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  • UVic's Marcus Tibbs left, a Seattle native, pushes the ball during the bronze medal game vs. Alberta (Chris Roussakis for Yahoo! Canada Sports)

    From handling parcels to dropping dimes at the CIS Final 8, Victoria Vikes point guard Marcus Tibbs has had quite the hoops journey.

    One could do a lot worse than the Seattle native, who overcame a broken jaw and broken hand within the past 14 months to have a strong tournament for UVic, as a breakout player from the Canadian university basketball championship. The one-time top 10 high school recruit out of Washington state's ease with reading the floor was manifest in the Vikes' valiant rally in a semifinal loss to Ottawa on Saturday, where it rallied from 18 down to within two. Tibbs came away from the tournament feeling fulfilled, if not slaked, even though the Vikes finished the year with successive losses after falling 61-53 to Alberta in a bronze-medal game that tipped off at 7:37 a.m. West Coast time (6:37 if you throw in that Sunday was the first day of daylight saving times).

    "I don't know how to really explain it, I'm blessed to be playing," said Tibbs, 23, who had 15 points and five assists during the Vikes' loss to Ottawa and followed up with nine and four in 19 minutes vs. Alberta. "Really, I got rocked, my jaw was broken. So I'm happy, I'll take this in stride.

    "Overall, I got a good feeling for trte league. Next year's going to be good. I'm happy ... We've seen Carleton before, but seeing Ottawa is where it was different, I should have been more prepared for it. We'll be ready for it next year."

    Read More »from Victoria Vikes’ Marcus Tibbs finds safe harbour in CIS basketball
  • Canadian Para-alpine skiers Mac Marcoux and Caleb Brousseau won medals Sunday at the Winter Paralympics.

    SOCHI, Russia - While Ozzie Sawicki, the chef de mission of the Canadian Paralympic team, may have appeared calm on the outside, when I approached him just moments before our rookie alpine skier Mac Marcoux was set to race, he said that his heart was in his throat. Mac is a visually impaired skier and began to lose his sight at the age of nine. In just one month, he went from perfect vision to legally blind. While he will never go completely blind, his sight will continue to worsen over time. However, as Mac’s sight becomes less, his goal is to become faster. Already clocking times faster than 130 kilometres per hour at only 16 years old, we watched this first time Paralympian ski to the bronze medal, and the first Canadian medal of these Games. Ozzie was just thrilled with the bronze medal performance. This will set an example for the other rookies on the team and there is no doubt in his mind that there will be many gold medal moments in this young star's future.

    After the race I

    Read More »from Visually impaired Alpine skier lends his guide to teammate leading to Sochi Paralympics bronze medal
  • Milos Raonic was back on the tennis court Saturday after seven weeks off with injury. He managed to pull out a win. (Stephanie Myles/Open Court)

    INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Sidelined by a tear in his left ankle tendon, Canadian tennis star Milos Raonic only began hitting tennis balls a week before arriving here for the big Masters 1000 tournament. He only began playing actual points three days ago.

    So it's not surprising his return to action after more than seven weeks off the Tour was a little rocky, even if in the end he pulled out a 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (2) victory over 30-year-old veteran Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France, a solid player ranked No. 42.

    "I did serve well, and that's what kept me in the match," said Raonic, who produced 33 aces and topped the 140 mph mark on more than one occasion. It was a new aces record for this tournament, and the fourth-highest aces total in the 23-year-old's still-young career.

    It was tense; there was a little profanity which had Roger-Vasselin asking chair umpire Fergus Murphy why Raonic hadn't been issued a warning, since he could hear it clearly all the way on the other side of the court.

    But until 4-5 in the second set, everything was more or less going well until – seemingly out of nowhere – Raonic dropped his serve at love, and consequently the set. He began the third set in much the same fashion, spraying balls all over the place.

    Read More »from Milos Raonic’s return to the pro tour at Indian Wells is a success – barely
  • Quebec skip Jean-Michel Menard made noise at the Brier this week (CP Images)KAMLOOPS, B.C. — With their final stone in the ninth end, Team Quebec could either make a difficult draw for the single point, or make an even more difficult bank shot to score twice and take a one-point lead into the 10th end.

    High-level sport, by nature, is a risk-averse endeavour, even though the math generally suggests that playing aggressively will maximize a team's chances of winning. In hockey, the math says that carrying the puck into the zone is the higher percentage play, yet teams elect to dump and chase. In football, the math says that teams don't gamble enough on third down. In baseball, teams utilize the sacrifice bunt far too often, so says the math.

    Surely the following numbers weren't going through the head of Jean-Michel Menard, but had he made the shot and scored twice to take a one-point lead, he'd have an 83 per cent chance of victory. A miss, allowing his opponent Team Alberta to score a single point, would mean he'd have a 17 per cent chance. It's easier to weigh the risk and reward of the aggressive play when even if he'd made the draw and taken his single point, he'd have been tied without the hammer in the tenth end: teams in that situation at recent Tim Hortons Brier tournaments win just 28 per cent of the time.

    Read More »from Tim Hortons Brier: Quebec make noise, but Cinderella run falls short in Kamloops
  • Ottawa's Johnny Berhanemeskel and Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue (Chris Roussakis for Yahoo! Canada Sports)It had to work out this way for Johnny Berhanesmeskel and the Ottawa Gee-Gees, who will tip off vs. the almighty Carleton Ravens on Sunday afternoon.

    Some questions are best left unanswered, like what might have happened if the cross-town rivals had met in the final of the 2013 CIS Final 8. Ottawa's collapse in the semifinal vs. Lakehead led to an anticlimactic championship Sunday where the Gee-Gees sent graduating star Warren (Worldwide) Ward, now playing pro in Germany, off with a bronze medal and then watched Carleton crush the spent Thunderwolves by a record 50 points in the final. Ottawa's three losses to the Phil Scrubb- and Thomas Scrubb-led Ravens in '12-13 were by a total of a dozen points, but there was a feeling it might have got exposed if there had been a Canal War IV. On Saturday, when it withstood a second-half Victoria Vikes rally to win 79-71, it was clear Ottawa might be as ready as it ever will be to face Carleton in the last game of the season.

    A "remember last year" refrain went up and down the bench as Ottawa's early 18-point lead shrank to a deuce by the early stage of the fourth quarter in front of 5,993 at the Canadian Tire Centre. Then Berhanemeskel — AKA Johnny Berhanemeskel — who'd taken a technical foul in the third quarter ("I thought I just bounced the ball," he said later) came alive with 12 late points to close out the Vikes, finishing with a game-high 24. Ottawa's other big cogs such as rugged centre Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue (15 points) and second-year combo forward Caleb Agada (12 points and 10 boards for the double-double) also showed their maturity.

    "Last year's performance has been haunting us for 365 days, waking up every single morning being reminded of it," said Berhanemeskel, who took over as Ottawa's floor leader following Ward's graduation. "It was such a motivating factor last summer in working hard. Our guys remember that feeling and we don't want to miss that opportunity ever again. So many guys grew into the roles we needed them to take.

    "We took [Carleton] to triple overtime last year and we didn't play as well as we wanted to in the first two games this year [when the Ravens won by 21 and 24 points]," the fourth-year guard added. "We wanted to prove last year was a fluke."

    Read More »from Ottawa Gee-Gees one step deeper, meeting Carleton Ravens to decide CIS basketball title
  • Ottawa's Caleb Agada (centre) had a double-double in Saturday's semifinal (Chris Roussakis for Yahoo! Canada Sports)

    Two teams from one city hooking up for the W.P. McGee Trophy has never happened before in Canadian university men's basketball annals, meaning sleep is overrated.

    With daylight savings time beginning Saturday night and the CIS Final 8 championship game tipping off at 2 p.m. ET at Sportsnet 360's request, that meant the Ottawa Gee-Gees will only have about 12½ hours of R&R between their 78-70 semifinal win over the Victoria Vikes and a date with destiny vs. the rival Carleton Ravens, who downed Alberta 79-55. Whether the short window is conducive to optimum performance on the parquet at Canadian Tire Centre remains to be seen, but the matchup is without precedent. So no need to make excuses about an early start, even though No. 2 seed Carleton will get a couple extra hours' rest and the pace-pushing top-seeded Gee-Gees had the tighter turnaround.

    "This is what I've been waiting all season for, it's nationals and Ottawa versus Carleton," said Ottawa's sophomore combo forward Caleb Agada, whose 12 points and 10 rebounds helped the Gee-Gees hang in against a Victoria front line that includes 6-foot-10 Chris McLaughlin, who was valiant with 19 points before fouling out late.

    "This is what we've been waiting for. My energy is the highest it could possibly be."

    It's been 36 years — longer than some of the coaches in Sunday's tilt have been alive — since two teams from such close proximity met in the national final. Back in 1978 in Halifax, the hometown Saint Mary's Huskies beat Atlantic conference rival Acadia, from nearly Wolfville, N.S., 99-91. That contest, still remembered vividly down east by fans of a certain vintage, drew more than 11,000 fans.

    Read More »from Carleton-Ottawa cross-town CIS final an unprecedented matchup, but will crowd size and casual-fan support reflect it?
  • Phil Scrubb looks for a passing lane as Tyson Hinz gets tangled up with Alberta's Rob Dewar (Chris Roussakis for Yahoo! Sports)

    When Dave Smart starts buttering up a team, quite often they're about to become someone's lunch.

    When the Carleton Ravens' 55-game CIS hoops win streak was snapped with a last-second loss in the Ontario final seven nights ago, they soaked in every bit of the Ottawa Gee-Gees' euphoria before leaving the floor. Saturday, after sending the Alberta Golden Bears packing with a 79-55 win in the early semifinal at the CIS Final 8, the Ravens politely acknowledged the obvious storyline — "revenge is always nice, but we want the national championship whether it is it Ottawa or UVic," forward Tyson Hinz said before the Gees and Vikes tipped off — even while many had an inkling they really wanted another crack at Ottawa.

    Such is the bar the Ravens have set. Winning a 10th national championship after losing their final matchup of the season against Ottawa might leave a slight void.

    "It was kind of a bitter feeling," Ravens guard Thomas Scrubb, who added to his tournament MVP application with 22 points and seven rebounds vs. Alberta, said of watching the Gee-Gees put guard Johnny Berhanemeskel on their shoulders, among other celebrations. "I wasn't surprised they would do that. It's definitely easy motivation if we meet them in the final. We'll be ready to play. We won't let something like that happen again."

    Read More »from Carleton Ravens have unsettled score in CIS hoops final, regardless of opponent
  • Terry Thomas (right) paced Ottawa with 24 points on Friday (Chris Roussakis for Yahoo! Canada Sports)

    Parts of the Saskatchewan-Ottawa boxscore — which ended with the top-seeded Gee-Gees winning 94-73 behind 24 points from Terry Thomas — looked like they were taken together from other games.

    Canadian university basketball teams generally do not sink 14 threes in a CIS Final 8 game at Canadian Tire Center, a notoriously unforgiving shooting environment with what Gee-Gees point guard Mike L'Africain called "tough rims." Nor does any team worth a tournament ticket go 4-for-16 from the free-throw line. Nor does the coach of a team that won by more than 20 surmise that his charges "were just a little bit sluggish" like Ottawa's James Derouin did. Yet that all fit together on Friday when Ottawa did its thing while dispatching the wild-card Huskies. (Ottawa had a tougher time on its home floor with Ryerson, which many believe should have been the wild card, two weeks ago in the OUA East semifinal; but that's neither here nor there.)

    That sets up semifinal Saturday, with No. 3 Alberta and No. 2 Carleton hooking up in the early game (6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT, Sportsnet 360). Ottawa will face No. 4 Victoria and 6-foot-10 centre Chris McLaughlin in an 8 p.m. tilt between the country's highest-scoring team (96.2 points per game) and its stingiest (60.2 against).

    The Gee-Gees and Huskies were even at 50 late in the third quarter, honest. Then Thomas, who had nine rebounds and five steals, scored seven in a row during an 11-0 Ottawa outburst. The hopeful Huskies, with star guard Stephon Lamar harried to no end (5-for-18 shooting with seven turnovers en route to a hollow 15 points and eight assists), came back briefly. Then an 11-2 quarter-bridging run highlighted by forward Vikas Gill's buzzer three settled the issue. Ottawa's starters came out on a high note: a L'Africain-to-Thomas alley-oop capped off the statement win in front of a crowd of 3,545.

    "We found our groove and that separated us," said Thomas, the East Preston, N.S., native. "We're a great three-point shooting team, probably one of the best in the country and once it starts going, it helps our whole game. It limits their transition opportunities.

    "We just take what we've learned from Carleton and apply it to every team."

    In a nutshell, that is what makes Ottawa stand out regardless of how the next days unfold. It borrows principles from the CIS lodestar across town and pours it into a high-tempo game. Carleton has what Dave Smart calls "attack mode," but Ottawa pushes the ball like few else. The Gee-Gees took 76 shots in a 40-minute game and only had nine turnovers.

    "We're going-going-going, but we know how we're going, the different reads made at fast speeds," said L'Africain, who had 10 points with a 7-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio. "We've done it so many times. Tonight we probably had our 15th lob between Terry and I and he only played half the season [while sitting out until Nov. 29 after transferring from St. Francis Xavier]. That all goes back to the summer. We spent so many hours in the gym learning how each of us plays."

    "Our defence turns into our offence. When you get a play like that on offence you want to get back on defence as fast as you can."

    Read More »from Ottawa Gee-Gees have method to their madcap style, making them able to challenge Carleton Ravens
  • Alberta skip Kevin Koe (right) and third Pat Simmons (left) during Friday's page playoff (CP Images)Kamloops, B.C. — Who could have seen this coming 24 hours ago? All Team Alberta needed was a win against Québec to earn hammer and choice of rocks throughout the playoffs, but the team struggled, shooting 79 per cent against a rink that wasn't missing any shots.

    So they came into the 1-2 page playoff game Friday night as the lower seed, but still conceivably the favourites in the field at the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier. However, Kevin Koe and Co. struggled again, the second best of two teams on the ice and fell 9-5 nine ends later to John Morris, Jim Cotter and home team British Columbia. Koe will now have to go through the semifinal on Saturday night, against the winner of Manitoba and Quebec, to have another chance at the B.C. rink.

    "We have another life. We've gone through the semis at the Brier before," Koe told the media post-game. He wasn't visibly shaken in anyway, but conceded the loss was just "one of those days." In Koe's two previous Brier apperances, he's won gold (2010 Halifax) and silver (2012 Saskatoon) but never earned the direct path to the final, requiring to go through the semifinals both times.

    Read More »from Tim Hortons Brier: Koe’s Friday struggles force Alberta rink to play through semifinal
  • Montreal's Genie Bouchard had her game face on during her second-round win at Indian Wells. (Stephanie Myles/OpenCourt.ca)

    INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – There were tears during Genie Bouchard's practices this week, and a lot of intense tête-à-têtes with coach Nick Saviano.

    But in the end, if a frazzled week of dress rehearsals ends up turning into a boffo performance on opening night, it might all be worth it.

    From this ...

    Earlier this week, this was a familiar scene at Genie Bouchard's practices (Stephanie Myles/OpenCourt.ca)... to this ...

    Bouchard interacts with the fans on court after her win Friday....in about 63 minutes and 30 seconds, the time it took to dismantle a quality player and move into the third round at the BNP Paribas Open.

    Read More »from After frazzled week of practice, Eugenie Bouchard rolls in her first Indian Wells match

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