Heat men’s b’ball team started to make progress before holiday break

It’s not often coaches of varsity sports teams don’t embrace the concept of the Christmas break.

But for UBC Okanagan men’s basketball coach Darren Semeniuk, the extended layoff for his Heat may have been as much a momentum breaker as a chance to rest and recuperate.

In their first six games of Canada West competition the Heat went 1-5, with their best basketball coming on the final weekend of play in 2011.

UBCO knocked off the University of Regina 78-76 at home for its first ever CIS win on Nov. 26.

The following night, the Heat lost 81-68 to Brandon but competed against the Bobcats from the opening whistle to the last.

After a somewhat tentative and nervous beginning to their life in Canada West, Semeniuk is watching his players gain confidence with each outing.

“It is really kind of unfortunate that our Chrismas break had to come as I feel that our younger guys were just starting to believe in themselves and get comfortable with the level of play,” said Semeniuk. “I think the biggest thing our guys learned over the first six games is that they can compete against the other teams in our league when they play as a team.”

The Heat will return to Canada West action this weekend at home when they host the University of Manitoba Bisons on Friday, and the Winnipeg Wesmen on Saturday.

Tip off both nights at UBCO is 8 p.m.

The Heat did manage to get some quality basketball in over the holiday break, tuning up for the remainder of the Canada West season with three exhibition games last week at the University of Winnipeg.

Given time and more exposure to CIS teams, Semeniuk believes the Heat will continue to narrow the gap against their often bigger and more experienced opponents.

“It is no secret that we are the underdog every game, but the better team on paper isn’t always the team that comes out on top,” he said. “There have been several character-building moments this year, and I like the way our guys have responded.”

As for the Heat’s final 12 games of the Canada West regular season, Semeniuk’s expectations are straightforward—work hard, play as a team, and the results will follow.

“Improve each and every week and be playing our best basketball at the end of the season,” Semeniuk said. “The games coming up are not going to get any easier for us, but our guys are focused on being a team that every team should be worried about.

“I expect our younger players to continue to improve and earn more minutes. It should be a fun and exciting last 12 games of the season.”

Statistcially, veteran guard Yassine Ghomari leads the Heat in scoring with 19.2 points per game.

Simon Pelland is the leading rebounder with 29 in six games, while Bret MacDonald is the leader in assists with 18.



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