Basketball back in action !!

January 4th, 2013

Mariners set to open second half
Women bolstered by healthy Jones and debut of Vekic; host Camosun on Friday
Josh Aldrich
Daily News


There will be no easing back into the Pacific Western Athletic Association season for the Vancouver Island University Mariners basketball program.

On Friday the women's and men's teams will host Island rival the Camosun Chargers in Nanaimo at 6 and 8 p.m.

The women are finally healthy and will have as complete a line-up as they've had all year. They played two exhibition games in Victoria this past week, beating the Langara Falcons 52-40 and the Mohawk Mountaineers out of the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association 75-65.

The men, meanwhile, had a wake-up call in their one exhibition game over the holiday season losing 79-58 to the Whatcom Orcas of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges in Bellingham, Wash.

"We were down 20 after the first half, so we played them even in the second half," said men's head coach Matt Kuzminski. "Our rust showed. We had one practice the day before."

The biggest issue for the men may be replacing freshman point guard Jon Bethell who is out for at least the weekend with a foot injury. Bethell, a Dover Bay Dolphins grad has been one of their top players this season. This means Brandon Jones will slide back from the two-guard position to playing point full time and will leave the door open for someone else to step up.

The Mariners have already beat the Chargers (2-6) twice this year - 83-78 on Nov. 2 and 90-76 on Nov. 23 - but they will not be taking them lightly on Friday.

"I think they have gotten better as a team and their record really isn't indicative of how good they are," said Kuzminski. "They're really scrappy and they play us tough. They'll give us some problems for sure, but I think we're ready for them."

The women are finally healthy, which is a good sign for a team that fought its way to a 4-4 record through the first eight games of the season. Most importantly, star guard Jocelyn Jones, who has been battling a hamstring injury for the majority of the season, is healthy.

"She seems pretty close to 100 per cent now, she played heavy minutes on the week-end and played quite well," said women's head coach Bill McWhinnie.

Also, VIU will finally get the full services of recruit Erin Vekic who was ruled ineligible for the first half of the season due to a credits issue. The five-foot-seven forward will provide some much needed offence from the perimeter for the point-starved Mariners.

"You could see that she had some nerves, but she shot the ball quite well and she made some plays for us," said McWhinnie. "It gives us more depth at the guard position and it will only make us better."

Key to the Mariners getting back to .500 in the first half was the contributions of players like Jenna Carver and Jami Oliver, who stepped up in the absence of Jones, Vekic and Chardonnae Mortimer who had to leave the team in the first semester.

However, if VIU is to make a serious run in the second semester they will need a win over Camosun (3-5) on Friday. VIU has split their two games with the Chargers in the first half of the season, winning 58-45 on Nov. 2 and losing 48-42 on Nov. 23.

"They'll be good defensively, they'll run their game plan well and they'll live off of turnovers," said McWhinnie.