NACI Varsity Tigers ready for basketball provincials



Photo by Eoin Devereux. The NACI Tigers are looking forward to competing for another banner this weekend in Souris.

By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner/Neepawa Press

The Neepawa Area Collegiate Institute (NACI) Tigers varsity girls basketball team is optimistic about its chances for victory heading into the Provincial “AA” Championship. The event, which is set for Mar. 17-19 in Souris, will feature the best basketball squads from across Manitoba. Neepawa earned its place in the tournament by winning the Zone Seven Championship and the regional qualifier earlier this month.

Going into the weekend, NACI is ranked as the second seed, just behind the host team, the Souris Sabres. Other teams in the tournament include the Warren Wildcats, Boissevain Broncos, Carman Cougars, Gimli Lakers, Morris Mavericks and Oscar Lathlin Wolverines, based out of Opaskwayak.

Tigers coach Darren Roe said going into the provincials, the players know that they’ll be facing a much higher level of competition. He said that while it is a daunting challenge, the players are more than ready for it.

“We’ve been preparing for the past week or so, working on some in game scenarios. We also had a practice game on Monday [the 14th] against Virden, which was very helpful. The players have been focused on improving certain aspects of their game and are confident heading into the weekend,” said Roe.

The opening game will see Neepawa face a familiar foe, the Morris Mavericks. The Tigers squared off against Morris in the final of the ‘AA’ qualifier on Mar. 5, a game which Neepawa won by a 69-49 margin. Roe noted that the Mavericks have been a very tough opponent for them in the past, so they’re not overlooking them.

“In our last game against Morris, the final score was not indicative of just how tight a game that actually was. We cannot overlook this squad. They are very smart defensively and they’ve had a few weeks to prepare, so it’s going to be a different team that stands across from us the next time around,” said Roe. “At the same time, we have been working on a few new things. We also didn’t completely open up the playbook during [the ‘AA’ regional] qualifiers, so there will be a few things we do out there that [Morris] will not be prepared for.”

Neepawa heads into the weekend with five of the players on the Tigers’ roster graduating this year, Roe said everyone understands that this is the last time this squad will play together, so they’re going to do everything they can to go out on a high note.

In the 2015 provincial championship, Neepawa was able to advance to the championship game, but were defeated by the Teulon Saints.

As for the 2016 Provincial ‘AA’ Girls Basketball Championship, it begins in Souris on Thursday, Mar. 17 and will conclude with the championship game on Saturday, the 19th.