Saturday, 31 December 2011

Shoveller Tournament Wrap-Up

In the third place game (played after X captured the tournament championship), the host Dal Tigers grabbed a confidence-building 74-66 win over UPEI Panthers and did so in come-from-behind fashion.  Many would agree that this week was a coming out party of sorts for Dal's freshman point guard Ritchie Kanza Mata from Scarborough Mother Teresa and he punctuated a solid week with a 16 point, 11 assist, 7 rebound afternoon going against the Panthers stable of athletic guards and wings.  After PEI jumped out to a 12-0 lead off the opening tip, Kanza Mata and 6'6" Robert Nortman keyed a 26-9 run that gave Dal a five point lead midway through the first half.  Dal had to come back again midway through the fourth as UPEI took their last lead with about 6 minutes remaining and then Nortman, Kanza Mata and 6'2" Alex Arthur went to work to help the Tigers claim the Bronze medal.  Nortman scored on a free throw and then subsequent layup to give Dal the lead for good and later Arthur hit two big threes, the final one with just under two minutes to play that gave Tigers a six point lead and iced the game.

UPEI, led by tournament All-Star Manock Lual (14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 38 minutes) had retaken the lead late in the third but poor free throw shooting (15 for 27 55%) and great work by the Tigers, sent the Panthers home at 1-2 for the week.  Box Score

Tournament All Stars
Warren Ward (Ottawa)  - had the big mid-court buzzer beating shot to beat Acadia in the consolation semi-finals but Johnny Berhanemeskel could have easily been Ottawa's all-star based on his strong 31 point effort vs. X

Will Donkoh (StFX)  Some believe Donkoh was the catalyst to both the semi-final and championship game wins as he was most instrumental when X made their game-deciding runs.  Taking over the role as X's energizer bunny in the press, Donkoh has matured and is now one of X's most important players.
Kyle Desmarais (Concordia)  solid performance by the steady guard; had a nice punch down at the end of a fast break in today's game that wowed the crowd.
Manouk Lual (UPEI)  Looking to make his fifth and final season special and had a very good tournament
Ritchie Kanza Mata (DAL)  Starting to show that he may be one of the top freshmen in the AUS.
Tournament Most Valuable Player: Terry Thomas (StFX)  X's highlight-waiting-to-happen had at least two fierce dunks today and has progressed into one of the top players in the AUS in just his second season with added strength that makes him even more difficult on the offensive glass, in transition and finishing strong and hard around the rim.

Wayne Thomas Calgary/Canada West Report

Calgary 0-3 on California Tour

Trailing 48-35 at half-time against Biola University (La Mirada, CA) the Calgary Dinos could not close the gap in the 2nd, so, for the 3rd straight night, they are beaten by a Golden State Athletic Conference squad ... The Biola Eagles prevailed by a clear 80-65 margin, as the Dinos appeard leg weary in this contest, and had real trouble generating any consistent offensive attack. The Eagles shot 44% from the floor to 40% for Calgary, and the Dinos were out-rebounded 40-26 on the night.

Some good shooting by Andrew McGuinnes, who scored 14, all in the 1st half, and Josh Wolfram, 15 points on 4/6 from the field and 6/6 from the line. McGuinness hit 4/6 from 3 point range, and Wolfram grabbed 10 rebounds to lead both teams.

Tyler Fidler, who was in some foul trouble, scored just 9 points and had 1 rebound, while Boris Bakovic had 5 points and 3 rebounds in 17 minutes. The Dinos return home Saturday and will have to re-group as they prepare to travel to Fraser Valley and Trinity Western next weekend to re-start their Canada West season. With a record of 3-5 at the break, Calgary will have to find a winning formula early in the New Year if they are to get into the playoff picture.

at Azuza ... Azuza Pacific 74 Victoria 54 ... turning it over 28 times killed the Vikes offense. Michael Acheampong score 12 points, and he was the only Vikes player in double figures.

In Santa Barbara ... UBC 97 Trinity Int'l 60 ... The 'Birds outscored TIU 50-22 in the second half and Tommy Nixon led with 21 points and nine rebounds while Nathan Yu scored 17, Doug Plumb 15 and Malcolm Williams 13.

In Las Vegas ... Fresno Pacific 92 Lethbridge 67 ... Morgan Duce scored 17 and Niko Kovac 14, as FPU hit 58% from the field. All 10 Pronghorns dressed played at least 11 minutes.

X wins Shoveller with 94-78 win over Concordia

A 17-4 run to finish off the second quarter led by 6'0" Will Donkoh and 6'5" Shane Coupland was the difference as the #2 X-Men claimed another Rod Shoveller Memorial tournament championship with a win over the #10 Stingers.  After a lighting problem delayed the game for several minutes, X's zone press began creating turnovers, breaking open a tight 3 point game and give St. FX a double digit halftime lead.  Stingers then scored the first 6 points of the third quarter before faltering on the foul line and turning it over, allowing X to rebuild a double digit lead which grew to as high as 19 in the second half. 

Concordia had a couple of runs including late in the third quarter when, after a poor shot by 6'7" Bol Kong, the Stingers scored the last 7 points of the quarter to trail by only 10 as Frank Fiola (Stingers POG with 10 points off the bench) hit a late 3 from the top of the bowl.  ConU got it inside 10 a couple of times in the fourth but never close enough to where the outcome was in doubt.

The Australian import Coupland, who missed X's first round game and played only sparingly in yesterday's semi-final, got going with some easy inside scores and then got loose for a series of baseline jumpers to finish with 19 points.  Donkoh (16 first-half points), arguably the sparkplug to X's entire tournament who played at a tourney MVP level, also got going by creating some turnovers and finishing in transition - Donkoh was also the catalyst in yesterday's game-deciding run vs. UPEI. 

Down the stretch, X's 6'5" Terry Thomas showed off his tremendous athleticism with some blocks and at least 2 hard dunks, one of a wonderful feed by 6'2" Tyrell Vernon that Thomas finished along the baseline with a hammer down.
Kong, while not dominant, did made his presence felt, especially late in the first quarter, creating off the bounce and finding slashing teammates for easy layups. 

In an earlier game, uOttawa won their second consecutive game after a first-round overtime loss to St. FX, defeating Saint Mary's 92-80 as yesterday's hero, Warren Ward, author of the long buzzer-beating 3 vs. Acadia, went off for 29 points while Johnny Berhanemeskel added 24 points.  Sophomore forward Gabe Gonthier-Dubue had an 18 point, 13 rebound double/double.  Torrey Fassett had 24 to lead Saint Mary's.

Shoveller Championship Preview

This afternoon's Shoveller championship game features two very similar teams that are deep, athletic, love to push up and force the action defensively and have star, All-Canadian type players at the very top.  Both teams followed similar paths to the championship, coming from behind in the second half of their games by wearing their opponents down with superior depth and then taking advantage of fatigue to turn the ball over. 

After the host Dal Tigers took a 10 point, fourth-quarter lead in their semi-final clash, Concordia created 11 turnovers in 16 possessions during their game-deciding run, using their pressure.  Similarily, St. FX was able to make big runs against UPEI's second team and eventually the Panthers wore down in the fourth quarter.  Expect both teams to try to impose their will defensively on each other with the team that can best deal with opponent's pressure by making them pay for pressing with quick scores to come out on top.

Shaking off a sluggish effort in the first round vs. uOttawa Gee-Gees, 6'5" Jeremy Dunn came out on fire in the first half of yesterday's X victory, scoring 15 points in the first half and finishing with 25 (I believe).  Dunn scored in a variety of ways yesterday, including knocking down a pair of threes at the end of a press break (UPEI tried to press X early), inside in the low blocks and out of half-court sets.  Dunn is putting together a strong season worthy of post-season honours.  How Dunn works along side 6'7" Bol Kong, who sat out yesterday's victory over UPEI with swelling in his knees but is expected to be ready for this afternoon's final, will be an interesting sideline to today's game and indeed the remainder of X's season.  6'5" Terry Thomas is happy getting his in transition and off the offensive glass while 6'2" Tyrell Vernon is an able and willing table setter with a "pass first" mentality.  Dunn and Kong will need to figure out who takes the big shots in which situation, a role thus far that has been Dunn's.  6'0" Will Donkoh has been terrific for X at key moments of both games this week, in the press with deflections and steals, getting to the rim in transition and creating for others.  Donkoh was a catalyst in game-turning runs in both the Ottawa and UPEI games, playing the energizing role that guys like Jonathan Bell and Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw provided in season's past.

The Stingers are led by 6'2" Kyle Desmarais, the All-Canadian and member of Canada's World University and Pan-Am games teams, who is a fixture in their full and three-quarter court pressure packages.  6'2" Decee Krah continues to shine as a perimeter shooter, gaining confidence throughout his career and now looks to move into the domain of a First team all-star type.  But arguably the underlying key to Concordia's success is the play of 6'3" Evens Laroche, who has extended his game on the perimeter but wreaks havoc defensively and on the offensive glass.  6'0" CCAA Player-of-the-year Jerome Blake comes off the bench, an further indication of the talent available in reserve in this lineup.

Both teams faced semi-final opponents that lacked the comparative depth that both X and Concordia bring to the table.  In today's championship game, expect neither team to be worn down with fatigue as the game enters the fourth quarter, making it all the more intriguing. 

Game is available on SSN Canada with our very own Bill MacLean doing the play-by-play broadcast.

Video of Warren Ward's miraculous buzzer-beater from half court

X/Concordia meet today in Shoveller Championship at Noon ET/1 PM AT

X-Men rebound to defeat Panthers (Glen MacDonald Halifax Chronicle-Herald)

Concordia held on to beat Dal with their athletic, pressure d causing 31 Tiger turnovers.  The Stingers overcame a five point deficit after three quarters to move to this afternoon's championship game vs. St. FX in a battle of two Top 10 teams.  Dalhousie got a career-high 24 points from freshman Ritchie Kanza (Scarborough Mother Teresa). 

Here is today's Shoveller schedule:

Consolation Round games in the morning:
  8 AM ET/9 AM AT Acadia vs. RMC 
10 AM ET/11 AM AT  Ottawa vs. Saint Mary's 

Championship Game: NOON ET/1:00 PM AT
#10 Concordia vs. #2 St. FX  on SSN Canada
Third Place Game:  2 PM ET/3:00 PM AT
UPEI vs. Dalhousie  also on SSN Canada

Valley City captures 45th Wesmen Classic

The Vikings took charge in the third quarter amid a flurry of Brandon turnovers to win the 45th Wesmen Classic title, capturing the championship game going away over the Bobcats.

Valley City State 90 Brandon 58

Sekani Milligen (Valley City State) 25 pts
Emerick Ravier (Brandon) 14 pts

The Valley City State University Vikings defeated the Brandon University Bobcats 90-58 in the Championship Final of the 2011 Coca Cola Wesmen Classic. The victory by the Vikings is the second university title by an American school in the 45 year history of the Classic. Bismarck Jr.College was the last American school to win back in 1968. Tournament MVP Sekani Milligen led the Vikings with a gamehigh 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists. All Star Aaron Duske added 18 points and Aj McDonald finished with 12 points, including three-three pointers. All-Star Emerick Ravier led the Bobcats with 14 points. Jordan Reaves and Ilarion Bonhomme each scored 8. Valley City State went into the halftime break leading 37-26 and turned up the heat in the second half connecting on 59% shooting from the field and outscoring Brandon 53-32 in the final twenty minutes. The Vikings finish the three day tournament with a perfect 3-0 record, Brandon finishes at 2-1.

Tournament All-Stars
Eric Zimmerman – Winnipeg
Emerick Ravier – Brandon
Andrew Cunningham – Winnipeg
Kyle Vince – Brandon
Aaron Duske – Valley City State
MVP:  Sekani Milligen – Valley City State

Bobcats baffled in Wesmen classic loss  (Kevin Hirschfield Winnipeg Sun)

Friday, 30 December 2011

Friday, December 30th, 2011 CIS Tournament Schedule/Scores

Concordia 79, Dalhousie 75 (Shoveller championship semi-final)

Ryerson 87, Laval 84  The Rams captured their own RNIT championship for the first time in recent memory going back to the days of the Ed Dearmon Classic.  Rye took charge in the third quarter with a 32-11 run to lead by as many as 24 with 6'9" Bjorn Michaelsen scoring 9 points during the run with 6'3" Jordan Gauthier (team-leading 20 points; one of six Rams in double figures) nailing back-to-back 3's in the decisive third quarter.   Laval coach Jacques Paiement was very complementary in defeat:  "They are really active and athletic we just could not stop them in transition.  They are really good and will be even better for a while." Laval, which finished the game on a 21-6 run in the final 7 minutes but only got it to 3 at the end, went 9 for 12 from downtown in the second half and 15 for 24 for the game.  Rouge et Or was very balanced offensively as well with 5 guys with at least 12 points.  Box Score

Winnipeg 82, UBC Okanagan 49 (Wesmen Classic 3rd Place game) Mark McNee (Winnipeg) 21 pts Player of the Game; Bret Macdonald 13 pts  from Wpg SID  The Winnipeg Wesmen wrapped up the 45th Annual Wesmen Classic with a convincing 82-49 victory over the UBC Okanagan Heat Friday afternoon at the Duckworth Centre. Mark McNee led the Wesmen with a game high 21 points and nine rebounds.  McNee was named Player of the Game for his performance. Travis Krahn added 14 points, including three-three pointers. Third year forward Brayden Duff added 12 points and fifth year guard James Horaska playing in his final Classic finished with 10. First year guard Bret Macdonald led the Heat with 13 points.  Yassine Ghomari added 11 points, five assists. Winnipeg fell behind 13-1 at the midway point of the first quarter but found their legs in the final four minutes to trail 17-16 after one. The Wesmen continued to ride the momentum in the second quarter outscoring the Heat 23-11 to lead 39-28 at halftime. Winnipeg continued to put pressure on the Heat in the second half scoring 43 points and limiting the Heat to 21 points in the final
twenty minutes.
#3 Lakehead 83, Bishop's 72 (Classiques des Citadins)  The Wolves finished the third quarter on a 15-1 run including consecutive 3's on 3 straight possessions (two by 6'5" Ryan Thomson, the hero of their win over McGill on the first night of the tournament) to take a 15 point lead and kept the spread around 10 for the remainder of the game to finish 3-0 in the tournament.  Thomson went 4-8 from downtown and finished with 15 points.  Box Score

#2 St. FX 78, UPEI 69 (Rod Shoveller Memorial tournament championship semi-final)    Will Donkoh keyed a fourth quarter run with some flashy plays in transition and on the defensive end and X finally took the lead for good with about 2 minutes remaining to win what was a much tighter game than the final score indicates.  UPEI led by as many as 4 midway through the fourth but the Panthers thinner lineup tired, giving up easy scores and missing several free throws down the stretch and X took advantage to advnace to tomorrow's final.
X finished the third quarter on 10-2 run led by the slashing takes of Donkoh including the tying and go ahead baskets to give X their first lead since very early in the game.  But UPEI re-took the lead by 4 early in the fourth.  Panthers struggled when they went to their second team, turning it over and failing to find consistent offense anywhere when Jonathan Cooper (20 points in the first half - scoreless in third quarter) and Jermaine Duke went to the bench.  Donahan Moss made some perimeter j's to keep UPEI close.  Panthers starting five of Manock Lual, Jon Cooper, Moss, Duke and point guard Terrence Brown is strong but there is a noticeable drop-off after that.
The Panthers used a variety of zone presses after makes, 2-3 and 1-3-1 defenses around some solid man in the quarter court to forge leads as high as 7 in the first half.  Cooper had some acrobatic finishes inside, primarily in transition plus a couple of threes to finish the half with 20 points.  X, playing without injured 6'7" Bol Kong (knee - in street clothes on X bench), got a very strong first-half performance from 6'5" Jeremy Dunn, who made the Panthers pay with a couple of threes at the end of press breaks, who had ~15 points in the first half and finished with ~20 points.  Panthers trying to give X a taste of their own medicine by getting some easy scores and turnovers off pressure.  X has generally attacked the zones well is remains in striking distance.  X welcomed back Shane Coupland (Australia) who missed yesterday's game vs. Ottawa and has been largely ineffective as a starter today.

Manitoba 91 UNBC 69  from Wpg SID  Yigit Ozsayiner (Manitoba) 16 pts Player of the Game; Dennis Stark (UNBC) 13 pts.  Note:  Ozsayiner is Manitoba's 6'6" Turkish import, a post player who just started his Bisons career this week at the Wesmen Classic; by all indications he will be a difference maker.  The University of Manitoba Bisons defeated the UNBC Timberwolves 91-69 in the consolation final of the Coca Cola Wesmen Classic. Yigit Ozsayiner led Manitoba with a game high 16 points. Stephan Walton, Keith Omoerah and Marko Milosevic all scored 13. Xavier Smith added 12. Dennis Stark led the Timberwolves with a double-double 13 points and 10 rebounds. Manitoba was successful on 53% shooting from the field in the opening half and went into the locker room leading 49-29 at halftime. Manitoba kept their double-digit lead for the entire second half to secure the win.
Walsh 96, Toronto 82 (RNIT Third-Place Game)  Walsh used a 22-11 run early in the third quarter to defeat the Blues in the Third Place game of the RNIT.  Blues trailed by as many as 16 but got it to 9 with just over 4 minutes remaining on a three by 6'5" Alex Hill (team-high 18 points) but could come no closer.  Box Score

Saint Mary's 96, RMC 45 (Shoveller consolation round)

Ottawa 76, Acadia 73 (Shoveller consolation round)  6'6" Warren Ward's desperation three from halfcourt at the buzzer gave the Gee-Gees an exciting three point win over the Axemen.  Acadia's star 6'10" center Owen Klassen, who was questionable for the game after banging his shoulder in Thursday's loss to UPEI, played 28 minutes in the game today.  Ottawa was coming off an emotionally-draining first round overtime loss to X.

Sheridan 89, Waterloo 71 (RNIT Consolation round)  Bruins pulled away with a resounding 27-2 run in the first six and half minutes of the fourth quarter to blow open a tight game and win their second consecutive consolation game.  Khalud Abdel had 26 to lead all scorers including 7 points in the decisive run.  The Warriors played without 4 of their top 6 scorers including OUA All-Star Cam McIntyre, Mike Wright, Brendan Smith and Andrew Melbourne.  Box Score

Montreal Dynamo 75,  McGill 64 (Classique des Citadins)  Dynamo overcame a 15 point lead after going into a zone and later creating McGill turnovers.  Coach David DeAveiro substituted freely throughout the game, giving playing time to all 15 players on his roster.  David Brownrigg led Dynamo with18 points.

Guelph 94, Memorial 72 (RNIT Consolation round)  Gryphs rebounded from a pair of sub-par results , jumping out to a 41-6 first quarter lead before coasting to an easy win over Memorial in one of two consolation round games at the RNIT tournament in Toronto.  6'2" veteran wing Danny McCarthy once again led the way for Guelph with 29 points while 6'7" Adam Bering added 22 while 6'3" Drew Morris, who has battled injuries all season, came off the bench to contribute 18 in the winning effort.  Both teams now prepare for resumption of league play beginning next week.

Minot State 105, Keyano College 75 (Wesmen Classic consolation round)


A pair of tournament championship games (45th Wesmen Classic & RNIT), semi-finals at the Shoveller and the final day of Classique des Citadins highlights today's CIS games in Canada.  Yesterday's action produced several overtime games including the 3 OT thriller between UNB and McGill at UQAM and X's come-from-behind overtime win over uOttawa before a jam packed house at the DalPlex who were rewarded with one of the more exciting matches in the CIS this season between two athletic teams. 

45th Wesmen Classic championship pits Valley City vs. Brandon with Gil Cheung's Bobcats seemingly catching their stride after not having their coach in tow for a significant portion of the first half as Cheung joined his fellow University employees on strike.  We have all no doubt enjoyed the game reports from Dave Crook, our Winnipeg-based correspondent and thank Dave for his great coverage.

In Toronto, at the Ryerson National Invitational tournament, the host Rams meet improving Laval Rouge et Or.  Ryerson had an important win over a very strong Walsh College team last night and Rouge et Or shook off a tough start to defeat the Varsity Blues in the other semi-final.

Shoveller semi-finals have X vs. UPEI, which sets up as a great matchup of two undefeated AUS teams led by good friends Steve Konchalski and Tim Kendrick.  The other semi pits hosts Dalhousie against #10 Concordia Stingers.  Both games are available on SSN Canada.

Not mentioned here yesterday was the tremendous effort of Ottawa's 6'3" Johnny Berhanemeskel, who finished with 31 points including numerous long, big 3's.  Also, Acadia's star forward/center 6'10" Owen Klassen left yesterday's game vs. UPEI with an elbow injury and coach Steve Baur reports that x-rays on Klassen's elbow came up negative but there is enough swelling and lack of motion range that his status for the final two games of the tournament is questionable.  Klassen is very likely to be ready when league play starts again in just over a week.

Bill MacLean's Shoveller Day One Report

A battle of teams undefeated in AUS conference play highlights an intriguing night of Semi Final action at the Rod Shoveller Tournament at Dalplex.

The first game tips off at 6:00 and pits the UPEI Panthers (6-0, 2nd place in AUS) versus the nationally ranked Saint Francis Xavier X-Men (5-0, 1st place). The nightcap has the host Dalhousie Tigers looking to upset the Concordia Stingers ranked 10th in the country.

UPEI vs #2 St FX (6:00, webcast on ssncanada)

The Panthers looked downright scary in a 78-64 trouncing of Acadia in a game that was never close after the opening few minutes. Newcomer Donathan Moss and 5th year senior Jonathan Cooper dominated the Acadia backcourt causing full court chaos, creating multiple turnovers and easy baskets for UPEI as they led 25-10 after the first quarter.

In the second half Manock Lual took over on both ends of the floor pushing the Panthers lead to 24 points midway thru the third quarter. Lual would garner Player of the Game honours by virtue of a 23 point performance.

Meanwhile the X-Men had all they could handle dealing with a spirited effort from a deep and talented Ottawa Gee Gees team. The Gee Gees controlled the majority of the game and led 41-28 in the third quarter but couldn't hold off the latest X-Men second half charge, a staple of their season so far.

Bol Kong made his highly anticipated debut and the rust was evident especially in the first half when he traveled in the back court trying to navigate some token pressure from Ottawa. Kong took seven three pointers and connected on only one, but that one tied the game in the final minute and forced overtime.

In the extra session Kong made a beautiful spin move in the lane giving the X-Men a 74-69 lead and they barely held on for a 74-71 win.
Athleticism galore will be on display tonight at the Dalplex as both squads can run and jump with any team in the country. The battle of the guards will be a major storyline with the Panthers talented trio of Moss, Cooper, and Terrance Brown facing off against a batch of athletic guards from the X-Men featuring Terry Thomas.

The critical match up could be Lual vs Kong, although Tim Kendrick may put Lual on high scoring Jeremy Dunn and have hard working Jermaine Duke try and contain Kong.

Regardless, this is undoubtedly the game to watch in the country tonight, and should be an absolute dandy.

#10 Concordia vs Dalhousie (webcast on ssncanada)

The Tigers rolled over RMC 114-50 in their opening game last night while the Stingers took full advantage of horrible foul shooting from Saint Mary's (12-28 from the line) to squeeze out a 90-87 win.

The Tigers will once again be without the services of 2nd year guard Jumol Mullings. Coach John Campbell says he's still about 1-2 weeks away from returning.

Bad news for a Tigers squad that doesn't go deep playing a Stingers team that features a solid 10 man rotation led by do everything guard Kyle Desmarais.
Another problem for the Tigers will be the depth at the post position of the Stingers with Zach Brisebois, James Clark, and Taylor Garner.

Sam Williams and Nathan Smith will have to provide a huge effort in support of Robert Nortmann, and expect Will Yengue to be asked to guard the post tonight, something he's very capable of.

Casey Fox was stellar in the first half versus RMC and after a difficult term could be returning to the level of play he exhibited in two years at Acadia. Tigers faithful hope so as the team will need someone to take charge down the stretch of what should be a very close basketball game.

Top Stat Lines from Opening Night
Jonathan Cooper, UPEI- 17 pts, 6 assists, 5 steals.
Manock Lual, UPEI- 23 pts, 6 rebs
Johnny Berhanemeskel, Ottawa- 31 pts, 7-13 3-PT
Terry Thomas, St FX- 19 pts, 5 rebs, 8 turnovers
Derek Norris, Dalhousie- 20 pts, 5 rebs, 3 assists, 3 steals
Sam Williams, Dalhousie- 20 pts, 9 rebs
James Byun, RMC- 22 pts, 6-13 3-PT
Evans Laroche, Concordia- 24 pts, 9 rebs
Harry Ezenibe, SMU- 22 pts, 17 rebs

Defense challenges offset Saint Mary's array of offensive talent

With a stable of explosive, scoring wings and forwards, Saint Mary's Huskies have the offensive firepower to make the final season of Coach Ross Quackenbush's career an eventful one.  Unfortunately, the Huskies have been pourous defensively, allowing 91.1 ppg and allowing teams shoot 48% from the floor, both worst in AUS, the main reasons why SMU was an un-Huskie-like 2-5 in the AUS first half.  Defense was a limiting factor last season also; as Coach Quackenbush puts it "we have a hard time keeping people in front of us and we simply need to guard the ball better" in order to have a stronger chance of having the much-decorated and highly-successful Coach go out a winner.

As has been the case in several of his 20+ seasons as Huskies Head Coach, Quackenbush has generally kept his bench reasonably short, playing his best guys major minutes.  Having to deal with a back injury to 6'5" starting post Harry Ezenibe that kept the Nigerian native out of the first 4 games of the AUS regular season (including a pair of losses at UPEI) with a hip flexor, Quackenbush has since been riding his top five of 6'5" sophomore Torey Fassett, 6'1" veteran Jerome Smith (Hamilton, ON), 6'1" freshman Brian Rouse, 6'0" three-point specialist Miguel Pink, who comes off the bench and Ezenibe.

The 2-5 record is somewhat deceiving as Huskies blew a late lead vs. St. FX at home to lose by 3 and lost both to UPEI in Charlottetown without Ezenibe.  But the loss at Cape Breton to close the first half was especially disconcerting as SMU allowed the Capers to shoot 56% from the field and grab 10 offensive rebounds in a resounding loss.  In a bit of a scheduling quirk, the Huskies played only 2 of their 7 pre-Holiday league games at home at The Tower in Halifax.  Saint Mary's is happy to already have completed the longest trips geographically on their AUS schedule and look forward to a second half with a lot less travel and games better spaced.

Fassett, the second-year wing forward from Columbia, MD (23.4 ppg/6.4 rpg/32 mpg) is Huskie's most explosive scorer (season-high 34 at Cape Breton) who coach Quackenbush feels has "matured alot from last year... he is playing better without the ball and making mid-range jumpers off the dribble", a lost art from the perspective of Quackenbush, one of Canada's top players in his day during the late 70's and early 80's with numerous National team appearances.  Fassett's best talents are on display in transition when playing at high speeds.  Smith (32 mpg, 10.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg), a transfer from Mohawk College in his second season at Saint Mary's, and generally runs the point and starts the offense. 
Ezenibe (11.3 ppg/6.0 rpg) is a difference maker for Saint Mary's at both ends, offensively with his quick jumping ability on the glass and defensively as a shot blocker.  The athletic forward had 23 points/11 rebound in the tight loss to X and his hip is back to full strength.  Saint Mary's got one of the better potential talents to enter the CIS this season is 6'1" Rouse, a freshman guard from Mississauga Ascension H.S. averging 17.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg in 31.4 mpg as an immediate starter.  Rouse is a prototypical scoring slasher who is learning to make decisions when he can't get to the rim and will be even more difficult to check as his perimeter jumper becomes more consistent especially off the dribble.

Knocking shots down is not a problem for Pink (13.7 ppg/31.3 mpg), the slick four-year sharpshooter from Whitby, ON who comes off the bench with Ezenibe's return but usually is on the floor at the end of games.  Shooting almost 50% from 3's even with attempt ~8 3's per game, Pink's first-half highlight was a 6 for 11 performance from beyond the arc vs. X.

Three role playing big guys help to provide rebounding and protection of the paint including 6'8" Iain Robertson (3.3 ppg), now in hid 5th year out of Halifax, NS, who usually starts and his minutes will be determined by how well he complements the scorers on the glass, defending, setting screens and, when needed, the odd finish or put-back inside.  6'8" Riley Halpin another Halifax product in his third season provides 6.9 ppg off the bench and has made one start.  Unfortunately, another forward counted on to be a rotation guy, Simon Marr (4th Year, Saint John, NB) disclocated his knuckle and broke his finger at the pre-season St. FX NIKE tournament, had surgery and is likely out for season; he should have 2 seasons of eligibility remaining assuming he doesn't play again this season.

In addition to Rouse, Quackenbush's final recruiting class included 5'8" Kadeem Scott (2.7 ppg), a point guard from Oshawa G.L. Roberts and an Honorable Mention Toronto Star All-star in '08-'09, who is quick and strong, learning to play effectively at this level as somewhat undersized guard.  Quackenbush is high on 6'5" Warren Liang (1.7 ppg) from Charles Tupper H.S. in Vancouver, B.C. who is a true freshman directly out of Grade 12 and should continue to push for time and, as he matures physically, expect Liang to be an effective AUS four man.  Another promising freshman, 6'0" Asher Lewis, from noted Ontario high school power Pickering H.S. is another true freshman who will likely redshirt this season.

Saint Mary's under Quackenbush always seems to find a way to make noise as the AUS tournament nears and as long as Quack can get his guys to commit to defending and rebounding, expect their offensive firepower to keep them in the mix for a wonderful send off for their long time coach that includes a final appearance at the Halifax Nationals.

Calgary/Canada West report from Wayne Thomas

Concordia Plays Like Top Team   The Concordia-Irvine Eagles were voted the top team in NAIA competition from all of the 114 schools across the U.S., and they looked the part on Thursday night in a swarming defensive effort as they dropped the UC Dinos 110-67. The Eagles pressure forced an amazing 34 turnovers from the shell-shocked Dinos, who shot it well enough, when they could get it safely into the offensive zone.  Tyler Fidler was the leader for Calgary once again, with 14 points and 4 rebounds, with 3 other teammates hitting double figures ... Keenan Milburn has 11 and dealt out 6 assists ... Dustin Reding had a double-double of 12 points and 11 boards ... Boris Bakovic hit 11 points and had 5 rebounds, while Josh Wolfram scored 9 and had 7 boards.  The Dinos shot 25/57 - 44 % .. while Concordia created more possessions and opportunities to score with 37/76 - 49 %. Eight Dinos played double figure minutes, including Bakovic, who was up to 21 in this, his 2nd game for Calgary after missing all of the 1st half of the season.  Marco Bellusci, 1st year red-shirt, Webber Academy in Calgary played his 1st minutes in a Dinos uniform ... he travelled with the team after it was decided to leave Matt Letkeman in Canada rather than risk any health issues for him in the U.S.  The Dinos finish their California games with a contest on Friday vs. Biola U. Eagles in La Mirada, just SE of Los Angeles. Live Stats and Video are available, with a start time of 8:30 PM , Calgary time.
Winnipeg Wesmen Coca-Cola Classic - Thursday
Consolation Semi-Finals
UNBC 70 Minot State 52 ... Four UNBC players scored in double digits led by Joel Rybachuk's 15 points. Sam Raphael added 13. Kevan Madsen and Jose Araujo finished with 10.
Manitoba 91 Keyano College 79 ... Fourth year guard Xavier Smith led the way with 19 points for UM, followed by Kurtis Sansregret with 14, Tanner Draward and Yigit Ozsayiner had 12 each. The Bisons play UNBC in the Consolation Final Friday.
Championship Semi-Finals
Valley City State 93 Winnipeg 85 OT ... The teams were tied at 81-81 after regulation time forcing the extra period where the Vikings outscored Winnipeg 12-4. 4th year forward Eric Zimmerman led the Wesmen with a game high 27 points ... Travis Krahn and Andrew Cunningham each finished with 17.
Brandon 69 UBC-O 40 ... Emerick Ravier led the Bocats with 14 pts as Brandon had control of the contest , leading 35-15 at halftime. Yassine Ghomari led the Heat with a game high 20 points. Brandon will face Valley City State for the championship on Friday.

Other CIS action - Thurs.
In California ...UVic 64 Biola 60 ... 1st win for a Canada West school this Christmas season ... up 13 at the half, the Vikes held on for the win ...Terrell Evans and Reese Pribilsky led with 12 apiece. UVic had a big edge in foul shots ... 25/32 - 78%, while Biola was 12/19 - 63%.  U. Calif. - Merced 88 UBC 79 ... Nathan Yu scored 18 for the T-Birds in the loss ... Doug Plumb had 13, and Balraj Bains 10.  In Las Vegas ...Cal Baptist 73 Lethbridge 61

Media Articles from this morning

X-Men win in Kong's debut  (Monty Mosher Halifax Chronicle-Herald)

Wesmen shut out of Classic final  (Winnipeg Free Press)

Fourth quarter rally propels Wolves to road win  (Thunder Bay News Watch)

Huskies fall to Bisons

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Thursday, Dec. 29th, 2011 CIS Tournament Schedules/Results

Brandon 69 UBC Okanagan 40 (45th Wesmen Classic Championship semi-final)  Emerick Ravier (Brandon) 14 pts Player of the Game; Yassine Ghomari (UBCO) 20 pts.; The Brandon University Bobcats advanced to the Championship Final of the 2011 Coca Cola Wesmen Classic with a convincing 69-40 semi final victory over the UBC Okanagan Heat. Brandon had control of the contest after the opening ten minutes leading 17-4 and extended their lead even further after two quarters to take a 35-15 lead at halftime. Brandon did not look back in the final twenty minutes. Emerick Ravier led Brandon in scoring with 14 points. Yassine Ghomari led the Heat with a game high 20 points. Brandon will face Valley City State in the Championship Final Friday night at 8:00 p.m. UBC Okanagan will play Winnipeg in the third place game at 4:00 p.m.

#3 Lakehead 88, UQAM 77 (Classique des Citadins)  Box Score  The Lakehead Thunderwolves won in classic fashion Thursday night with a furious fourth quarter comeback which saw the 'Wolves outscore UQAM 33-12 in the final stanza. Down 65-54 to start the 4th and 70-59 with under seven minutes remaining, Lakehead was finally able to string together enough stops on the defensive end to create some offense of their own.  The duo of Ben and Adam Johnson led the way for Lakehead tonight as Ben Johnson had a career high 31 points shooting 12-17 (5-7 3pt) and a perfect 12-12 from the FT line. Adam Johnson also recorded a CIS career high dropping 21 points on 10-15 shooting in 18 minutes of play. Ryan Thomson overcame a slow start to break open the game late with two 3s of his own finishing with 14 points on the night.  UQAM hit tough shots for 80% of the game led by Gregory St Amand who had 18 and 6 rebounds. Alex Bernard poured in 16 including his first 3pt shot of the season at the first quarter buzzer.  UQAM won the battle of the boards (10-6 offensive) but turned it over 24 times to Lakehead's 14. UQAM led 47-37 at the half.   Coach Morrison on the Win:  "We are very fortunate to escape tonight with the victory. Tonight our guys were reminded first hand why we never give up and keep grinding. Credit to our guys for really staying with it and keeping up our energy when things seemed lost. While it was an exciting comeback at the end, what wasn't exciting was out defense in the first half which allowed 47 points - many in transition. Tomorrow we have an explosive Bishop's squad that will require a better job on the boards and increased effort in defensive transition."

Ryerson 75, Walsh 71 (RNIT Championship semi-final at Ryerson) Box Score Bjorn Michalsen tallied a double-double, recording 19 points and 11 boards, while Jordon Gauthier put up a game-high 22 points as the Ryerson Rams tallied an upset victory over Walsh, defeating the Cavaliers 75-71 to earn a berth in the finals tomorrow night against Laval. Jahmal Jones had 20 points and seven assists for the Rams, while Ryan Vanderhorst dropped 18 points in a losing cause for Walsh. The host Rams came back from a first-half deficit and outscored the Calaliers in both the third and fourth quarters to record the win. The RUNIT finals will feature the host Rams against Laval, while the Cavaliers will play Toronto in the 3rd/4th place match-up.

Valley City 93, Winnipeg 85 Overtime (45th Wesmen Classic Championship semi-final) With thanks to Dave Crook.. Vikings top host Wesmen 93-85 in overtime. It took the Wesmen 3:41 to score their 1st point and they twice trailed by 15, as late as the last minute of the third quarter only to have the last shot in regulation to win. Eric Zimmerman led all scorers with 27 and Andrew Cunningham playing only his third game in a Wesmen uniform after missing 14 weeks with a broken foot had 17 points and 6 assists. Winnipeg mixed fullcourt pressure and a mtchup 2-3 zone to claw back against a powerful Viking squad. Dominque Brown hit a long three ball to tie things at 81 off a draw and kick from Cunningham. The Wesmen then forced Viking point guard John Raquel into a turnover with 4 seconds in regulation. The Wesmen missed a late shot and the game went to OT. In the overtime, the Vikings made a couple of hoops in transition and then knocked down freethrows for the 8 point win.

Concordia 89, Saint Mary's 87 (1st round Rod Shoveller Memorial tournament at Dalhousie)  Stingers held on at the free throw line at the end as the Huskies tried valiantly to fight back from a 7 or so point deficit in the fourth quarter.  Stingers went 8 for 10 from the line late to seal the win.

McGill 98, UNB 95 (Triple Overtime) (Classique des Citadins)... Box Score  Varsity Reds rallied from a 10 point fourth-quarter deficit to tie it on late jumper by Michael Fosu in regulation.  McGill led by 7 with 2 minutes remaining in the 1st OT but UNB's Dan Quirion (team-high 24 points) nailed two big 3's including one with 4 seconds remaining in OT1 to extend the game.  Another 3 by Quirion gave UNB their final lead of the night with 2 minutes remaining in the third OT but Karim Sy-Morrissette (17 points, 15 rebounds) and Winn Clark (22 points) each had 4 points in the final OT as Redmen hung on to win by 3.  6'8" Tristain Tremblay led all scorers with 30 points and added 10 rebounds for McGill.

Laval 85, Toronto 79 (RNIT Championship semi-final at Ryerson)... with thanks to Ryerson SID; Boris Hadzimuratovic recorded a double-double, including 25 points and 11 rebounds to send the Laval Rouge-et-Or into the RUNIT finals with an 85-79 victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues on Thursday night. Hadzimuratovic was lights out from the field, draining 11-of-13 buckets while teammate Christian Trottier chipped in 15 points for Laval. Andrew Wasik recorded a tournament-high 15 rebounds to go along with a team-high 21 points for the Blues, who fall in the tournament semi-finals for the second year in a row. After a slow start in the opening quarter, the Rouge-et-Or dominated the middle periods of the match, outscoring Toronto 48-27. Laval will play either the host Ryerson or defending champion Walsh in the finals tomorrow evening. Toronto will play the loser in the bronze medal match.   Box Score

Dalhousie 114, RMC 50 (1st round Rod Shoveller Memorial tournament at Dalhousie) 

St. FX 74, Ottawa 71 (Final in Overtime) (1st round Rod Shoveller Memorial tournament at Dalhousie)
  6'2" Tyrell Vernon made a driving left handed lay-up in transition with just over a minute to play in the extra session to give X the lead for good and then 6'7" Bol Kong added a big putback giving X a come-from-behind victory in a very exciting CIS match before a capacity crowd at the DalPlex.  Earlier, Ottawa blew a 5 point lead in the last minute and a half of regulation as Kong, who came alive late after a sluggish start, hit a game-tying 3 with about 40 seconds remaining.  6'7" Gabe Gonthier-Dubue finished a conventional 3 point play to give Ottawa the 5 point lead but X was equal to it.  Gonthier-Dubue also gave the Gee-Gees their final push in the overtime with an "and 1" inside, and after he missed the ensuing free-throw, grabbed the offensive rebound but Warren Ward's three at the buzzer was well off the mark and X survived.  The Gee-Gees opened the third on a 7-0 run to take a 13 point lead with wise shot selection and getting the ball inside but mysteriously went away from that, allowing X to get their transition game and a pro-X, capacity crowd back into the game.  X finished quarter on 13-6 run as Will Donkoh got to the rim a couple of times.  X had a comfortable eight point lead early in the second quarter when Ottawa coach James Derouin switched into a 2-3 zone and, more importantly, his troops started making shots which kept X's vaunted transition game in check.  During the 18-4 run that closed the first half, Ottawa got lifts from a pair of reserves in 6'10" Shamus Ferguson inside and 6'2" Jacob Gibson-Bascombe, who made a pair of perimeter jumpers.  Kong had 2 points in the half but looked sluggish otherwise with a couple of travelling calls.  6'5" Terry Thomas has added several pounds of strength and was by far the most electric X-Men on the floor, getting to the offensive glass and playing with energy.

Montreal Dynamo 84, Bishop's 64 (Classique des Citadins) Box Score

Sheridan 78, Guelph 71 (RNIT Consolation Round at Ryerson)  Guelph was without starting guard Kareem Malcolm (an ex-Sheridan Bruin) who hurt his knee last night against Walsh.  Box Score

UPEI 78, Acadia 64 (1st round Rod Shoveller Memorial tournament at Dalhousie) Dominant first half performance by the Panthers in which UPEI grabbed an early double digit lead and led by 20 for much of the second half.  UPEI showed a tight zone "d" which held Owen Klassen in check and UPEI making their shots on the offensive end.  Acadia struggled from the free throw line.  Manock Lual had a very strong effort for PEI and was named Player-of-the-Game.  More from Bill MacLean after the game. Game available on  SSN Canada with our Halifax correspondent Bill MacLean doing the play-by-play

UNBC 70, Minot State 58 (45th Wesmen Classic consolation round game) (RNIT Consolation Round at Ryerson)  Box Score

Manitoba 91, Keyano College 79 (45th Wesmen consolation round game)

Memorial 78, Waterloo 74

There are 15 games on Canadian soil involving CIS teams across 4 locations today.  Key games of note including Acadia vs. UPEI at noon ET/1 PM AT in the first round of the Shoveller at Dal in Halifax.  The surprising Panthers under first-year Head Coach Tim Kendrick are undefeated in AUS league play including a pair of victories over Acadia.  Also, Bol Kong makes his much-anticipated CIS debut at 2 PM ET/3 PM AT as X meets uOttawa.  Both games are on SSN Canada with our Halifax correspondent Bill MacLean doing the play-by-play.  At the RNIT in Toronto, both semi-finals are very intriguing as Laval faces the U of T Varsity Blues in an Ontario/Quebec battle while host Ryerson meets Walsh College, defending RNIT champions.  In a late game at 9 PM ET, #3 Lakehead meets host UQAM Citadins in the Classique des Citadins tournament in Montreal.  The 45th Wesmen Classic also has their championship semi-final games tonight including Brandon vs. UBC-Okanagan and the host Wesmen meeting Valley City.

Calgary/Canada West report from Wayne Thomas

Cougars Maul Dinos In Azuza... Despite the first appearance from Boris Bakovic in a Dinos uniform , Calgary were mauled 96-58 by the Azuza Pacific Cougars in game 1 of their California tour on Wednesday. Calgary was soundly beaten in both halves, with the Cougars ending the 1st at 52-32, and continuing with a 44-26 margin in the 2nd.  The NAIA team from the Los Angeles suburbs shot 50% from the floor, while Calgary could manage only 36% on 13 fewer shots .. the Dinos had a 32-46 deficit in rebounding, and turned it over 17 times to 12 for APU. Tyler Fidler scored 17 points and grabbed 4 boards, while Josh Owen-Thomas shot 5/8 and finished with 13 pts. and 4 rebounds. APU was 9/21 treys while Calgary managed just 3/14...In his 11 minutes of action, Bakovic, who is returning from a serious knee problem, scored 4 points and had 3 rebounds, as he got into the action even earlier than indicated by Coach Vanhooren earlier this week.... Calgary meets the top ranked Concordia Irvine Eagles on Thursday at 6 pm Calgary time ... the game is streamed live and there are Live Stats.

Also in California on Wednesday ...
Concordia Eagles (#1 NAIA) 87 Victoria Vikes 64 ... the pressure from the quicker Concordia team obviously got to the Vikes , who coughed up 23 turnovers, most in the 48-27 blitz from the #1 ranked NAIA team in the U.S. in the 2nd half.  Victoria got 13 each from Ryan McKinnon and Michael Acheampong.

Biola Eagles 80 Fraser Valley Cascades 68 ... a strong 2nd half from Biola erased a 30-29 UFV lead at the half. The Cascades got 16 apiece from Joel Friesen and Kyle Grewal, while Sheldon Bjorgaard had another good game with 14, as he picked up the slack with the absence of Sam Freeman from the line-up.

in Las Vegas ... Cal State-San Marcos 75 Lethbridge Pronghorns 50 ... the ‘Horns spread the minutes around in this one, with 10 players getting 12 or more minutes ... Derek Waldner had 10 pts and 7 boards to lead the ‘Horns, who shot just 33% vs. 52% for Cal St- San Marcos.

Winnipeg Wesmen Coca-Cola Classic - Wednesday
Brandon 78 UNBC 52  Kyle Vince scored a game high 25 points to lead the ‘Cats past the’Wolves ...Vince finished the contest with six-three pointers and had 3 steals. Emerick Ravier added 16 for the Bobcats. Francis Rowe led the Timberwolves with 21 points and Jose Araujo had10.
UBC Okanagan 64 Minot State 61 - Yassine Ghomari led the Heat with 13 points, including 8-of-10 from the free throw line. First year guard Bret Macdonald finished with a double-double 11 points and a game high 10 rebounds. Junior guard Yonas Behre led the Beavers with 19 points, including three-three pointers. The Heat will face Brandon in 1 semi-final on Thursday.
Winnipeg 78 Keyano College 70 - The host Wesmen advanced to the semi final round with a too tight 78-70 win over the Keyano College Huskies ... Eric Zimmerman led the Ws with 15 pointswhile guard Andrew Cunningham, was Player of the Game after scoring 13 points, dealing 7 assists, nabbing 5 steals. Zach Alger- Waldher led the Huskies with 19 points.
Valley City 80 Manitoba 72 - The Vikings will move on to Thursday night’s semi final against the host Winnipeg Wesmen. Sekani Milligen led the U.S. squad with a game high 25 points , and Aaron Duske added 19 . Manitoba was led by newcomer, Yigit Ozsayiner’s 13 points. The Bisons wasted a 40-39 lead at the half as VCU hit 54% from the field in the second.

Articles from overnight

Cunningham sparks Wesmen  (Winnipeg Free Press)

Point guard return spurs Wesmen win (Winnipeg Sun)

A Brave front for Huskies (Fort McMurray Today)

Thomson, Wolves slam Redmen with big second half (Thunder Bay news watch)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wed. Dec 28th Tournament Schedule / Results

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

EVENING GAMES (see below for afternoon results and summaries):
RNIT Game 3:  Ryerson 101, Sheridan 79  Fifth-year veteran Luke Staniscia recorded a double-double, including a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Jahmal Jones and Bjorn Michaelsen chipped in 18 each, and the Ryerson Rams rolled over the OCAA's Sheridan Bruins 101-79 on Wednesday evening to advance to the RUNIT semi-finals. The Rams shot a potent 55.1% from the floor, and were a perfect 8-for-8 from beyond the arc in the victory. The tournament hosts also dominated the Bruins on the glass, pulling down 44 rebounds compared to 27 by Sheridan. Ryerson used an 11-0 run at the end of the first quarter to take a double-digit lead and another streak late in the opening half gave them a commanding advantage at the break. Khalud Abdel led Sheridan with 20 points, while Alan Anderson and Michael Sellridge added 16 and 14 respectively in the loss. Seeing his first action since a pre-season injury in October put him out for the first half of the regular season, Michaelsen went 8-of-12 from the field while just missing out on a double-double, tallying nine rebounds to go along with his 18 points in 32 minutes of court-time. Ryerson will play either the winner of the Guelph-Walsh match at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow, while the loser will take on the Bruins in the consolation round.  with thanks to Ryerson SID.   Box Score

UQAM Game 3:  #3 Lakehead  82, McGill 69, Lakehead opened the UQAM invitational tournament (The Classique des Citadins) with a 82 - 69 win over McGill.

McGill led by 2 at the half after giving LU a lesson in offensive rebounding (10 first half, 18 for game) and LU struggled offensively shaking off some Christmas rust. Ben Johnson was 3-5 for 10 points in the opening frame but LU also had 10 turnovers.  Second half McGill started quckly with Tristan Tremblay scoring 6 straight points in the paint before drawing a 3rd foul mid-way in the 3rd quarter and going to the bench. Lakehead took advantage by increasing the perimiter ball pressure in Tremblay's absence and used some better D and rebounding to get the offense moving.  Ryan Thomson got going in the second half with 18 points (20 for the game) and Greg Carter's defense was a major factor the entire game as his 6 steals in the game were a big part of LU forcing 23 McGill turnovers.  Lakehead pulled away in the 3rd and kept the lead around 10-15 points for much of the 4th.  thanks to Lakehead SID.  Karim Sy-Morrissette had 14 of his 16 points in the first half for McGill which led by as many as 7 and had a six point lead with 2 minutes gone in the third quarter before faltering.  Box Score
Wesmen Classic Game 3:  Winnipeg 78, Keyano 50  The Wesmen welcomed back Andrew Cunningham for the first time in 14 weeks and he took Player-of-the-Game with 14 points, 10 in the first half as the Wesmen advanced.  Game Story  From Dave Crook:  Keyano Coach Mike Connolly did a great job keeping the University of Winnipeg Wesmen off balance all night long and gave the home team a real scare. The Huskies employed both an inverted triangle and 2 and a 3-2 zone to keep the Wesmen in thier sights. Winnipeg struggled to get off the mark and did not score for the first 4:50 of the contest. The Wesmen managed to take the lead just past the 7 minute mark of the first quarter and looked to be walking away with it after building a ten point gap at the half. The second half saw the advantage balloon to 13 before before Keyano rallied, sparked by Zach Alger-Waldher. The Huskies took a 1 point lead before the Wesmen answered and on a Dom Brown Fg to take the lead back for good. Down the stretch the Wesmen made a number of smart unselfish plays en route to the eight point win. Andrew Cunningham was the key for the Wesmen, returning to the lineup after breaking a bone in his foot and missing 14 weeks. he led the way playing 29 minutes, scoring 13 while adding 7assists, 6 rebounds and 5 steals. The Wesmen will now face the Valley City Vikings who knocked off the U of W's crosstown rivals the Manitoba Bisons in tonights nightcap.
RNIT Game 4: Walsh 87, Guelph 66  Walsh pulled away in the third quarter, breaking open a six point halftime lead. Kenny Kornowski led the way with 24 points and nine rebounds, both game-highs, and the defending RUNIT champion Walsh Cavaliers advanced to the semi-finals with an 87-66 win over the Guelph Gryphons in the final game of the tournament's first day. Ron Kinney also pulled down nine boards and tallied 14 points for a Walsh team that shot 55.7% from the field. The Gryphons kept pace with the Cavaliers throughout the first two quarters, and a three-pointer from Daniel McCarthy brought them within six going into the half-time break. However, Guelph would manage just nine points in the third quarter, and were outscored by 14 points in the period. Walsh cruised from there to victory, and will take the court against the host Ryerson Rams in the semi-finals at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow evening. Daniel Thompson recorded a team-high 17 points in the loss for the Gryphons, who will play Sheridan on the consolation side of the bracket.  with thanks to Ryerson SID  Box Score

Wesmen Game 4: Valley City 80, Manitoba 72  From Dave Crook:  Manitoba came out flying but Valley City stood up as the two teams battled it out for 40 minutes. Manitoba took a 1 point lead into the break 40-39. The Vikings picked up the pace in the scecond half and shut down some of Manitoba's easy looks in the second half for the victory. Yigit Ozsayiner, Manitoba's Turkish International student, played in his first game for the Bisons and was the teams leading scorer with 13, including 3 three point field goals. he had a good night moving the ball and may help Manitoba's cause in the second semester. The Bisons continued to play without starting forward Richard Reimer who has a back injury.  From Wpg SID... The Valley City State University Vikings defeated the Manitoba Bisons 80-72 in the quarter finals of the Coca Cola Wesmen Classic Wednesday night at the Duckworth Centre. The Vikings will move on to Thursday night’s semi final against the host Winnipeg Wesmen. Sekani Milligen led the Vikings with a game high 25 points, including a trio of three pointers. Aaron Duske added 19 points followed by AJ McDonald with 13. Manitoba was led by Yigit Ozsayiner’s 13 points. Manitoba went into the halftime break leading 40-39 only to see the Vikings shoot 54% from the field in the second half and going on to outscore Manitoba 41-32 in the final twenty minutes. The Winnipeg/Valley City State semi final will take place at 6:30 p.m. Manitoba and Keyano College will meet in a consolation semi final Thursday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.
UQAM Game 1:  Montreal Dynamo 76, UQAM 61  Box Score
- Dynamo has two Laval alumni David Brownrigg and Charles Fortier plus Montreal legends Bobby Miller and Marco Volcy.  Dynamo led by 22 at the half.  6'7" Vincent L-Fortier led UQAM with 14 points/9 rebounds.

RNIT Game 1:  Laval 80, Waterloo 69
Waterloo 12-15-13-29= 69
Laval 20-18-25-17= 80
- Laval up 23 after 3 quarters and 26 at one point.  Laval was led by Xavier Baribeau 20 pts, Thibaud Dezutter 17 pts 6 rebs, Etienne Labrecque 13 pts 8 rebs, Boris Hadzimuratovic 12 pts 7 rebs Box Score

Wesmen Classic Game 1: Brandon 78, UNBC 52  Kyle Vince had 25 points including 6-9 3's and the Cats played an unselfish offensive game against UNBC which primarily played a zone.  UNBC, which was without two starters (academics and injury) also shot under 30% for the game.  Brandon also outrebounded UNBC by 10, 47-37.  With notes from Dave Crook.

RNIT Game 2:   Toronto 67, Memorial 59   Plenty of 3's flying in this one as both teams played healthy minutes of zone.  The Blues pulled away in the second half to move into one championship semi-final vs. Laval. Box Score

UQAM Game 2:  UNB 80, Bishop's 63  UNB finished the first half on a 20-2 run to lead by 22 at the half and win going away in Montreal.  Matthew Daley had 19 points including 4-6 3's to lead all scorers.  Box Score

Wesmen Game 2:  UNB-O 64, Minot State 61   The Heat overcame a six point deficit midway through the third with a 22-11 run bridging the third and fourth quarters in an ugly game.  The Beavers, making their 6th and final appearance in the Wesmen Classic as they move to NCAA Div2 next year, have only the consolation side to look forward to. With only 8 players dressed they ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and dropped the 3 point game - Minot is redshirting 4 players who are likely to rotation players next season. The Heat gave Minot every opportunity to get back in the game late, missing four free throws in the last 38 seconds, giving the Beavers two chances to tie it up.  Minot's Canadian point guard Yonas Behre threw the ball away with 20 seconds left but the Beavers quickly got UNB-O to turn it over, getting once last chance with 6 seconds to tie it, only to see a long 3 by Josh Johnson go wide and the Heat held on.  Yassine Ghomari led the Heat with 13 points and 6 assists. Behre, who played his high school at Toronto's Henry Carr C.S. had 10 points and 4 assists for the Beavers.  With notes from Winnipeg correspondent Dave Crook.

Rod Shoveller Tournament Preview from Bill MacLean

A breakdown of opening day action from the annual Rod Shoveller Tournament at Dalplex beginning Thursday, December 29th. The Shoveller is one of the premier holiday tournaments in the country and is a favorite amongst local Halifax basketball enthusiasts.

Acadia versus UPEI, 1:00 Atlantic (webcast: ssncanada)

Game featuring two teams with dramatically different seasons thus far.

Coming off their run at AUS Championships last March the Axemen were heavy favorites to win it all with almost their entire core returning. However Steve Baur's young team has struggled to score and lost three close games to conference front runners UPEI and St FX.

UPEI returns a group of players that finished out of the playoffs last year but added Tim Kendrick as their Head Coach and talented forward Donathan Moss who has averaged nearly 20 points per game.

The results have been staggering as the Panthers are undefeated through six games and in second place in the AUS.

UPEI beat Acadia twice last month in Charlottetown, 98-89 and 67-64. This could be the best game of the day.

Players To Watch
Acadia- Owen Klassen- 17 points and 10 rebounds per game this year for the best inside/outside player in the conference.
Tyler Scott- High flying rookie who may be the most exciting player to watch on Acadia.

UPEI - Manock Lual- Hard working, intense competitor who has averaged nearly a double/double throughout his career.

Donathan Moss- Gifted and athletic, can score in bunches and combines with Guard Jonathan Cooper to cause full court chaos.

Ottawa versus #2 Saint Francis Xavier, 3:00 Atlantic (webcast: ssncanada)

The Gee-Gees and X-Men meet once again at the Shoveller two years after they played a highly entertaining game featuring two of the best guards in the country.

Christian Upshaw led St FX to a decisive win over Josh Gibson-Bascombe and the Gee Gees in 2009 and tomorrow's game could be just as much fun.

The X-Men will be looking to show the country they are legitimate CIS contenders with a big win over a non AUS opponent, and they'll finally have the highly touted Bol Kong in the lineup.

The Gee-Gees are in second place in the OUA East division and have a core of players that nearly made it to nationals last season. Both teams feature depth and athleticism at the guard spot and like to push the basketball.

Players to Watch
Ottawa - Warren Ward - Played for Canada at the Pan Am Games this past summer, averaged 21 points and 7 rebounds last season.
Mike L' Africain- Quick freshman Point Guard averaging 11 points per game.

St FX- Jeremy Dunn - The leader of the X-Men, averages 22 points per game and has the best shot fake in the AUS.
Terry Thomas- Most exciting player in the AUS, averages 22 points and a monster on the defensive end.

RMC versus Dalhousie, 6:00 Atlantic (webcast: ssncanada)

Should be no problem for the host Tigers against an RMC team that has yet to win a conference game this season (0-8).

The Tigers can match any team in the AUS with their athleticism but have struggled to score and defend at times this season. Gone are Simon Farine and Joseph Schow, and the Tigers have nearly a completely different look from the group that won two AUS championships in three years.

Talented transfer Casey Fox will be looking to use the tournament as a chance to get on track in time for the second term, and the Tigers could get a much needed confidence boost with an appearance in the tourney final.

Players to Watch
RMC - Connor Duke- The Dartmouth, N.S. native comes home and will be looking to pull off an upset in front of his friends and family. The 6'3" Duke averages 15 points per game.
Idris Said- Madjid- Averages 16 points per game and shoots over 80 percent from the free throw line.

Dalhousie - Robert Nortmann- Athletic post player averaging 17 points and 6 rebounds per game. A beast on the offensive glass.
Casey Fox- Talented swingman who struggled in first term but was a dynamic scorer in his two years at Acadia.

#10 Concordia versus Saint Mary's, 8:00 Atlantic (webcast: ssncanada)

Possibly the most entertaining game of the day. An outstanding nightcap for fans of offensive basketball, and a match up that has become an annual tradition at the Shoveller as the two teams meet for the third straight year.

The Huskies score nearly 90 points per game and shoot over 50 percent from the floor while the Stingers average 80 and lead the CIS in steals with 13 per game. The last time the nationally ranked Stingers were in Halifax they nearly upset Carleton at the CIS Championships, while the Huskies are looking to get on track and make a run for AUS championships to send Ross Quackenbush out with a title.

Players to Watch
Concordia- Kyle Desmarais- Averages 17 points per game, shoots over 50 percent from the floor and averages 3 steals.
Decee Krah- Explosive guard averages 13 points per game and shoots nearly 40 percent from three.

SMU- Tory Fassett- Early AUS MVP candidate. Fassett averages 23 points, shoots over 60 percent from floor, and is a defensive menace.
Harry Ezenibe- One of the best athletes in the AUS, a force on both ends of the floor. Averages 11 points, 6 rebounds per game.

Wayne Thomas with Calgary Dinos Report + Articles

California squads severe tests for Dinos

Also, article on Carleton's Kyle Smendziuk in this morning's Ottawa Citizen

Monty Mosher's Shoveller Preview article in Halifax Herald

Ken Wiebe from Winnipeg Sun with Wesmen Classic article

Huskies take on Wesmen Classic

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Laval re-tools for another run at Quebec league title

Rouge et Or lost a heartbreaking Quebec league championship game to Concordia last March and now embark on a re-building program after losing 40 plus points per game from their two veterans J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux and 6'4" Jerome Turcotte, who had one season of eligibility remaining but decided to pursue a law career in Montreal and is presently working through bar exams. Coach Jacques Paiement Jr. has refilled the roster with a stack of young talent to augment his two fifth-year veterans 5'8" Xavier Baribeau and 6'6" Etienne Labrecque. Laval is off to 2-2 start in Q league play but with a rotation that goes at least 8 deep with a quality new big man and an athletic wing plus the addition of ex-York Lion 6'5" Rene-Pier Mathieu in early January, expect Laval to contend once again.

The new leader of Rouget et Or is veteran 5'8" point guard Xavier Baribeau (9.8 ppg, 34.2 mpg), who is assuming responsibilities as an on-court leader in this his fifth and final season. Baribeau's offensive numbers are down somewhat this season as he becomes a main focus of opponent's defensive plansmore of a scoring role. However, Baribeau is a proven scorer who can make 3's in bunches, either in transition or in the half-court. Expect Laval's fortunes to ride heavily on Baribeau's shooting and leadership. The other fifth-year senior is 6'6" Etienne Labrecque (9.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 24.8 mpg), who is coming off another painful back injury suffered in August (he had hurt his back a couple of seasons ago also).  Somewhat injury prone throughout his career, Paiement believes Labrecque is back at full strength now and ready to finish his career in grand fashion in second half.

Paiement welcomed a stellar recruiting class in the fall, led by 6'9" 260 pound post Boris Hadzimuratovic (14.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 29.5 mpg), a physical, mobile 5 man who is just learning to use his body and power at the CIS level against more experienced players. Paiement hopes that his freshman big will start to draw double teams to open up the floor; presently Hadzimuratovic has been getting much of his on the offensive glass and at the free throw line. Laval's other freshman, who Paiement calls a "hidden gem" who flew under the radar somewhat at Édouard-Montpetit CEGEP, 6'3" Thibaud Dezutter (13.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 24.3 mpg) may be the most athletic player that Paiement Jr. has ever brought to Ste. Foy with his long arms and wide wing span providing Laval with the versatility to use him in multiple defensive situations. Still a bit raw offensively, especially shooting the perimeter jumper, Dezutter has been able to attack the rim early on in his career: he leads the RESQ in free throw attempts by a wide margin already.

Back from a hamstring injury that sidelined him the entire second half of last season and much of the early pre-season training camp, 6'5" 2nd year shooter Hugues Ryan (8.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 22.8 mpg, 53% from 3) will keep the floor well spaced with his deep three point range for a bigger wing. Strong and well-liked, Paiement calls Ryan a natural leader and as his hamstring gets back to full strength expect his time and numbers to go up. Another pure shooter is 6'1" guard Christian Trottier (5th year, 8.5 ppg, 20.5 mpg) who has struggled with injuries throughout his career but as a pure shooter, is very valuable when he gets it going.

Another less heralded freshman, 6'8" Antoine Guilard (23 mpg), an import from France, is learning to play and, just having turned 19, may need a bit more time but is already very versatile defensively, guarding 2 through 5 and has a bright future. Also, Laval received some instant experience when 6'5" guard Rene-Pier Mathieu transfered in from York. He will be eligible to play in January having last suited up for the Lions at last season's Ryerson tournament. Mathieu has two seasons of eligibility remaining including this.

Laval opens the RNIT in Toronto at noon tomorrow against Waterloo Warriors.

Consistency is key to Badgers hopes

With arguably the best and deepest array of raw talent in possibly the entire CIS, the Brock Badgers are oozing with potential that optimistic second-year coach Brad Rootes is busily moulding into a group that is able to take advantage of what usually is more athleticism and talent than their opponents. If the first half is any indication, much of what has to occur to push Brock (6-2 in OUA league play) toward their third-ever National championship is consistency and improved mental toughness.

Nothing typified the paradox that usually characterizes many talented young, high-potential teams than the final weekend of the Badgers first half during which on Friday night, Brock was blasted by 24 at home against 3-5 Ryerson and then followed up the very next night with a very impressive, dominant 40 point victory over the veteran-laden U of T Varsity Blues.  Inconsistency at home appears to be a trend as Brock also knocked off a very good Ottawa Gee-Gees squad before getting thrashed by 42 points vs. #1 Carleton the very next night at home in what was a 30 point game almost from the beginning. Getting his troops focused on each and every game - each and every possession - is probably coach Rootes top objective toward contending for the West title and a spot in Halifax.

Rootes entrusts most of the primary decision making with 6'1" Andrew Kraus, in his fifth and final year (second with the Badgers). A coach's son (father George coached Seneca College in the 80's and both of his point guard son's in high school in Markham, ON), Kraus (8.6 ppg), who is not afraid to take the big shot at the end of games, is strong and usually crafty more than he is athletic and brings an emotional edge to his play. Playing off Kraus in the back court is former CIS Rookie-of-the-Year 6'1" Didi Mukendi (9.4 ppg), who returns after sitting out last season due to stomach tumor removed. The athletic combo actually lost close to 50 lbs. and was bed ridden for long stretches so his return is somewhat miraculous. Mukendi brings tremendous on-the-ball pressure defensively and is learning to find new ways to score as teams begin to sit on his right hand.

One of Brock's top newcomers, NCAA Division 1 transfer 6'3" Tshing Kasamba (10.5 ppg - Chicago State) had a storied high school career in St. Catharines but has missed time the past few seasons after suffering through a knee injury and transferring back. Rootes feels Kasamba "finally has found his confidence, especially physically with his knee, late in the first half" and has flashed his nice athleticism punctuated by a facial on a couple of defenders in the U of T game. The slashing three man will be a main stay in Brock's rotation. Joining Kasamba on the wing is another newcomer who returned from NCAA Division 1, 6'7" Western Kentucky transfer Jameson Tipping (15.7 ppg in 6 league games), who has a very good face up game and much range beyond the arc - Tipping shot 5 for 6 from 3 in the third quarter alone in the U of T game. Athletic with a 7' wing span, Tipping provides Rootes with several good alternatives for defensive matchups, especially when he fully recovers from a dislocated ankle suffered vs. Murray State in August, an ankle which necessitated him sitting out the Queen's and RMC weekend to rest and rehab. Brock also gets contributions from wing forward Anto Raic, who shoots the 3 and 5th year guard Jay Fleming, a very good defender as a guard.

Up front 6'6" Mark Gibson (13.8 ppg) gives Brock their most consistent low post presence with a versatile big man game allowing the crafty Toronto native to face up and/or back in depending upon matchups. Complementing Gibson is 6'5" fifth-year 4 man Andrew Ferguson (6.6 ppg) who stretches defenses with his ability to shoot 3's from the 4 spot. More importantly, Ferguson is the locker-room leader, a critical role on a maturing team with so much talent. Another NCAA Division 1 transfer who probably has the most potential to make a First Team OUA West type of impact for Brock is 6'10" Theo Davis (5.6 ppg in 5 games), who has been injury-prone, sustaining a knee injury forcing him to miss most of Laurentian game and all of York game and then rolling his ankle in final moments of Brock's last practice before Queen's/RMC weekend. Davis complements Gibson around the paint with his very underrated passing and playmaking skills from either low or high post however, despite protecting the rim very well has been subject to some foul trouble which he hopes to avoid as league play continues. Rounding out a very talented set of posts is 6'8" Brian Nahimana (5.2 ppg), a starter earlier in his career who is settling in as a low block 5 man and solid offensive rebounder.

The up and down first half helped Rootes learn more about his group which is laden with newcomers and guys who have not played together all that much. When right, Brock can create turnovers in bunches and can be dominant. But efforts like Ryerson and Carleton have shown that doing it right over every possession is still a goal to be pursued. The Badgers are in Florida preparing for the Tampa Classic where Brock will meet a pair of NCAA Division II teams: University of Tampa and Eckert College.

Point Guard woes hamper Thunderbirds

Fresh off a multi-year run as a CIS Nationals title contender during which UBC Head Coach Kevin Hanson enjoyed the luxury of multiple, high-quality upperclassmen making the majority of the offensive decisions from the point - last season for example with Alex Murphy and Josh Whyte, the Birds usually had two, fifth-year All-Star calibre points on the floor at once - , heavy graduation losses have had a dramatic effect this season, especially in the back court.  While 6'2" Nathan Yu, fresh off representing Canada at the World University and Pan-Am games, has shot the ball at an All-Canadian level, with two games of 30+ points in league play, UBC has been challenged beyond that at the guard spots, including trying several different alternatives at the point which have produced mediocre results, punctuated on the final weekend of the first half when UBC combined for 56 turnovers in two losing efforts at Lethbridge and Calgary.  Although there is plenty of young talent in the pipeline at the wings and up front, the lack of a pure point guard in the program has been the main reason for a very un-UBC-like 4-2 record at the break. 

Hanson does have a strong stable of fifth-year veterans from the 2 to 5 spot which should keep UBC contending this season plus that fine array of young talent including what most feel will be the core of future Thunderbird contenders.  But this season's success, much like we talked about earlier with U of T Varsity Blues, will hinge on the play of whoever is entrusted with starting the offense and making the key decisions with the ball.

With Yu, 6'5" forward Kamar Burke, 6'5" Graham Bath, 6'9" Balraj Bains and 6'3" Doug Plumb, Hanson has a formidable, veteran front line and a big time scorer at the two spot in Yu.  All are in their fifth and final seasons of eligibility (Plumb, who transfered over from Fraser Valley a couple of years ago after playing only 3 games for the Cascades before suffering a season-ending injury is likely to request another season).  Burke attacks the offensive glass and is a terrific finisher in transition when he gets the ball there, Plumb is a wonderful athlete with quick springs around the rim who also needs to be able to play off someone and both Bath and Bains are complementary, hard working bigs who thrive when guards and wings are doing the scoring and they are setting screens, rebounding and protecting the paint.  Using Yu as the point can take away from his natural abilities as a scorer who has deep range but can also attack off the dribble probably more than he thinks he can.  Without a table setter, much of the strengths of these fifth-year guys can be compromised.

The rest of the roster is dotted with ex-B.C. provincial team starters with extremely bright futures led by 6'3" Malcolm Williams, who has a chance to be UBC's next big time player as a 2 man.  6'6" Tommy Nixon is another fine athlete who is earning more time at the 3 and 4 spots as a sophomore and continues to learn to play and make decisions with the basketball at this level; but he has big-time potential also.  Hanson has been trying 6'1" Nakai Luykan, fresh out of Yale H.S., at the point to mixed results.  Luykan may be the best pure athlete ever in the program - he won the BC provincial 100 meter dash without so much as a single training run and has already authored numerous highlight reels slams - but he has struggled as a pure point guard at the CIS level so far including a need to improve his perimeter jumper.  With work, Luykan can be the foundation of a top CIS program also.  Up front, UBC has formidable 6'9" freshman David Wagner, who started on Canada's Jr. National team and should be an impact player almost immediately however he suffered a broken hand and missed much of and/or was not fully fit in the first half.  Finally, 6'7" redshirt freshman Mike Lewandowski is another high potential big who can complement Wagner.  However, within this extremely talented young group does not lie a pure point guard who can set the table and run the troops.

Expect Hanson to get the most out of what he has on the roster this season and squeeze out another Canada West Final Four appearance but rest assured in the background, the veteran Thunderbird boss man and his recruiting staff will be pounding the pavement looking for that one piece who can glue together all of that versatile, athletic talent at the 2 to 5 positions in pipeline.

UBC is in California for the 36th Annual Westmont College Tom Byron Classic (Santa Barbara, CA) where the Birds have a first round matchup against UC Merced, an NAIA program in the California Pacific Conference.

Holiday Tournament Preview: 45th Wesmen Classic

One of the more difficult challenges for players and coaching staffs is the usually-long (3+ week) layoff between the last weekend of the First Half and the re-start of the season just after Christmas Day.  A growing list of teams over the years have scheduled trips to more temperate climes, usually either Florida, Arizona or California, for training camp with games and/or scrimmages against U.S. NCAA D2, D3, NAIA and/or Junior Colleges.  However, there remains a solid stable of Canadian-based CIS Holiday tournaments that help teams re-energize, keep fans interested and, in some cases, can be the springboard teams need to build momentum into January league play.

This season, four CIS-hosted tournaments are on the docket, including the 45th Wesmen Classic, a Holiday tradition, continuing the longest consecutive year run of a University tournament hosted by the Winnipeg Wesmen at the Duckworth Center, still one of the finest facilities in all of Canada.  Only two other tournaments with longevity rivaling the Wesmen Classic exist:  Waterloo's Naismith Classic, which completed the 44th edition earlier this season (not certain if there have been 44 consecutive years of the Naismith) and uOttawa's Jack Donohue Memorial Classic (38 consecutive seasons). 

Historically, the Wesmen Classic has included at least 6 or 7 CIS teams with the tournament draw filled out by a U.S. NAIA school and/or Canadian college team(s).  This season's edition has four CIS programs, including the 3 Manitoba-based Canada West schools (Brandon, Manitoba and the host Winnipeg Wesmen).  CW newcomer UBC-Okanagan rounds out the CIS entries. 

Manitoba (4-4) in Canada West league play including a split at Brandon and a sweep of a pair at home against Winnipeg, may be the top CIS entry.  5'10" Atlanta, Ga. native Stephan Walton, a 3rd year transfer from Valdosta State University (NCAA D2) has led the Bisons, scoring 14.0 ppg while shooting 47% from three point land.  Under Head Coach Kirby Schepp, Manitoba has loaded up from the three-point line, finishing among the leaders in attempts from downtown the past 2 seasons.  This season however the Bisons appear more balanced, taking only 22 3's per game vs. averages in the high 20's to low 30's in the past two seasons.  6'0" Jonas Huertas comes off the bench to lead Manitoba at 14.1 ppg (41% 3's); he had a season-high 31 at Brandon.  Manitoba goes about 8 deep with 6'7" Kevin Oliver, a Brandon transfer, maturing as a CIS big man with 11.4 ppg and 8.0 rpg. 

Minot State (transitioning from NAIA to NCAA D2) enters the tournament losers of their last 8 in a row and is 1-13 overall leading into a first round match up with UBC-Okanagan (1-5).  Beavers feature a pair of former Toronto-area high school stars in 6'0" Yonas Berhe (Toronto Henry Carr, averaging 14.0 ppg this season) and sophomore Chris East.

Former Lethbridge Pronghorn coach Mike Connolly leads Keyano College (ACAA) with a roster dotted with out-of-province players including several from Connolly's native Ontario.  The Huskies face off against host Wesmen in the first round.  Valley City (N.D.) Vikings (NAIA) may well be one of the tournament favorites with a 10-4 record overall thus far including a six point win over the host Wesmen in October in Valley City.  The Vikings draw Manitoba in the first round.

Wesmen Classic kicks off tomorrow (Wed Dec 28) with the following set of first-round games:
Noon Central time:  UNBC (CCAA) vs Brandon (CIS)
2 PM CT:  Minot State (NCAA D2) vs UBC-Okanagan (CIS)
6:30 PM CT:  Keyano College (CCAA) vs Winnipeg (CIS)
8:30 PM CT:  Valley City (NAIA) vs Manitoba (CIS).

Page 19 of the Wesmen Classic Media Guide provides summaries of all teams participating in the tournament.

We are pleased to introduce our Winnipeg-area correspondent, former Wesmen and Lethbridge Pronghorn Head Coach Dave Crook, to the CISHOOPS.CA staff.  Coach Crook remains heavily involved with Canadian basketball at all levels, especially in touch with CIS basketball in the Winnipeg area.  We appreciate his input and welcome him to the team (and a thanks to his good friend Wellsie for making the suggestion).

More on the other three tournaments:  Ryerson National Invitational in downtown Toronto, Rod Shoveller Memorial tournament at Dalhousie in Halifax and UQAM Citadins Holiday tournament in Montreal later.

Thunderwolves hope third time is a charm

With consecutive CIS Nationals appearances under their belts, Lakehead Thunderwolves are well past the "happy to be there" stage and are properly setting their sites on a mid-March Sunday afternoon championshipgame appearance in Halifax.  Raising their first-ever Wilson Cup banner earlier this season was a defining milestone for the program but coach Scott Morrison, who ressurected this program from one of Canada's worst a few seasons ago, knows that getting that first win at the Nationals (and more) now needs to be the overriding objective.  Not that Morrison has forgotten how strong the OUA West is:  "the West will be unbelievably tough again this season" and how difficult it will be to repeat, especially with a schedule that has the T-Wolves travelling for back-to-backs at Windsor, at Laurier and at Brock this season.  But Lakehead has the depth and blend of athleticism, size and strength to be very worthy of their present #3 ranking in the Coaches poll.

At 7-1 with their only loss at home to Carleton by 3 which "probably was the best game we played in first half" according to Morrison - Lakehead had a decent look at a three on the game's final possession - the Wolves remain top contenders, with a rotation of at least 8 that is as good as any in the nation. Offensive balance remains an important element of Lakehead's success with five players averaging 10+ ppg and two others near that figure.  Lakehead continues to push the tempo at both ends and also as a group remains one of the best long-range shooting teams in the nation (39% as a team from beyond the arc), even with the loss of sharp-shooter Jamie Searle to graduation.

As with most contending teams, the Wolves are strong and experienced in the backcourt, led by 5'9" defender-extrodinaire Greg Carter (10.0 ppg/4.4 rpg/4.5 apg), Lakehead's 30+ minute per game point guard who wreaks havoc on opposition ball handlers and with maturation has turned into a very good decision maker with the ball offensively.  Since the graduation of Searle, Carter has looked to score more but as Morrison notes, "Greg's shot selection has improved since Jamie's graduation".  Another athletic guard 6'1" Ben Johnson (12.8 ppg/ 54% 3's) plays off Carter very well at the two spot and fills in at the point when necessary.  Completing a very good point/wing triumvarate is 6'2" Venzal Russell (12.1 ppg/4.4 rpg), the hero in Lakehead's dramatic OUA Final Four semi-final victory over Ottawa last March in Hamilton, who had a tremendous pre-season. 

Up front, even with his scoring numbers down from where one might think they would be, 6'6" Yoosrie Salhia (7.2 ppg/7.5 rpg) continues to present matchup problems in the low post with his slick array of finishes and 6'5" Ryan Thomson (10.6 ppg/4.9 rpg) stretches defenses from the three point line as a face up four man, but, as he proved in a gut-check effort vs. Laurentian for example, can mix it up inside when required.  Depth is important in this spot as Salhia continues to fight the lingering effects of a back injury sustained years ago which has limited his time to 23-25 minutes per game. 

Maybe the two most consistent Lakehead contributors in the first half were the first two off-the-bench, 6'2" Joseph Jones (team-leading 13.1 ppg) who is the first wing in and usually is on the floor at the end of games and 6'6" Brendan King (9.8 ppg), who ensures there is little if any fall-off when Salhia needs a break.  6'6" newcomer Adam Johnson (5.9 ppg/3.6 rpg in ~10 mpg), an import from Baltimore, MD, has been impactful as a big 3/4.  Among the strongest T-Wolves, Johnson brings a physical presence as he grows into his role.

Morrison's most recent freshman class had a distinct Winnipeg flavour to it as Lakehead brought in arguably the three best graduating seniors from the province of Manitoba in 6'7" Mike Thorne-Finch, 6'0" J.R. Alexander and 6'5" Joey Nitychoruk.  Unfortunately, the injury bug has limited progress for Thorne-Finch (concussion sustained in mid-October; has not played or practiced since) and Alexander (out the last 7 weeks with an ankle injury that has been in a cast).  Fortunately, Lakehead's depth and talent will allow these future contributors to ease into the lineup.

Lakehead, which to the program's credit has taken on a bit of a "go anywhere to play anyone" posture - witness last season's long trip to Quebec and Atlantic Canada on the eve of their OUA regular season - will spend the holidays in Montreal at the UQAM tournament.  Lakehead gets McGill Redmen tomorrow as the tournament kicks off and will also face Bishop's and the host Citadins before resuming their OUA schedule in early January.