(FREDERICTON, NB) The long wait is almost over for the UNB Varsity Reds.
It’s been more than a week since the Varsity Reds were eliminated from the AUS women’s basketball championship tournament.
It’s been more two years since the team was awarded the 2016 ArcelorMittal-Dofasco CIS Women’s Basketball Championship.
“It seems like only yesterday that we were meeting and putting the bid to host this together,” says Varsity Reds head coach Jeff Speedy.
He reminisces for only a moment, because Speedy and his team are preparing for what is now the biggest game of their season.
UNB faces the tournament’s number one team, the McGill University Martlets, in Thursday’s national quarter-finals.
“They’re the complete package,” says Speedy, of the Martlets. “They have an all-Canadian, they have height, they have athleticism, they have seniors, they have the whole package.”
Speedy says McGill is a lot like the AUS champion Saint Mary’s Huskies.
The Varsity Reds were the only team to beat Saint Mary’s this season.
“All you can ask for in a game like this is that when you get to the fourth quarter, you have an opportunity to win,” says Speedy. “There’s not going to be any pressure on us, so if we can make sure that in that break between the third and fourth quarter we’re within striking distance then… I would love that opportunity and so should these girls.”
The national championship tournament opens Thursday afternoon, at 1:00PM, at the Richard J. Currie Center.
The second-ranked Saskatchewan Huskies take on the Ottawa Gee Gees in the first quarter-final.
At 3:00, Saint Mary’s faces the Alberta Pandas, the team awarded the at large berth into the tournament.
“We’d have like to have won our way here, but to get that news, about the at large berth, was exciting,” says first year Panda Mackenzie Cook.
Sidelined by injury, Cook watched as her University of Alberta teammates practiced Tuesday morning.
“Now that we’re here, we’re just trying to get settled in and focused on what we came here to do.”
UNB and McGill tangle in a 6:00PM tip-off, before the Regina Cougars and Ryerson Rams complete the quarter-final round in a game that is scheduled to start at 8:00.
The eight seed would, at any other tournament, play the role of a visiting team. But, as hosts, the Varsity Reds will be the home team on Thursday.
“I think playing at home, with the rims and the court, gives us four or five points that McGill doesn’t have,” says Coach Speedy. “If we can draw from the crowd… whatever… another couple of possessions that go in our favour because of the crowd, that should all help and I’m kind of banking on those two things giving us a bit of a push.”
The long wait almost over, Speedy and his team are eager… and ready.
“I’m glad it’s here, because it’s an amazing opportunity and it’s an exciting time and I’m definitely not wishing the week away, because I know for sure, when it’s over, we’re going to want to do this all over again.”
The losing teams from Thursday’s quarter-final games will play consolation games on Friday, at 6:00 and 8:00, with the two winners battling for fifth place, on Saturday.
Thursday’s four winners will meet in Saturday’s semi-final games, at 12:00 and 2:30.
On Sunday, the bronze medal game goes at 10:00AM. The gold medal game tips off at 1:00PM.
Saturday’s semi-finals and Sunday’s championship game will be televised to national audiences on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 360.