Mariners men amped for nationals

Vancouver Island University's men's basketball team starts play Thursday (March 19) at the CCAA championships.

The VIU Mariners have high hopes as they get ready to hoop it up in Hamilton.

Vancouver Island University’s men’s basketball team starts play Thursday (March 19) at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships.

“This is what we’ve worked for all year, is to make it to a national championship and give ourselves an opportunity to possibly win another title,” said Jason Fortin, VIU forward. “Our practices have been going well, everyone’s going to be ready come tipoff on Thursday and I’m just really excited for that.”

VIU is seeded second out of the eight participating teams and starts with a game against Alberta’s Lethbridge Kodiaks.

No matter the opponent this week, the Mariners will try to play their game plan, though that game plan has been altered somewhat after PacWest Player of the Year Justin King was injured in the dying moments of provincials.

“If he’s not able to go – we’ve prepped like he won’t – I’m still very confident in this group,” said Matt Kuzminski, VIU coach. “I still think we have a good chance.”

The M’s showed their depth this season and it was a factor in their provincial championship earlier this month. The tricky games at that tournament toughened up the Mariners men for the next portion of the playoffs.

“The one thing we can learn is just take it game by game, possession by possession, don’t get ahead of yourself,” said the coach.

And the team will know what do do when the intensity’s amped up and the games get to crunch time, said Fortin.

“When we’re at nationals and we come into a tough test, I think we’ll be able to look at each other and know that we can overcome any adversity that we might face,” he said.

Nationals are new to some of the team members, but for others, who won it all in 2013, they know what to expect. They won’t watch a lot of games this week, but rather focus on their own, and keep building a sense of team. They’ll play for each other and play with purpose.

“Everyone knows what’s at stake and the end goal,” Fortin said.