start to the season, with only 1 win, a last second 80-79 thriller at Calgary. The Pronghorns Coach, Dave Adams, will try and stay positive with a group of players he feels can make up a good team, as the season wears on. Randy Davis ( 16.5 ppg, ) and Danhue Lawrence (12.5 ppg) are the most consistent scorers, but 19 turnovers a game is too many, as the ‘Horns don’t look to be playing together yet.
Players of the week ...
Daniel Ferguson, U. of Alberta Golden Bears ... scores 29 in a losing cause against UBC on Friday, then comes back for 24 in the Saturday win. Maybe the league’s best perimeter shooter.
Tyler Fidler, Calgary Dinos ... doing the tough work for Calgary, Fidler gets 19 rebounds Friday and 14 Saturday, and scores 20 and 15 pts. as well.
Zeon Gray, Fraser Valley Cascades ... the floor leader has 9 assists and 13 pts. Saturday in a loss, then 5 assists, but 28 points as UFV beats the Huskies Sunday
Michael Lieffers, Saskatchewan Huskies ... plays big on Saturday with 25 points and 17 boards, but only 5 pts. and 9 boards on Sunday. Maybe he needed some more passes?
Paul Gareau, Regina Cougars ... very steady leader, with 22 pts and 10 boards on Friday, followed by 20 pts. and 9 rebounds on Saturday in 2 wins for the league leaders.
Jacob Doerksen, Trinity Western Spartans ... outplays TRU’s Greg Stewart, with 26 pts. and 8 boards Saturday, following an 18 pt. and 12 rebound night on Friday, as the Spartans dominated.
Notes ... In what may have been as big an upset as we have had this season, Fraser Valley 100 at Saskatchewan 90 ... the Cascades and Huskies had the quintessential shoot-out on Sunday, with U of S shooting 56% and UFV 52% from the field. Sask. was 15/28 and 54% from 3 pt. range, and lost ! Zeon Gray had 28 for the Cascades, with 3 others in double figures, while Jamelle Barrett, who played the whole 40 minutes, scored 36 for the Huskies, and Rejean Chabot threw in 21. The difference was turnovers, as U of S gave away 19 compared to just 9 for the Cascades, giving UFV more possessions and shots.
Canada West League Leaders in different categories ...
scoring ... Barrett, Sask. - 26.5, Ferguson, Alberta - 23.3, Lother, Wpg. - 22
rebounding ... Fidler, Calgary - 12.5, Lieffers, Sask. - 11.3, Baker, Alberta - 10.8
assists ... Gray, UFV - 5.8, Tristan Smith, Trinity - 5.5, Josh Ogden, Manitoba - 5.4
FT % ... Kyle Coston, Trinity - 94%, Smith, Trinity - 93%, Friesen, UFV - 90 %, Fidler, CGY - 89 %, and McGuinness, CGY - 88%
FG % ... Lieffers, Sask. - 71%, Doerksen, TWU - 69%, Gooding, WPG - 63%
3 pt% ... James Elliot, UFV - 62.5%, Wallace, Brandon - 60%, Bergen-Henengouwen, AB - 58%