Monday, December 6, 2010

Wayne Thomas Canada West Report

Regina Comeback Startles Bears

The Regina Cougars scored an incredible 61 points in the 2nd half of their Saturday game with the Alberta Golden Bears in Edmonton, to win a split in the weekend series, and finish the 1st half of the Canada West schedule tied at 7-5 with Alberta and Victoria in 5-6-7 spots.
The Cougars, who have won 6 of 6 on home court, including 2 decisive beatings of the Calgary Dinos on Nov. 26/27, notched their 1st road win out of 6 tries. Regina was led by 5th year post man, Kris Heshka, who recorded an impressive 30 point and 12 rebound double-double. They also got 21 from guard jeff Lukomski and 14 from their leading scorer, forward, Paul Gareau.

Other weekend scores ...
at Trinity Western ... the Spartans (12-2) claimed 1st spot with 2 pummelings of the visiting Fraser Valley Cascades, who drop to 4-8 and in 10th at the break. Friday, it was 92-73, and Saturday, 114-89, as TWU’s offense cut loose.

in Winnipeg ... the Manitoba Bisons completed a sweep of their home and home series with cross-town rivals Winnipeg in a Bison win on Thursday at the Duckworth Centre downtown. It was 80-62 Bisons (7-3) over the Wesmen, who are 1-9, in 12th spot.

at Alberta ... the Bears (7-5) started the weekend in convincing fashion on Friday by whipping the Regina Cougars107-80, and, on Saturday, appeared headed for an easy sweep with a 17 point half time advantage ... and then ... the deluge, and a Cougar 93-85 shocker.

Taking Stock at the Break
Canada West  Standings ... Dec. 5

Trinity Western ... 12-2
UBC ... 10-2
Saskatchewan ... 7-3
Manitoba ... 7-3
Alberta ... 7-5
Victoria ... 7-5
Regina ... 7-5
Calgary ... 4-6
Brandon ... 4-6
Fraser Valley ... 4-8
Lethbridge ... 3-9
Winnipeg ... 1-9
Thompson R. ... 1-11

Let’s acknowledge the obvious ... Trinity and UBC appear to be in the drivers seat for the top 2 seeds at the 1/2 way point, with 12-2 and 10-2 records respectively. On one hand, the Spartans must be happy with their start, but they will be looking over their shoulders at their nemesis, the T-Birds, who beat them twice at the start of the season. They will not meet again until the playoffs, so, for now, they rule the roost.
Saskatchewan looks the more dangerous of the 2 squads at 7-3, as we, once again, assume Manitoba may not be able to sustain their 1st half play. The defending Canada West Champion Huskies, may be forgiven for looking at 2011 as a chance to replay their 2010 triumph, having found the Jamelle Barrett to Rejean Chabot combo quite to their liking. More about Manitoba later ... we get to Victoria, Alberta, and Regina, the 3 teams at 7-5, and who have all shown the capability of winning big, but also the unfortunate habit of not doing it as consistently as they might wish.
The Vikes may be the most steady of the 3 because of their defense, but the offense isn’t there every night, and they rely on their perimeter unless, Mike Berg, Pierce Anderson, and Wendell Thomas can step it up on a more regular basis. Alberta has the firepower, with Jordan Baker and Daniel Ferguson leading the way, but they may not be quite there with the confidence necessary to challenge the leaders.
You would have to count the Cougars under coach James Hillis as one of the notable teams in the 1st half, and give credit to Gareau, who returned to the team after an absence, and whose scoring has bolstered their lineup. Another squad with an even more laudable record is Manitoba, at 7-3, in a tie for 3rd at this stage, with the Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Bisons can not only score from outside, but they are more reliable on the defensive end, and have some veteran guard leadership from Josh Ogden and Eric Garcia. The Bisons may have played the somewhat easier section of their schedule thus far, but give Coach Kirby Schepp credit for turning this team around from last season’s 5-15 debacle.
As suggested by a number of coaches in pre-season interviews, the league is more wide open than in the past, and the fight for the last playoff spot(s) will be frantic. Calgary, without their point guard, Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, and several more costly injuries, is contending for a spot, and should be improved with ‘OJ’s’ return, and a healthy Tyler Fidler by Christmas. Brandon is showing signs of life, and may have a shot as well, if their players gel in the 2nd half.
Fraser Valley lost 2 starters, jasper Moedt and Kyle Grewal, to injury in the pre-season, and they look to be gone for the duration. It will be tough for the Cascades to mount a charge with so little depth, and as a result, they may be on the outside of the post - season action. Lethbridge has also seen a few key players miss games, and they cannot seem to find the right guard combination to run a smooth offense, nor consistent play from a bigger front line with more potential than in the past. If the ‘Horns get healthy, they may take a shot, but it will be a tough assignment.
Neither Winnipeg, who have looked better than last season, nor Thompson Rivers, who have not, can be considered serious contenders for a playoff run. the Wesmen may take another year under new coach Mike Raimbault, and the Wolfpack Coach Scott Clark has his work cut out for him in turning around this season which has slipped away precipitously in the 1st half.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At first glance, Trinity may well be in the driver's seat for a top 2 berth but...
remember Sask has several games in hand on both Trinity and UBC and the Huskies are only one down in the loss column.
Also, Trinity has yet to face Sask, although they do get them at home.
The Huskies eked out a split at UBC and given the fact UBC hammered Trinity in both games at Langley, I'd say the Spartans would do well to split.
Of the Spartans' twelve league wins, eight have come against the bottom four teams in the conference.
The only two teams Trinity has faced after UBC with above .500 records were Alberta and Regina, both 7-5.
However, Regina's record is somewhat deceiving...6-0 at home but 1-5 on the road. The Spartans hammered the Cougars badly twice in Langley.
Alberta also lost twice to Trinity on the road, but the scores from their games were somewhat respectable.
The Bears lost by 11 and 13 points, by far the closest games the Spartans have had so far.
Their schedule will be tougher once play resumes in the New Year.