2/20/2008

BATTLE OF THE BORDER – AGAIN By Ben Matchett

Filed under: — Matt Skinn @ 2:20 pm

CALGARY – Another chapter in the storied rivalry between the No. 4 Calgary Dinos and Alberta Golden Bears will be written this weekend as the teams clash in the Central Division Final, with the hosting spot for next week’s Canada West Final Four on the line. And there are stories aplenty this weekend. Here’s a look:

TEACHER VS. STUDENT – 25-year veteran Alberta coach Don Horwood brings his Golden Bears down the QEII, where he will face off against eight-year coach Dan Vanhooren of the Dinos. Vanhooren played for Horwood at Alberta for three seasons, graduating with his physical education degree in 1993. Horwood and Vanhooren have coached head-to-head in four playoff series, with Horwood’s Bears claiming victory in three of the four. All four series have gone the maximum three games, and the host team has won three of the series – including both division finals (2003 and 2004)

DON’T YOU DARRAH – Dinos fifth year senior Cody Darrah has been on both sides of the Battle of Alberta. The Edmonton native started his career with the Golden Bears out of Strathcona High School but was not awarded significant court time in the U of A Main Gym. Following the 2003-04 season he elected to make the trip south and has been a three-year starter for the Dinos. For perhaps the final time in his career, the clutch shooter will face his old team from his starting two guard position – and you can bet he wants this one.

THE PRICE? IT’S A STEELE
– There will be all kinds of intriguing match-ups on the court this weekend, and one of the best will be the battle between Calgary point guard Jeff Price and Alberta leading scorer Alex Steele. Steele, a fifth-year player who finished only one point back of Calgary’s Henry Bekkering as the top scorer in the conference this season, is a game changer and Price will have his hands full defending him all weekend. Price, meanwhile, is the quarterback of Calgary’s offence and led the conference in assists with 114. The two guards finished 1-2 in free throw percentage over the season, with Price’s 87.8 per cent beating out Steele’s 84.1.

DUEL OF THE DUNKERS
– Henry Bekkering and Andrew Parker are two of the conference’s most exciting players to watch, and they will go head-to-head once more in this series. Bekkering got the best of the match-up in the regular season, holding Parker to just 23 points in the four games played between the teams (he averaged better than 10 per game on the year). Bekkering, meanwhile, scored 66 in the same four games. Much as Price needs to keep Steele in check to ensure Calgary’s success, Alberta’s will ride on Parker’s ability to keep Bekkering from racking up big numbers.

DOG TIRED – The Golden Bears advanced to the division final after defeating the Saskatchewan Huskies in a three-game series last weekend at the Main Gym. After taking a tight six-point win in the series opener, the Bears fell 66-64 on a late turnaround jumper by Andrew Spagrud that forced the series to a third game. In the rubber match, a strong third quarter effort lifted Alberta to the series win, propelling the bears to a 76-61 victory. While the Bears and Huskies were battling it out, however, Calgary enjoyed its bye week at home with an intra-squad game last Friday night. Conventional wisdom would say that a longer series would be to Calgary’s advantage because of the bye but it’s worth noting that the last time the Dinos and Bears clashed in the division final in 2004, Alberta came into the Jack and took a 10-point decision in Game 1 before ultimately succumbing to the Dinos in three.

ROSS’ REBOUNDING RETURNS – After sitting out the last five games of the regular season to nurse a nagging ankle injury, Ross Bekkering is back to game shape and will return to the Calgary lineup this weekend. The conference’s leading rebounder with 11.5 per game will give a considerable boost to the Dinos’ defensive effort and was a key reason Calgary out-boarded their opponents by nearly nine per game this season.

Calgary (18-4) won the season series with Alberta (16-6, 2-1 playoffs) 3-1, winning both games in the Jack back in November and splitting the series in
Edmonton in early January. The Dinos bring their 12-0 home record into the weekend with the hopes of adding additional dates in the Jack. The winner of this series will host the Canada West Final Four next weekend, from which the top two teams will advance to the CIS Final 8 in Ottawa next month.
However, with a wild card berth available to the conference championship as well, don’t be surprised to see both these teams in action again next week.

2008 Canada West Central Division Final

All games in the Jack Simpson Gym, University of Calgary

Game 1: Friday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m. MT

Game 2: Saturday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m. MT

Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, Feb. 24, 2 p.m. MT

All games will be broadcast LIVE by NUTV at www.nutv.ca/streaming

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