Havre Daily News sports editor
The fight against cancer is a worthy and noble cause. Thanks to Montana State University-Northern head men's basketball coach Shawn Huse, it is also a cause that has brought an exciting basketball tournament to Havre each of the last three years.
For the fourth consecutive season, the Northern Lights will host the Coaches vs. Cancer/Super 8 Classic beginning tonight at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.
In three years the tournament has raised $2,000 for the Coaches vs. Cancer Foundation. A percentage of that money has gone to programs along the Hi-Line that prevent, detect and treat cancer. This year Super 8 is also donating $3 per 3-pointer made during the tournament, and those proceeds will also go to the Coaches vs. Cancer Foundation.
“It is a cause and a fight I feel very strongly about,” Huse said. “And I am really proud to say that some of the money raised during this tournament comes back to the local area to help in the fight against cancer.
“I think if you're going to have a basketball tournament, it should really matter,” he added. “And this tournament is a win-win situation because we raise money for the fight against cancer and we get to bring some exciting basketball to Havre.”
The tournament will feature the Lights, as well as fellow Frontier Conference member Rocky Mountain College. The Kings University College of Edmonton, Alberta, and Concordia U.C. of Vancouver, B.C., will also be in attendance. Originally, Huse had scheduled to bring in two upper-tier teams from Canadian College basketball, but both backed out in July. Still, he expects this weekend will showcase some very entertaining games.
“Having Rocky here is also nice because even though we don't play them, we get to see them play two games,” Huse said. “They are going to be a very tough opponent in our league this year.
“And even though they graduated some key guys last year, with the recruits they brought in, I don't expect them to miss a beat this season,” he added.
The Bears will open the tournament tonight at 6 when they face Concordia U.C. On Saturday night, RMC will face the Kings University, also at 6.
Northern (8-3) comes into the tournament fresh off a humbling 37-point loss at Division I-A Boise State last Sunday. After this weekend's tournament, things go back to being extremely difficult when the Lights travel to California to take on the NAIA's No. 1-ranked team, Azusa Pacific University. Huse said that now is a good time to play a pair of teams - in The Kings University and Concordia U.C. - that the Lights have already handled fairly easily this season.
“It is nice to slow the pace down a little and play a couple of teams that aren't at such a high level,” Huse said. “We have played some very good competition the last couple of weeks, and things are going to get really tough when we go on the road next weekend.
“So I think this weekend's games will be very good for the mindset of our team,” he added.
Huse isn't suggesting that either team the Lights face this weekend is inferior. But the fact is that Northern thrashed The Kings University 77-52 and also drubbed Concordia, 82-52, in a season-opening tournament in Edmonton last month.
“Both teams play a similar style of basketball,” Huse said. “They both play really tough defense, and they are always working hard on both ends of the floor.
“What they lack in experience, they make up for in hustle and effort,” he added. “And they can really get after you, especially defensively.”
Still, neither team should present a serious threat to the Lights. Despite Northern's loss at Boise State, the Lights are still one of the highest scoring teams in the Frontier.
Senior Jordan Matthews is averaging 17 points per outing and fellow senior Marcus Wilson, as well as sophomore Cory Brothers, are also both averaging in double figures. Junior Ronnie Simpson has come on strong as of late and has raised his average to nearly 10 points a game, giving the Lights a very balanced offensive attack.
“This weekend will be very good for us in a sense that we can really focus on improving,” Huse said. “We will be able to work on some things that have been hurting us lately.
“Plus, the tournament is for a great cause,” he added. “It is always a lot of fun, and fans should see some very exciting basketball.”