The Keyano Huskies are going to need a little luck of the Irish in the St. Patrick’s Day basketball game.
The men’s basketball team is coming into the CCAA Men’s Basketball Championships as the lowest seed, and will face the powerhouse VIU Mariners in their opening match tonight.
The Mariners come in with an undefeated conference play record at 21-0, securing the top seed for the national tournament taking place at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre.
VIU also boasts the best player in the country. Third-year forward Josh Ross took home the CCAA Player of the Year Award at an awards banquet held at Keyano last night. Ross averaged over 20 points-per-game during the season in the PACWEST, and is known as a threat in every area of the court.
“It’s all about will, to stop the number-one player in Canada,” Huskies Head Coach Lunzaya Nlandu said on Fort McMurray Matters. “We do have the warriors to get the job done, so let’s see what happens tonight.”
The Huskies had a strong season, leading the ACAC North in offense, defense, and field goal percentage for/against. They also came second in rebound offense and assists-per-game. Keyano seemed destined for the provincial gold medal, but fell short in their semi-final matchup against the Medicine Hat Rattlers, losing 91-63.
“We didn’t stay together,” said Kevin Dia, the Huskies team captain. “We have to stay composed, have that discipline. And then just play together, play hard and good things will happen.”
This will be Dia’s third appearance in the nationals, having attended with the NAIT Ooks before. He said it’s tough to stay focused with the spectacle of the games, but he’s been trying to pass his experience on to his teammates to prepare.
“It’s hard because everyone’s here to see you,” Dia said. “It’s lights, camera, action.It just gets in the guys’ heads and they want to show off. But you’ve gotta stay together.”
Both Dia and Nlandu said they’ll need the home crowd to be loud and proud to give the Huskies the extra boost to take down VIU.
“Be our sixth man tonight and we’ll be just fine,” Nlandu said. “Come loud. Bring everybody. We need you guys to win this game today.”
The game tips off at 8 p.m. and you can purchase tickets at the SSWC.