By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
Local basketball fans will be asked to help fight the good fight once again as the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team will host the second annual Super 8 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Sunday and Monday at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.
Lights head coach Shawn Huse started this tournament last season as a way to give back to cancer research. Huse experienced the pain that cancer can cause when his older brother, Brad, the head coach at Jamestown College was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma four years ago.
Brad beat the disease and will bring his Jamestown team to Havre, while Canada's Grant MacEwen College and Red Deer College round out the four-team tournament.
"I really like doing this tournament because it gives back to a cause more important that basketball," Huse said. "It about helping out in any way that you can. It shows our kids that there are things out there that are more important that basketball. It teaches our guys an important lesson."
The tournament opens on Sunday with Jamestown taking on Grant MacEwen at 6 p.m. and the Lights to taking on Red Deer at 8 p.m.
For the Lights, Sunday's game will be the first organized game they will have participated in almost three weeks. Huse knows there will be some mistakes and rusty play, but there shouldn't be a lack of intensity.
"It's definitely a concern that we will be rusty," Huse said. "But you also hope that the kids will look at in the right way. We need to be extra focused since we haven't played a game in awhile. They should be a little more than happy to play in a game instead of beating up on each other for the past two and half weeks."
While Huse will probably give his team a little bit of latitude this weekend, he admitted that mistakes and mental breakdowns have got to stop with the conference schedule looming.
"We need to start playing like were in the conference season and it starts Sunday," Huse said.
Northern will face a solid if not experienced squad in the Red Deer Kings, who are currently tied for first in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. The Kings sport a 10-2 record in league play and 13-7 record overall. However one of those non-league losses came at the hands of the Lights, who defeated RDC 96-56 on Oct. 19.
Red Deer is led by 5-11 guard A.K. Kazlauskas, who averages 17.6 points and 3.2 assists per game. Backcourt mate Joel Bancroft chips in with 10 points game while 6-8 forward Mark Salked averages 10 points and seven rebounds per game.
In the previous meeting, Northern's inside play behind Dustin Sawejka, Trenton Harbaugh and Berhane Williams. Huse will look to their size advantage inside, but will also rely on the Morinia brothers.
Larry Morinia is currently second in the Frontier Conference in scoring at 20 points per game, while brother Lamar is sixth in the conference at just under 16 points per game.
The second game on Friday will feature the No. 1 team in NAIA Division II in the Jamestown Jimmies. Under Brad Huse, the Jimmies have become one of the best teams in that division. JC has won the last two DAC-10 titles and is 8-1 on the season. The Jimmies score 90.1 points per game while holding opponents to just 70.8.
They are led by 6-5 forward Charles Jones, who averages 17 points and six rebounds per game and point guard Imran Sufi, who averages 11.7 points and a DAC-10 best 7.2 assists per game.
The Jimmies will face a Grant MacEwen squad that is 7-5 in ACAC and averaging 79 points per game. The Griffins are led by 6-3 guard Jessie Limpscombe, who averages 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Also scoring in double figure is 5-11 guard Nathan Coughlin at 13.4 points per game and 6-9 center Carlos Martinez, who averages 10.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
"The difference with the Canadian schools is experience," Huse said. "Most of their players are first- and second-year players going up against older more experienced players. But they are still going to play hard, and we can't think we can just show up, not play hard and still expect to win."
Because this tournament is set up to be a fundraiser, there will be a $1 donation/admission for each night. Sixty percent of those proceeds will go the American Cancer Society chapter in Billings which provides transportation to cancer patients for treatment. The other 40% will go to the national chapter for research.
Besides that, Super 8 will donate $3 for every three-pointer made by the Lights to the Coaches vs. Cancer association. Super 8 also provided tournament t-shirts that will be sold with all of the proceeds going directly toward local cancer patient needs in the Hill County area. The motel will also be sponsoring a halftime putting contest in which one lucky fan could win $5,000.
"This tournament is our way of giving a little back while getting in some home games," Huse said. "It's a good cause and one worth fighting for."