The Memorial Sea-Hawks men’s basketball players probably feel pretty good about themselves today, and so they should.
A 4-14 Atlantic University Sport (AUS) record is nothing to jump up and down about, but the team has played better than the record would seem to indicate. The effort was often there, but the wins remained elusive.
The Sea-Hawks had little to show for their season until this past weekend when they beat the UPEI Panthers twice at the Field House.
It was all hands on deck in this series. Getting good minutes at various times from guys like Jacob Ranton, Jake Hynes, D’vontai Moore and Noel Moffatt contributed to the effort.
Then you had the offence, highlighted by Davion Parnsalu’s 32 points Sunday, including 18-for-21 from the foul line. That’s not far off the AUS record held by Sea-Hawks Shane Butland, who went 21-for-21 from the free throw line Feb. 5, 2001 against Dalhousie Tigers for an AUS record.
Toss in the consistent two-game effort from Vasilije Curcic and Caleb Gould, including Curcic’s five blocks, and you have an overall impressive team effort.
The most significant point in the series was probably Sunday when the Sea-Hawks blew a 10-point lead with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Normally, the fans would head to the exits at that point figuring another collapse was in the cards.
And who could blame them?
The Panthers came all the way back and tied the game 84-84 with about three and a half minutes to play. That looked to be the here-we-go-again scenario that’s been the trademark of the Sea-Hawks over the past several years.
But that’s not what happened. The Sea-Hawks pushed back. You could imagine everyone in a MUN jersey saying to themselves: Not in our house. Not this time.
You could see the determination in their eyes and the intensity on the floor.
You can’t fake that. Heck, the crowd could sense it.
Three straight baskets by Curcic, Gould and Ranton and some good defence gave the home team a 90-84 lead and the Sea-Hawks hit a eight of nine free throws to salt the game away down the stretch.
This is what the Sea-Hawks are capable of. This is what they can produce when they keep their heads.
And, more importantly, they are starting to believe in themselves.
Parnsalu said the double wins gave the team confidence and adds to the overall team chemistry.
“We’re coming hard next year. Next year, and in future years, we’re going to start winning (on a regular basis).”
It’s too early to say if the Sea-Hawks have really turned a corner in the team’s development. A two-game winning streak is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. However, the players seem to believe they will eventually compete on an equal level one day soon, so perhaps Peter Benoite’s preaching is paying off.
As Bruce Cockburn once wrote: “Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.”
There’s no denying there’s a hint of some daylight on the Sea-Hawks horizon.
Kelia Pond may be more valuable to the Memorial Sea-Hawks women’s basketball team next year than this season.
The fourth-year Lady Hawk wing from Goulds has put up some pretty good offensive numbers since Christmas, including 31 points in the two-game split against the UPEI Panthers this past weekend.
Pond sank 20 points in Saturday’s win and added 11 in Sunday’s loss to move ahead of Sandra Amoah as the team’s top scorer, 11.2 points-per-game to 11.1 ppg.
“I’ve been more confident since the break over Christmas,” said Pond.
“Improving my defensive game has given me the confidence to make plays in the offensive end,” she added, agreeing with coach Doug Partridge’s assesment.
While MUN has been basically a .500 team all season, Pond says, “The vibe of the team this year is better than any other year I’ve played.”
And while this year’s Sea-Hawks are without consistent a go-to player, Pond feels that has only helped the team chemistry if not the bottom line.
“Having everyone contribute to our wins has brought the team together,” she said.
“Everyone has a certain amount of respect for each other, and it shows on the court. We have a lot of young talent and I love where the team is heading.
“To be honest,” added Pond, “once the rookies this year get into their third and fourth years, a national championship is certainly a reachable goal. It's exciting to see how much we have grown as a team this season. I love where the program is heading.”
Unless there are a few huge upsets in this year’s playoffs, MUN won’t win the AUS title. However, with a healthy Brooklyn Wright available next year, plus a more experienced side overall, along with a fifth-year Pond, MUN could be back on top in no time given the team’s overall athleticism.
Wright, a 6-3 forward from Cambridge, Ont., may be the key. She was unable to play this season due to an injury.
Of course, Partridge and his players aren’t thinking about next year right now. They’ve got the undefeated Saint Mary’s Huskies coming up and then it’s playoff time.\
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