The first step towards a provincial championship was accomplished by the RDC Kings basketball team with a sweep of the Briercrest Clippers last weekend. But there are many more steps to be taken down that road.
“We’re always trying to get better,” said Kings Head Coach Clayton Pottinger.” I don’t know if we played our best basketball on the weekend, the type of basketball that would put us in contention for the ACAC Championship but I know we are capable of playing that style of basketball.”
Pottinger says the parity in the ACAC over the last few years in the league has attracted better coaches and players, improving the league and making it tough to dominate at any one point.
This entire send half of the season has been a tough one on the Kings especially after losing their top scorer Ian Tevis at the Christmas break.
The Kings have been working to fix a hole where one player was on the court eating up about 30 minutes a game and leading the league in scoring so it’s been a group effort to pick up the slack.
“We’re really adjusting the way we play,” he said. “We’re not the same team that we were in the first half of the year.”
Part of the void was filled by local product Shane Stumpf, a 6’8” forward who was picked up at the break but he underlines the growth other players have shown.
Players like Matt Johnson and JP LeBlanc, veterans who have playoff experience, will also shoulder some of the load moving forward along with Kings leading scorer Anthony Ottley. He also gave a shout out to Matt Matear who Pottinger describes as one of the hardest working players in the league at both ends of the court.
So instead of waiting for one player to take them the rest of the way Pottinger says it’s been a team effort to finish off the regular season.
Defence was solid in the first half as the Kings rolled to a 9-0 record, winning by big margins. So while things changed record-wise for the Kings, some things remained the same, especially in their own end.
“It (defence) continued in the second half, it’s just the margins are a lot slimmer and we have to grind them out by scoring a little differently,” he said. “But we’ve got our offence almost back to averaging what we were averaging with Ian and our defence is almost back to where we were with Ian.”
The Kings will start the ACAC playoff run against Lakeland College who Pottinger labels as giant killers after the Rustlers swept Keyano College, the number one team in the north and then beat NAIT, a previous number one team.
He says with Lakeland being an underdog they can come into the ACAC’s playing a loose style and do their own thing which is when they are a dangerous group and can hang an upset on a favoured team.
Fresh in their minds would be last year’s opening game loss to Keyano so taking care of business from the opening tip is the mindset going in.
“After being snake bitten last year we’re not taking any chances at all. We’re playing this one like it’s the championship,” he said.
“Here we are, 72 practices later, hundreds of sets of lines and shots and all that kind of stuff just to put yourself in back in position to make a run at it again. And when you’re playing for keeps like it is this weekend there has to be that heightened sense of intensity.”
The ACAC Men’s Basketball Championship will be held in Olds and tips of this Thursday.