Following their run to the CIS Final 8 last season, could the Dalhousie Tigers be improved and better?
Head coach: Rick Plato
Record in 2014: 10-10 (Fifth in AUS Conference)
Playoffs: AUS gold
Points scored per game: 77.6
Points allowed per game: 76.9
Key players: Ritchie Kanza Mata, Kashrell Lawrence, Sven Stammberger, Jarred Reid
Key losses: Jonathan Kamba, Devon Stedman
If the Dalhousie Tigers proved anything last season, it’s that a great playoff run is more important than an uneven regular season: after two major injuries, the Tigers slogged through a 5-9 finish before they peaked in the playoffs. “That’s our goal, to get a little bit better every day and hopefully play our best in March,” head coach Rick Plato tells NPH. “It doesn’t do you any good to peak in January when the playoffs come in March.” This season, the Tigers should be among the AUS contenders once again. “There’s no easy games out here. Everybody is going to be tough,” Plato says. “All I can worry about to be honest is us: if we play our game and we play the way we’re supposed to play, I like our chances against anybody.” And if the Tigers don’t, he knows, they’ll lose against anyone. That’s how tough the AUS is.
Key games: at Saint Mary’s Huskies, Nov. 6 and Feb. 17
at UPEI, Jan. 23; VS UPEI, Feb. 20
It doesn’t look that way, not with an AUS championship and a CIS Final 8 berth, but the Dalhousie Tigers almost let the 2014-15 season slip away. “From pretty much early January to the time that the playoffs started we lost six-foot-eight (Devon Stedman) and a six-foot-six (Jonathan Kamba),” head coach Rick Plato says. “We had to figure out how we were going to go the rest of the way. We were fortunate enough to put it together for the playoffs.”
And put it together, they did—though the Tigers had to overcome adversity in each of their three playoff wins against Cape Breton, UNB and Saint Mary’s. And maybe that’s the lesson from Dalhousie’s run last season: that there’s always a way.
Part of it is the system preached by Plato, too. “We like to make every possession for the other team, make them earn it. Our identity is just tough defense.” As the old cliché goes: so long as you work hard on defence, you have a chance.
In 2015-16, the Tigers could be even better, with “glue guy” and leader Ritchie Kanza Mata, Kashrell Lawrence and Sven Stammberger, who already has a 40-point game this season. “If we can improve our free throw shooting and rebounding and take advantage of our fast break opportunities, particularly out of turnovers,” Plato says, “our defence will take us a long way.”
Indeed, UBC, the site of this season’s CIS Final 8, is quite far from Dalhousie. “We were one basket away from getting to the national semifinal last year,” the head coach says, “and our goal is to get back.”