There's been some consideration for a while to writing a piece about the phenomena with following Queen's sports. Once football season was done, there is always a parade-has-passed feeling. Other Gaels teams have won more championships, but none commands the kind of interest -- from students, alumni, the general public -- as the Big Yellow Guys.
Well, the Queen's basketball team, guided by Rob Smart, Sr. and led on the floor by the Mitchell brothers from Navan, Travis and Simon, turned that on its ear this weekend by winning Western's home tournament. It was a nice bit of redemption from the Gaels' football playoff loss to the same school.
Simon Mitchell had a game-high 17 points, Travis added 16 and freshman guard Nick DiDonato chipped in 15 (and as cishoops.ca notes, played great D) in the final game, an 87-82 win over the Mustangs. The Gaels are 5-1 in pre-season, the lone loss in overtime against Concordia. Most importantly, they done without two of their best players, Mitch Leger and Ryan Hairsine.
The Gaels have already been praised for being one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the CIS. What's really striking, from this vantage point, is the makeup of the roster. Smart had the law office for many years on the main street of Napanee, Ont., (pop. 15,000), there's the Mitchells from Navan, and freshmen such as DiDonato from Sault Ste. Marie and Tim Boyle from Belleville whose high schools played at the AA level (Ontario has four divisions).
This is a young team with only two seniors, but it bears getting to know better.
- Ravens: Let it be said Carleton has Rick Pitino's attention entering tomorrow's exhibition game against the Louisville Cardinals.
- Gee-Gees: It's been noted the Ottawa Gee-Gees can win ugly; the other side to their telekinetic style is they'll go cold sometimes. That was the case across their final five quarters and change out in Edmonton, a one-sided loss to Alberta on Saturday on the heels of Friday's overtime loss to Waterloo, when they put up 92 points, but just nine in the fourth quarter.
Donnie Gibson, who was held out of the Alberta game with a sore knee, seems to be fitting in as the glue guy, content to be a third scoring option while being aggressive on D. He had been in double figures five games in a row across the past two weekends, but always with less than 20 points. The glue guy must always remain at that optimal point; he's like one of those tertiary characters on The Simpsons. He'll steal some scenes, but won't have entire episodes built around him.
Does the CIS have an award for the most improved player? If it did, Dax Dessureault (29 points, 13 rebounds vs. York) might be an early-season candidate.
- Gee-Gees: The men's team, who beat McGill (3-1) and Concordia (7-3), got the balanced scoring coach Dave Leger has talked about in their weekend sweep. No one had two points in the McGill game. Friday, it was a Super 7 draw -- a different scorer on each goal in a 7-3 home blowout of Concordia. Kingston native Nick Vernelli and fourth-line centre Corey Thibaudeau were the only ones to score in both games.
- Ravens: A weekend split with No. 7 Trois-Rivieres is another big step for Carleton's yearlings. Doug Jewer's 31 saves and Jared Cipparone's goals late in the second period were the highlights in Friday's 2-1 win.
One sour note for the Ravens: An important recruit, Andrew Self, has bounced to the Belleville Bulls, who have an excellent shot at going deep in the OHL playoffs. (His first game came Friday against the Ottawa 67's.)
It's too early to tell but the Ravens women, who won three of their first five, are at least limiting the shots. Last season, it seemed like they would need Valerie Charbonneau to make 40 saves to win; so far they haven't given up more than 31 in a game.
- Gaels: The Tricolour women, who split, need Morra what they had on Friday -- when Amanda Morra had three points in a 5-0 rout of No. 10 York.
cishoops.ca -- which is getting referenced by newspapers now -- has more on basketball all weekend. Somehow, Mark Wacyk gets to all the games across the country each night.