After an unprecedented string of Championship-winning teams coming from Red River College in both the Men’s and Women’s division, it is time for the Rebels to defend their MCAC crowns on home soil.
The Rebels women’s team will try to add a fifth-straight MCAC title to their trophy case while the men’s team has been tasked with defending a championship winning streak that goes back seven-straight seasons.
However, the men’s Rebel squad enters the weekend against a University of Winnipeg Wesmen team that has been hard for every other team in the MCAC to crack. With a 9-3 record, the Wesmen gave wins only to Providence University College, Canadian Mennonite University and the Rebels this season. The latter came back on January 15th when the Rebels’ Gliff Macalua lead his team with 29 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 2 steals. Macalua and teammates Garnett McLeod and Taylor Brown boast three of the top-five scoring averages in the conference, but the Rebels’ points differential was an average of -9.1 compared to the Wesmen’s 9.2. More than an 18 point differential means not only will the Rebels need to do a better job at protecting their hoop but they’ll need to get in the way of what is arguably the conference’s most dangerous balance of offense. All-Conference guard Chris Bartolay is the engine that drives the Wesmen machine but he does so alongside the dangerous shooting and scoring touch of 6’5” forward Roan Van Eerd and 6’1” guard Brandon Vidal. In only three of their games this season did the Wesmen boast game leading-scorers; no other men’s team spreads the attack the way the Wesmen have. But this all comes with a disclaimer: the Red River College men’s basketball team has won the last seven MCAC titles in a row. I doubt they’re ready to be the squad that ends such a streak.
The other men’s semi-final could very well be the best game the league has seen all season. 2016 Most Valuable Player Romeo KC leads his #2-ranked Providence University College Pilots into a matchup against the #3 Canadian Mennonite University Blazers who have a way of hanging around in games. The Blazer’s Jon Hayter has turned a lot of heads this season with his freakish athleticism and high basketball iq, but his fellow All-Conference selection Jacob Penner and the league’s biggest work horse, Adam Bergen, are also huge reasons the Blazers are so dangerous. Don’t let their 5-7 record fool you; the Blazers can run. But they’ll need to get a hand in the face of Providence’s Daniel Dekleva first, because the 6’3” forward can let it fly. Back on November 28th Dekleva helped beat the Blazers by hanging 26 points on them, 16 of which came from behind the arc. And don’t forget about KC, which just happens to rhyme with the tite of M-V-P. He has spent the last twelve regular season MCAC games getting to the hoop on sheer speed and agility alone. And that’s not to say the dude can’t read the floor and find his teammates either – he racked up 64 assists this season. Whoever finished second in that department did so way behind Romeo KC, a very deserving 2016 MVP.
In the women’s division, the #3-ranked Providence University College Pilots will have their hands full against #2 Red River College and a lot of that has to do with All-Conference selections Lindsay Young and Lacey Finnbogason. In their final game of the season, Young and Finnbogason helped themselves to 16 and 18 points, respectively, in a 75-42 win over the University of Winnipeg Wesmen. Also notable; when the Rebels became the only team this season to knock off the #1 ranked CMU Blazers, Finnbogason led all scorers with 15 points. Finnbogason and Young, along with RRC teammate Jodene Kowalchuk, averaged the three most field goal attempts among MCAC competition this season. The question is can they, or any of the other Rebels for that matter, contain 2016 MCAC Most Valuable Player and Pilots leader, Amber Harms? Averaging just under 10 rebounds per game in all 12 games played in the 2016 season, 5’9” Harms showed all season what it’s like to help a team grow and improve over the course of a season. If the Pilots can start their tournament with an upset it will be through their stellar work ethic, much of which seems to come from Harms and All-Conference selections Isabella Selk and Courtney Engel. The Pilots have looked like a work in progress this season, the key word being ‘progress’. What better way to celebrate that progress than by snapping the 4 year championship win-streak held by RRC?
The other semi-final match between the #1 Canadian Mennonite University Blazers and the #4 University of Winnipeg Wesmen is about as close to a David and Goliath storyline as one gets. Entering the post-season without recording a win is never something a team would ask for, but perhaps that’s only one perspective. On the other side of the coin, the 0-12 Wesmen have a chance to shock the conference and hand the Blazers just their second loss all season. Cassie Wiebe and Sarah Townsend got the nod for the MCAC women’s All-Conference team but a 1-loss season rarely comes off the backs of just two players. 5’8” guard Rhianna Nelson as well as 5’6” Jessica Larabie were noticeable contributors on this team who all but ran the table this season. Without their 58-40 loss to Red River on February 5th, the Blazers could still be chasing a perfect season. How much would you like to bet they’d settle for that 1 loss and a 2016 MCAC Championship crown, though?
Below is the schedule for the Basketball Final 4’s. Single-day passes are $5.00 and can be purchased upon entry, and member school students with valid student ID get in for free.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Women’s Semi-final 1
12:00 pm #3 Providence University College vs #2 Red River College
Men’s Semi-final 1
2:00 pm #4 Red River College vs #1 University of Winnipeg College
Women’s Semi-final 2
4:00 pm #4 University of Winnipeg College vs #1 Canadian Mennonite University
Men’s Semi-final 2
6:00 pm #3 Canadian Mennonite University vs #2 Providence University College
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Women’s Championship 12:00 pm
Men’s Championship 3:00 pm
Story Courtesy of Kelly McGuiness/MCAC