Marauders takes eighth crack at gold


HALIFAX  After an impressive seven-year run to the CIAU basketball championship tournament, yielding four national silver medals, the luck of the McMaster Marauders was supposed to have run out.

Following last season, the team unexpectedly lost its entire front line. They found themselves smaller and inexperienced. Head coach Joe Raso, who has led the Marauders to each of their previous seven appearances, couldn't possibly weave his magic again said cynics.

Instead, Raso led the Marauders to a 22-4 record against Canadian competition, capped with a road victory over the Western Mustangs to capture the Ontario University Athletics western conference championship.

Today, the Marauders begin their 2000 quest for that elusive national championship when they face the Atlantic champion, St. Francis Xavier X-Men, in the opening round of the three-day event. The X-Men spoiled McMaster's first trip to the CIAU championship game in 1993, winning 72-64.

Raso admits there will be no special formula for success this weekend.
“This team has had to work hard to beat everyone they've faced,” he said. “There have been no easy wins. They can't afford to let up against anyone. That certainly won't change now.”

He hopes familiarity will be bliss for his team. Raso served as an assistant coach under X-Men head coach Steve Konchalski on the Canadian national team from 1995 to 1998. The two remain close friends.

McMaster enters the eight-team tournament seeded sixth. The X-Men are seeded third.

Tonight's game begins at 6 p.m. and can be heard live on CFMU 93.3 FM.
Saturday's semi-final games and Sunday's championship match will be broadcast live on The Sports Network (TSN).

In other first-round games: Alberta (#1) meets Brandon (#8), Western (#4) plays Laurentian (#5), and Lethbridge (#2) faces Concordia (#7).

Editor's note: See related story on the Daily News: “Marauder basketball star earns national honours.”