By Ryan McCracken on November 4, 2016.
The Medicine Hat College Rattlers men’s basketball team is set to tip off the 2016-17 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season Friday on their home court against the Briercrest Clippers.
And with five months of hardwood on the road ahead Rattlers coach Rich Humphrey says reaching the national stage again after missing out last year will require more composure, conditioning and chemistry than ever before.
“For the most part we’re a senior team and we know it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” said Humphrey, whose Rattlers will hit the court Friday at 8 p.m.
Humphrey added the team managed to build some important chemistry while soaking up some hard minutes in an exhibition swing, which featured a 66-65 loss to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies before moving on to face the University of Lethbridge and Mount Royal.
“It added, obviously, some valuable minutes to a team that’s already deep,” said Humphrey. “We enter every game thinking we’re going to win and believing we’re going to win. We lost that heartbreaker to U of S by one, then U of L was a good game and same with Mount Royal. We had some injuries and the flu hit us pretty hard those two games, so I think if we had a full roster those games would probably been W’s.”
“It was pretty good, especially knowing how we played against them. Against U of S we definitely think we had them,” added Rattlers forward Gui Fuck. “We played better than them, and to play a (university) school the way we played, we were impressed by our performance.”
Fuck says the goal is, without a doubt, to lock up a spot at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championship in March. The Rattlers found themselves one game short of a repeat ticket last season, partially due to a tough stretch of missed free throws in their 71-69 loss to the NAIT Ooks in the ACAC final. While the second place finish would in fact be good enough to secure a place at the national championship this year â€” as one of the ACAC’s two spots last year was held by host Keyano College, while the other went to the eventual champion Ooks â€” Fuck says they still want to take things one step further.
“We’re tired of getting silver. So we’re definitely aiming for the gold medal and if we get there we’ll do our best to go as far as we can into nationals,” said Fuck, adding they will need to control their emotions on the court to find further success this season. “We cannot lose our minds. That’s going to be a huge point for our team to control over the season.”
Medicine Hat will also host the ACACfinals, adding home court advantage to their efforts.
The road to that gold medal starts Friday when the Rattlers welcome the Briercrest College Clippers into the Snake Pit. While it’s but one step in the 21-game process, Fuck says a home opener is always a game worth relishing, especially when it’s his last.
“We have to go hard in that game with a strong mentality. We can’t give them any chances,” said Fuck, adding they will need to remain primed for Saturday’s game in Lethbridge against the Kodiaks, who are ranked ninth in the CCAA. “Lethbridge is going to be the bigger challenge.”