July 17th, 2019

Rattler basketball teams keyed for big weekends, but for different reasons

By Sean Rooney on January 11, 2019.

srooney@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNRooney

Medicine Hat College’s basketball teams couldn’t be in much different positions.

The women have a bevy of returnees, have won six in a row and are comfortably first in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference with a 11-1 record. A shot at back-to-back national championship tournament appearances has to be part of their conversation these next two months.

The men? Well, when Jaamel Slack returned from a year’s absence in which he went home to Victoria, he only recognized three of the players on the roster. With three new additions post semester break, chemistry had better come quick or else they won’t even make the playoffs.

“Right now we knew going through what we did in the first semester, we knew we weren’t going to be ready come January,” said Slack, a fifth-year player averaging 14.5 points per game. “Our main goal was to be ready for playoffs.”

But therein lies the conundrum, as coach Rich Humphrey notes.

“There’s no wiggle room,” said Humphrey, whose team is 6-5 entering tonight’s home game with 2-8 Olds. “It’s just timing, we keep telling the guys to be patient but there’s not a lot of time. It’s counter-productive I guess.

“I think it’s going to be really tight coming down the stretch.”

If the season ended today the men would squeak in as the South Division’s fourth seed. They can make up some ground by beating 7-4 Ambrose Saturday at home as well. And of their new players, one is at least familiar. Kieron Burgess was with the team last year but had what Humphrey said were academic issues that are now resolved.

Burgess scored 23 and 26 points in losses to Lethbridge last weekend, showing he’ll be a big offensive factor if the Rattlers are to get going. Omon Edobar and DShawn Tyrell are also new to the roster.

The women face an 8-2 Olds team that was the only one to beat them in the first semester. It’s a good challenge for the nationally fourth-ranked side, but after that players like fifth-year Kendell Kuntz might see less playing time to make sure she’s healthy ahead of playoffs. Ambrose, who they face Saturday, is 3-8.

“We’ve got a lot of players that can do lots of things, and that’s what’s going to make us better,” said coach Clayton Nielsen.

That depth is a big reason Kuntz, who’s endured knee injuries and missed last year’s conference playoffs as a result, was so excited to return for one last campaign.

“I’m definitely happy I played, I think it’ll be a good year to finish on,” said the shooting guard. “Hopefully it stays good.”

Games start tonight at 6 and 8 p.m., then Saturday against Ambrose at 6 and 8 p.m. at the Snake Pit.

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