Exam time has come early for Owen Keyes and the UBCO Heat.
The subject matter this weekend?
The second-year power forward and his UBCO teammates are returning to the hardwood on Friday and Saturday nights to host the Calgary Dinos in Canada West basketball play.
“It’s going to be a tough weekend,” Keyes said Wednesday before practice. “But we expect to put up a good fight. I’m looking forward to the game.”
It’ll be a good fight because Calgary (6-0) comes into Kelowna ranked No. 3 in Canada.
The Dinos depend on six-foot-eight post player Brett Layton, who is averaging 21.7 points per game on an unbelievable 72.2% shooting. He’s also pulling down 14.5 rebounds per contest.
Layton was the CanWest first star of the week after helping U of C sweep Trinity Western last weekend.
In a 110-86 win last Saturday, Layton scored 40 points and 20 rebounds, the first time that’s ever happened in CanWest history.
About the only good news for UBCO (1-7) is, they’ve seen this script before — just last weekend, in fact.
The Heat lost twice to the UBC Thunderbirds at home behind Grant Shephard, who happens to be from Kelowna.
Shephard is a six-foot-eight post player who dropped 23 points in a 107-77 win and 21 in a 112-57 victory.
It’ll be up to Keyes and fellow big man, seven-footer Sam Matice, to prevent a repeat of last weekend’s performance.
Keyes said the UBC debacle happened because the entire Heat squad gift-wrapped it.
“A lot of the mistakes which gave them their points, we made,” the KSS graduate said. “It’s under our control, so there’s a lot of opportunity. If those are cleaned up, we can be a very competitive team.”
Coach Clay Pottinger is certainly hoping that’s the case. He expected late November would test his team’s resolve. He’s just surprised the Heat didn’t dig in and fight more against UBC.
“Last weekend, we just didn’t play well,” Pottinger said. “We didn’t show up the way I thought we were going to show up. We looked a little nervous, and so weren’t able to show what we’ve been working on and what we’re capable of.
“What I’m anticipating is that those nerves are worked out now and that this weekend versus the top team in Canada West, we’ll just be able to play loose and aggressive.”
It’s a small victory before the game begins, but women’s basketball coach Bobby Mitchell will take it.
The Heat (1-7) are hoping to have Katie Punia in the lineup against the Calgary Dinos this weekend.
UBCO has been decimated by injury this season, dressing just 10 players in two lopsided losses to the UBC Thunderbirds last weekend.
Any help for the Heat is welcome against the No. 2-ranked Dinos (6-0).
“We’re really working hard on making them shoot contested shots,” Mitchell said. “Easier said than done, but that’s going to be our main goal. … (We’ll) try to mix it up and be a little bit disruptive, but they do a real good job playing all styles of basketball, so we know they’ll be prepared.”
Games begin Friday night at 6 p.m. On Saturday, tip-off is 4 p.m.
It’s the last weekend of regular-season play before January.
The volleyball teams are to face the Bobcats on Friday and Saturday in Brandon, Man.
Here’s where we get some good news: with a little luck, the 5-5 women’s volleyball team can climb at least one place in the standings, and head into the Christmas break firmly in playoff position.
The Brandon women are struggling this year at 0-10. The top eight teams qualify for the post-season, and a Heat sweep would likely vault UBCO over Alberta and into seventh place.
We can all agree: all B.C. belongs ahead of Alberta.
It’s a tougher task for men’s volleyball. UBCO (0-8) is headed into Brandon to face the 9-1 Bobcats.
Heat recruits Olympian
Malindi Elmore can now add “UBCO cross-country running coach” to an already impressive resume. She takes over the team from John Machuga, who resigned a week ago.
A professional athlete for 20 years in track and field, cross country and road racing, Elmore is a Canadian champion seven times over. She has competed for her country at the Pan American Games, World Championships, World University Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.
She hasn’t lost the desire to compete, and currently the Kelowna resident is aiming for a spot in the 2020 Olympic marathon.
Elmore started her running career at Kelowna Secondary and dominated the B.C. high school scene. After graduating from KSS, she went on to be an All-American runner and school record holder at Stanford University, where she earned an International Relations degree. She followed that degree with one from the University of Calgary and then a Bachelor of Education from UBCO.
“I am thrilled,” said Elmore. “UBCO offers amazing opportunities for student-athletes to pursue their academic goals, while also offering excellent training and racing opportunities in endurance running.”
She takes over officially in 2020.
Summa Cum ‘Lauded’
UBCO lauded its top academic achievers this week, recognizing athletes who earned an 80% average or better last season.
Of the 119 Heat student-athletes last year, 44 are recipients of the academic achievement awards — or 37%, and above the national average of 30%.