Column: Sea-Hawks teams get halfway grades

John Browne
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We’re at the halfway mark of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) basketball season and so far it’s ho-hum for the Sea-Hawks teams.
The Lady Hawks are neither hot nor cold. I’ll stay away from the Biblical reference to people like that and just say Goldilocks would claim they’re just right, but that only counts in porridge.

After sweeping the lowly UNB Varsity Reds (3-8) the Sea-Hawks were lucky enough to earn all eight points from the four-point games which put them in pretty good position to make the playoffs with only five wins, but with 16 points, good enough for a second-place tie with Cape Breton Capers.

Coach Doug Partridge maintains things are not so bad all things considered. He has a very young team and Partridge acknowledges he’ll never be completely happy because inexperienced players are going to miss rotations and do other wrong things young players do.

But, he adds with emphasis, “I try to keep in my mind that we’re young and we’re playing way, way ahead of schedule. I tell the players as long as we’re in that position let’s just keep pushing to be better.”

Even without a go-to player, the Lady Hawks have managed to score enough for a 5-5 record in the team’s first 10 games. On a positive note, there’s no one player the opposition can key on and try to shut down to defeat the Sea-Hawks.

Overall, Partridge says there’s a “huge difference” in how well the team is playing now compared to the start of the season.

“We’re still not a great offensive team because we don’t move enough off he ball,” he noted. “But we don’t turn the ball over as much. We’re making better decisions. We’re taking better shots.

“You can see the difference in how we’re playing.”

MUN men are another story.

Anyone who has seen the team play the past five years would agree this team is the best of a poor lot.

The last time Memorial Sea-Hawks had a really good team it include a strong inside game, lights out perimeter shooting and a solid, effective backcourt.

Yet, despite their 1-9 record after a split with a strong UNB Varsity Reds side, they are an exciting, if frustrating, team to watch.

For example, you can enjoy watching Vasilije Curcic play even if the home side seldoms wins a game.

Curcic, MUN’s best big man since Matthew Chapman, has jumped to fifth place in conference scoring with a 15.9 points-per-game average after his 45-point weekend against UNB. The slam  dunkin-Serb has become a fan favourite and a real impact player in his second season with the Sea-Hawks.

However, as coach Peter Benoite has pointed out, without a perimeter game, opposition teams can key on Curcic without having to worry about open men from the three-point range.

The Sea-Hawks put in a half decent effort in Sunday’s loss to UNB, but once the visitors started hitting treys late in the third quarter, MUN couldn’t keep up.

Without an equal response and unable to get a stop, the Sea-Hawks simply had no chance for a comeback.

There are areas of the team that need upgrading, but what it does have is some potential. If they can recruit a genuine perimeter shooter — and they are not easy to find — the Sea-Hawks could be a playoff contender next season.

What’s been missing is back-to-back solid performances which Benoite knows is the key to progressing.

“Winning helps a lot. It’s hard day in and day out when you are not seeing those tangible results,” noted Benoite. “It’s tougher on the players. It’s easier as a coach because you have a plan and a vision for the future, but as a player you are always focused on the moment. It’s harder to keep that work ethic, that energy and positive attitude as the losses keep mounting. That’s why that win is so beneficial to us.

“A win like that one over UNB gives the guys confidence in themselves and what we’re doing knowing that if they come with that effort they can compete with anyone.”

MUN’s recent win over UNB is proof.

The halfway grade marks:

MUN women’s team: C+

MUN men’s team: D+

Organizations: Sea-Hawks, Sea-Hawks.However

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