Volume 94, Issue 93

Friday, March 16, 2001


Takin' to the rack in Halifax

Takin' to the rack in Halifax

Joel Brown
Gazette Staff

This challenge for immunity is simple.

To win, all a team has to do is put more points on the board than their opponents. If they lose they will be automatically voted out and asked to leave the court immediately.

And remember, all decisions are final.

The place: Halifax. The prize: A chance to hoist the most coveted reward in men's Canadian university basketball this year – the 2001 Canadian Intercollegiate Athletics Union Final Eight Championship.

This weekend's annual tournament tips off today, as six conference champions and two wild card entries battle it out for the W.P. McGee Trophy.

"You've got to get a little lucky," said Western coach, Craig Boydell, who knows all too well what factor luck can play in winning a game at the annual tournament.

Last year, a last-second shot taken from beyond mid-court by Brandon Bobcat forward, Josh Masters, in the semi-finals hit nothing but net, and in the process squashed any dreams of bringing a CIAU banner back to London.

This year Western goes in as the number two ranked team in the tournament and are looking to win its first national title since 1991. The Mustangs are ranked behind the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, a team Western beat earlier during the non-conference season, 90-85 in overtime.

Throughout this season's Ontario University Athletics play-offs Western has been stellar defensively, beating out the two OUA teams in the Final Eight McMaster and Carleton.

"We have to continue to play defensively well," Boydell said. "We've been particularly good there of late and our energy level has been right where is has to be.

"Now I'd like to see us run our offence better and make sure we get the ball in the open court."

Western's first match will be at 3 p.m. today against the number seven Victoria Vikes. Little is known about the team – they played only one non-conference game this season (few when compared to Western's 17).

But the Vikes did manage to beat Alberta, a team Boydell said had a chance to take it all if they would have made into the tournament.

The Vikes are led by swingman Ali Wilmot, a probable All-Canadian who averaged 16.9 points per game this season.

However, according to Victoria head coach, Guy Vetrie, the Vikes are not a one-man show and will rely on steady team play to beat Western.

"We don't have a superstar, we just work very hard as a team," Vetrie said. "The key for us is to just continue playing hard and hopefully we can stop their transition game."

Look for Mustang forward Andy Kwiatkowski, a transfer player who leads the nation in scoring with 21.9 ppg, to do the bulk of Western's scoring, while the rest of the strong and deep cast balance out the attack.

Along with this game, the All-Canadian awards presentation will also take place this weekend, and it may net Kwiatkowski and guard Jimmy Grozelle some hardware.

Still, the only award that really matters to the Mustangs would be the one that brings home Western's 15th CIAU championship.

"It would mean everything to me," said forward Matt Tweedie, whose journey as a Mustang comes to an end this weekend, along with centre Rich Tamminga. "There's been a lot of hard work put into the last five years and this would the ultimate culmination of a career."

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Copyright The Gazette 2000