Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Garcia's gonna give it all he's got

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In five years with the University of Manitoba Bisons, Eric Garcia has had two coaches, won 21 games and played in zero playoff games.

They say it's not how you start but how you finish and Garcia plans to apply a full-court press in his final season of university basketball.

"I'm looking forward for making the playoffs for the first time in my career. You see other teams doing this and you just always want to get a taste of it or have a chance to experience it," said Garcia, a guard who won the provincial high school AAAA championship in 2005-06 with the Sisler Spartans.

"We haven't made it in seven years. It would be so beneficial to the program and show everyone that we are a good basketball team. It has been hard but we all love the game, so that keeps us going, as well as working to get better."

Garcia is one of just three fifth-year Bisons as the team opens the 2010-11 Canada West conference season on Friday at 8 p.m. at the U of M Investors Group Athletic Centre. Sean Maxwell and Ian Dickey also bring four years of experience to coach Kirby Schepp's squad.

It will be one of the biggest nights of the season for local hoop fans as the city's two university programs open the year against each other.

The men's action features the Bisons meeting the University of Winnipeg Wesmen, who will be led by new head coach Mike Raimbault.

Up first at 6 p.m., coach Pam Danis and her Bisons women's team take on coach Tanya McKay's Wesmen women.

"I think our team this year is a lot more versatile than last year. We can play more of a run-and-gun game and a good half-court game because we have a lot of size in the paint," said fifth-year Wesmen guard Caity Gooch, a three-time all-star who co-captains the Wesmen with former conference rookie-of-the-year Amy Ogidan.

She said her team is fired up to start the season against their favourite rivals.

"It's always fun playing Manitoba," Gooch said. "Whenever we play them, it's not so much the fundamentals as who wants it more that night. It's more the effort put in, not the X's and O's."

Key Wesmen additions include three players from the two-time provincial AAAA girls champion Vincent Massey Trojans; Stephanie Kleyson, Ashleigh Chichlowski and Britley Wermie.

The Wesmen women will work to improve on last year's 10-10 season that ended after a pair of playoff losses to national champion Simon Fraser.

The Bisons women, 8-12 last season, will be led by captains Kayla Klassen, Lauren Mortier and Mubo Ilelaboye, who will be joined by six rookies.

On the men's side, Raimbault will start fresh with just five players from last season's Wesmen team that recorded a single win; Nick Lother, Brayden Duff, Justin Phillips, Pawel Gacon and Craig Penniston.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2010 C5

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