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Sea-Hawks hope win over UNB provides solid bridge to second half of AUS season

Davion Parnsalu (bottom) of the Memorial Sea-Hawks works to keep the ball away from Will Legere of the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds as UNB's Spencer Dawson 911) looks on during weekend AUS basketball action in Fredericton, N.B. Parnsalu had 27 points to help the Sea-Hawks down the conference-leading Varsity Reds on Sunday.
Davion Parnsalu (bottom) of the Memorial Sea-Hawks works to keep the ball away from Will Legere of the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds as UNB's Spencer Dawson 911) looks on during weekend AUS basketball action in Fredericton, N.B. Parnsalu had 27 points to help the Sea-Hawks down the conference-leading Varsity Reds on Sunday.

Memorial men don't play again until first week of 2018

Six weeks is a long time when it constitutes a break in a team’s season. So that last result before the start of a hiatus tends to dwell in a player’s memory during a lengthy holiday.

For the Memorial Sea-Hawks men’s basketball team, the first half of the 2017-18 AUS season hasn’t been very memorable when considered in bulk. So far, Memorial has just two wins in eight games and has scored fewer points per game than any other team in the conference.

However, when the conversation turns to “what have you done lately?” the Sea-Hawks can speak a little more proudly.

Memorial’s two wins came in their last three outings, including a 105-92 victory over the conference-leading University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds Sunday in Fredericton, N.B., where the Sea-Hawks eclipsed the century mark in scoring for the first time this season. What’s more, the loss was the first suffered by UNB this season.

“It certainly helps anytime you come out on the positive end, especially after playing so well against a very good team,” answered Sea-Hawks head coach Peter Benoite on being asked if Sunday’s game could act as a springboard and provide momentum that can last all the way until Jan. 6 when his team resumes its schedule.

“It helps team morale. It helps confidence. And really, I’m just happy we got a good effort (that matched) what I’ve been expecting.

“I expected guys to perform at (a certain) level and we finally got a game where that happened. That’s something that we certainly can carry forward.”

Benoite is pleased about more than the potential long-term benefits of Sunday’s result. He also sees a definite short-term positive in the way his team rebounded from a 90-55 loss to that same UNB team on Saturday.

That was the worst offensive showing by Memorial this season and the outcome was particularly disheartening in that it came in the Sea-Hawks’ first game following their initial win of the season, last Sunday in St. John’s against the Dalhousie Tigers.

But less than 24 hours later after being romped over by the Varsity Reds, Memorial almost doubled its Saturday output in fashioning a big upset win.

“I was real disappointed with our game Saturday night,” said Benoite. “I just didn’t feel we came out and gave a reasonable effort. I’m not sure why that was the case, but being able to respond and have a gut-check for ourselves, to turn that around and have a real positive performance, that shows me two things: that we’re capable of playing that sort of game, which is something I’ve always believed; and that we have some resilience and toughness, the sort of thing we’re going to need during the second half of the year.”

Having healthy bodies will also be important and Benoite said the Christmas break will provide some beneficial rehab and healing time.

“We’ve got a couple guys banged up. We rested a couple of guys towards the end because we didn’t want injuries to get worse,” said Benoite.

“January and February can become a grind, so we’ll need all hands ready to perform. It needs to be team effort if we’re going to something in the second half.”

Most notably, fourth-year guard Jovan Babovic, who was a starter in three of Memorial’s first four games, didn’t play against either Dal or UNB.

Unlike some past years, the Sea-Hawks won’t be travelling to participate in any holiday-time exhibition tournaments.

Benoite says they will hold some work-outs this week, “but then we’ll ease off going into exams. We’ll go into a little bit of weight training, individual-type stuff.”

Not that there is a formal prohibition against holding workouts in the next few weeks, but Benoite knows there is a time to pay particular deference to the student part of being a student-athlete.

“We could practise three times a day if we wanted to, but we want the guys to pass their courses, too,” he said with a chuckle.

brendan.mccarthy@thetelegram.com

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