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Halifax basketball teams hope for success at this weekend's Atlantic University Sport championship

The Dalhousie Tigers men's squad will defend its title this weekend at the Scotiabank Centre where the team has a chance to win its third banner in a row.

Members of the Dalhousie Tigers celebrate their win over the UPEI Panthers in the Men's AUS Basketball finals at the Scotiabank Centre on Sunday.

Jeff Harper / Metro

Members of the Dalhousie Tigers celebrate their win over the UPEI Panthers in the Men's AUS Basketball finals at the Scotiabank Centre on Sunday.

The Dalhousie Tigers men’s basketball team has a berth in the national championship no matter what happens this weekend, but they’ll worry about that later.

As hosts of the U Sports national men’s basketball championships, the Tigers have a guaranteed trip to the Final 8 later in March. First, the focus is on the Atlantic University Sport championship at the Scotiabank Centre where the team has a chance to win three banners in a row.

“We’re trying not to look past the AUS at all,” says Tigers fifth-year guard Jarred Reid.

“If we’re playing well in our own conference, then hopefully that would carry over to nationals. We’ve got to take care of business first, in our own division.”

Dalhousie finished first in the standings, securing a first-round bye through Friday and setting up a semi-final on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the Acadia Axemen and Memorial Sea-Hawks quarter-final. The Tigers went undefeated against both teams in the regular season, helping propel the team to a 16-4, 44-point season.

Tigers coach Rick Plato attributes the team’s regular-season success to two factors. First, the team’s leadership from seniors Ritchie Kanza Mata, Kashrell Lawrence, Ryall Stroud and Reid. Secondly, the team’s defence that allowed the fewest points in the AUS by a 198-point margin.

“We have tremendous team chemistry, they work hard and we’ve got great leadership,” said Plato who has coached the team for four years.

“They’re tested champions. It’s not going to be easy, but I know these guys are committed.”

SMU men have their work cut out

The Saint Mary’s Huskies will have to beat a team they struggled with in the regular season to survive the win-or-go-home format of the AUS championship.

In Friday night’s 8:30 p.m quarter-final, the third-place Huskies face the sixth-place St. Francis Xavier X-Men. In a pair of regular season games, the X-Men came out on top, including a close 85-83 X-Men win on Feb. 3.

“We’ll need to knock down some shots in the offensive end and we need to get back and contain their bigs, Kevin Bercy and Cameron Walker,” said Huskies head coach Jonah Taussig.

“They’ve been successful against us and we need to slow them down.”

Senior guards Marquis Clayton, Theon Reefer and Brian Rouse provide leadership, experience and production for a team that last won the AUS in 2013-14.

“All three guys have the ability to take over a game or be the guy on the offensive end. We’ll need consistency from those three guys and then everyone else can follow suit,” said Taussig.

The winner faces the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

SMU women look to continue success

The Saint Mary’s Huskies women’s basketball team was focused on one thing all season: getting a first-round bye in the Atlantic University Sport championship.

After finishing in first place with 40 points, the same amount as the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, the Huskies secured the bye but won’t know until Friday afternoon who they’ll play in the semi-final 24 hours later.

“You sort of work all year to try and get yourself in that position,” said Huskies head coach Scott Munro.

“Any time you can play two games instead of three, there’s a benefit, especially on that third day.”

This season marks the fifth-straight season the Huskies have finished first and secured the bye. The previous four years have resulted in AUS championship seasons.

The sixth-place Memorial Sea-Hawks, finished ten points behind the Huskies, the lowest margin between the six playoff teams in the past five seasons.

Fifth-year Huskies guard Angelina Carvery is the only player on the roster who has been on all four AUS championship teams. She knows this is her last year and anything can happen in a short tournament.

“It may have always been this competitive, but I didn’t really take in the seriousness of it because I knew that I’d always get the opportunity to come back and play again,” said the veteran Carvery who was AUS tournament MVP the past two years.

The Huskies will face Friday’s winner of the Acadia Axewomen and the UPEI Panthers game on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Scotiabank Centre. The Huskies swept the Axewomen in four games in the regular season. The Panthers and Huskies split two regular season games, most recently a 59-57 UPEI win on Jan. 28.

“As a team, our game plan never really switches defensively. Every game’s pretty much set in stone. As long as we stick to our principles, I think we’ll be fine,” said Carvery.

The key to the Saint Mary’s defence is third-year guard Kennisha-Shanice Luberisse, the AUS defensive player of the year the past two seasons. She had 64 assists and 44 steals this year.

On the other side of the bracket, the winner of the Memorial Sea-Hawk and Cape Breton Capers quarter-final takes on the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in the second semi-final on Saturday at 3 p.m. The championship game takes place Sunday at 1 p.m. 

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