Sports

Niagara ranked sixth provincially in men, women's hoops

By Bernd Franke, Postmedia News

Niagara College’s “big four” are all in the top 10.

Men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball – the so-called “big four” in two-semester varsity sports at the region’s community college – are all ranked provincially.

In hoops, the Knights men’s team, 4-0, and the women’s squad, 2-2, hosted the Lambton Lions in a doubleheader last night. Both are sixth in the latest Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) rankings.

Niagara’s volleyball teams – men, 2-1 in league play; women, also 2-1 – are ranked eighth and sixth, respectively, in the weekly rankings released Monday.

In basketball, first-year head coach Mike Hurley’s men were also ranked No. 6 in the province in the coaches poll last week, while the women’s team, with Mike Beccaria at the helm for a fifth season, moved up to two spots from eighth.

Hurley, who took the reins after Keith Vassell opted to accept the head coaching position with the defending champion London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada, has said repeatedly in post-game comments that competition in the OCAA West Division is particularly tough.

This week’s rankings bear that out with five in the top 10 from the division, including three ranked above the Knights.

“The West has always been strong with the likes of Humber and Sheridan in the conference,” Hurley said. “They are two of the most dominating programs in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), the province; not to mention, the country.

“But there are also very strong basketball pockets outside of the GTA across Ontario, and many of them fall in the West region – the Hamilton area, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Windsor/Sarnia and, of course, Niagara.”

Despite starting the season undefeated, the Knights remain a work in progress.

“Our men’s basketball team has had a good start but has had a tough time finding consistency playing at a high level,” he said. “We are working daily on improving our consistency as we have a tough schedule ahead with Lambton, Redeemer, Sheridan and Humber all being strong OCAA West opponents.

“We are looking forward to testing ourselves in the upcoming weeks and continuing to improve day by day.”

Niagara also received recognition from the OCAA when individual accolades were bestowed. Fourth-year wing Levi Mukuna was named men’s basketball player of the week on the strength of standout performances in back-to-back games.

He recorded double doubles in a 61-60 victory over the Fanshawe Falcons, – 22 points, 13 rebounds - and a 93-78 win against St. Clair Saints, 27 points, 12 rebounds.

The 6-foot-3 Mukuna took the court last night versus Lambton averaging 21.8 points, seventh in the province.

Topping the men’s rankings, for the second week in a row, are the defending provincial champion Sheridan Bruins, 4-0. Right behind are the Humber Hawks, 5-0, two spots ahead of the Redeemer Royals, 4-0.

Lambton, 1-2, are ninth, dropping one spot in the past week.

All but three teams in the top 10 in women’s basketball rankings are from the West. As was the case last week, the top three are Humber, 5-0, the reigning Ontario champions; the Mohawk Mountaineers, 4-0, silver medallist at provincials last season; and the Fanshawe Falcons, 3-1.

Other ranked teams from the west are the St. Clair Saints, 1-2, seventh; Redeemer, 2-2, ninth; and Sheridan, 2-2, 10th.

The men, coached by Nathan Groenveld, back for an eighth year, fell two spots in the rankings. Second-year head coach Nathan Janzen’s women’s team dropped to sixth from fourth in the top 10.

Atop the men’s rankings are the Georgian Grizzlies, 4-0, with defending OCAA champion Humber, 5-0, leading the way on the women’s side.

Last night Niagara’s volleyball teams were in Kitchener playing the Conestoga Condors, 1-3, men; women, 1-3.

bfranke@postmedia.com 



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