The Dalhousie Tigers men’s basketball team wants to defend its championship title this weekend — and make history in the process.
The Tigers are working hard to prepare for the Atlantic University Sport championships this weekend at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.
If they win again this year, they will become the first Tigers basketball team to repeat as champions in the history of the school. Related stories
They placed first in the AUS through the regular season, earning them a first-round bye in the playoffs. That means they go straight to the semifinals.
The team knows what to expect after winning last season. As the defending champions and number 1 seed in the playoffs, other teams won’t be underestimating what the Tigers can bring on the court.
“Last year I feel we caught a lot of people off guard,” says fourth-year guard Ritchie Kanza Mata, who was an AUS championship all-star last year.
“This year we have the big X on our backs, so we’re gonna have to bring it even more this year than ever because everybody is coming for our heads.”
Everything the Tigers have done since the first minute of training camp in September was to prepare for this weekend’s tournament.
“It’s been a lot of work this year,” says fourth-year forward Kashrell Lawrence, last year’s AUS championships MVP and all-star team member.
“We’ve had early mornings three of the five days a week we practise, whether it’s lifting weights or weekly yoga,” Lawrence says. “We’ve put in a lot of work for this weekend.”
Sven Stammberger agrees that the team’s work ethic is crucial for their success. The third-year forward was also an AUS championship all-star last year.
“Individually, we’re all getting shots up, working hard, watching video,” Stammberger says.
“‘Know yourself; know your enemy.’ That’s what coach always says.”
Head coach Rick Plato, now in his third year running the team, has been diligent about the work his team puts into training.
He is proud of the effort his team has given all season, pushing through things that make life as a student athlete difficult, like midterms and injuries.
“These guys, they do everything we ask of them,” says Plato. “They work their behinds off.”
It’s the consistency on the defensive side of the ball that Plato stresses most. The effort paid off in the regular season, as the Tigers owned the best defence in the AUS, allowing a league low 74.1 points per game. No other team allowed less than 80.
“I think that’s the backbone of what we’re trying to do and I’m hopeful that it’s going to be a major difference maker this weekend,” says Plato.
While the ultimate goal for the team is to win the championship again, their focus is on the semifinal game on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
“Just one game at a time,” says Stammberger. “If you focus on the final game on Sunday, you’re not gonna play well on Saturday.”
The Tigers will play the winner of the game between the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds and the Saint Mary’s University Huskies in the semifinal.
If Dalhousie wins that game, the Tigers will move on to the final at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
If the Tigers win the championship, they will move on to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships March 17-20, hosted by the University of British Columbia.
The team has never won a national championship.
The Tigers say they’re ready to play.
“Intensity and pressure, that’s our recipe to success,” says Kanza Mata.