LETHBRIDGE - The Lethbridge College Kodiaks men's basketball team announced on Wednesday (Oct. 18) that they will host the Cora Breakfast and Lunch ACAC Men's Basketball Championships from March 1-3 in the Val Matteotti Gymnasium.
The Kodiaks men's team will host the ACAC championship tournament for the first time in program history. It's the second straight year that the ACAC championships have come to Lethbridge College, after hosting the women's tournament last season.
Head Coach Ryan Heggie says it's very exciting to be hosting, and gave a lot of credit to the athletic department and their sponsors for stepping up with a bid and ultimately getting the championships.
"Southern Alberta hasn't seen men's playoff basketball in sometime because of the way the tournament is set up. This is a basketball hot bed, there will be eight top high end teams full of quality basketball players, it's going to be a great weekend," he said.
In 2016-17, the Kodiaks men's team finished the season 15-6, in third place in the ACAC south division. In the playoffs, they upset top-ranked Medicine Hat College before earning a conference silver medal and they went on to finish tied for fifth at the CCAA national championship tournament in Prince Edward Island.
Heggie says based on last season, and with the announcement about hosting the ACAC championships. that they're fired up but not looking ahead just yet.
"You have to worry about the teams directly in front of you this weekend, but certainly we'd like to be firing on all cylinders come March," Heggie continued. "We play team basketball, we work hard and we feel every year we have a chance to win a championship."
The team hopes to build off its accomplishments this season, led by returning ACAC all-star Cory Richardson who will guide the offense from the point, versatile Pierce Val Gaalen who can play anywhere on the floor and power forward Keanu Funa. While the team lost some firepower from last year, recruits Cole Crick, Mike Clemons and Daniel Lybbert are expected to bring their previous post-secondary experience to help bolster a team that returns most of the rest of its core.
"When we got the bid to host, Cory Richardson was one player who was thinking about leaving for university but decided to stay for this year. Hosting is absolutely going to give us an extra incentive to play even harder. I think that's a big thing, we've experienced home court advantage during the regular season, and guys are always more comfortable running the floor and shooting in their home gym. But we found last year we can win on the road too, when we went into Medicine Hat and beat them on the road," Heggie said, adding that there's no guarantees, so they just want to be prepared and take care of business.
Athletics Manager Todd Caughlin thanked their business partners who stepped up to help them make this happen, and says it's an exciting time.
"The men's basketball team is coming off a fifth place finish last year and returning a lot of players. To be able to host the ACAC championships, that's an automatic recruiting tool for coach Heggie and he's done a great job with it," Caughlin said.
In a scrum with local media, Caughlin made his feelings on the potential for success for the men's team this year known.
"The guys look good, they're obviously very excited about potentially being able to play on their own floor," he continued. "And I gotta tell ya, and I'll maybe be bold enough to say when we're in that championship game on Saturday, Mar. 3, this place is going to be packed and it's going to be standing room only."
The regular season for the men's team gets underway this Friday (Oct. 20) at home against Briercrest College.
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