Drive for five

Photo by Nick Pearce
Photo by Nick Pearce

The Huskies can win a fifth straight AUS women's championship when the conference tournament begins March 3 at Scotiabank Centre. Only Halifax's Carvery, a dependable guard, can be part of all five title teams.

By: Monty Mosher

When basketball fans look back on the current Saint Mary's women's basketball dynasty, one name will leap to mindJustine Colley.

Angelina Carvery understands that. Colley may have been the greatest to play Canadian university women's basketball.

But a closer look shows that Halifax's Carvery can do something Colley didn't do. Or Laura Langille. Or Rachelle Coward.

Or anybody else in uniform from the current streak of excellence.

The Huskies can win a fifth straight AUS women's championship when the conference tournament begins March 3 at Scotiabank Centre. Only Halifax's Carvery, a dependable guard, can be part of all five title teams.

"I'm the last one standing," the 23-year-old Carvery said this week.

Saint Mary's can be the first to win five in a row since UNB won 10 straight from 1963-72. But players only had four years of eligibility in those days.

Carvery is aware of the situation. In fact, she can go six-for-six counting the high school title she won in her Grade 12 year at Citadel.

Knowing and caring are two different things. Carvery would far rather her skills on the court told her story than answer questions about it.

It's just not her way.

She plays that way, too. She can score when it matters, but only has 20 points in a game once this year.

Her talents are far more subtle. She leads the conference in assists, is second in steals and sixth in blocks.

"She's sort of been under the radar a bit for all five years," said Huskies head coach Scott Munro. "She usually steps up when the chips are down. She's just a gamer.

"She's willing to step up and take a big shot and she's certainly done that for us the last two years at the AUS tournament. She doesn't fear that moment."

Carvery had played for Munro as a member of provincial teams.

"I just really liked his coaching style and we had always had a good relationship outside of basketball," she said. "We kept in touch.

"I kinda wanted to stay home and be a part of my family. And they (Saint Mary's) already had Justine there and she was the best player in country for years. So why not go and be able to play underneath her and gain an experience most people wouldn't have an opportunity to get."

East Preston's Colley scored 2,376 points in a five-year career that may never be rivalled. She was the national player of the year twice.

With Colley in her final season and Carvery a sophomore, the Huskies went to the national final, losing to Windsor. Coward, a former NCAA player from Cherrybrook, was part of that team as well.

"I hadn't played with Justine, but I used to watch her and Rachelle Coward play when I was younger. They were older than me so I didn't get to play against them. But I knew a lot about their history."

So a run a greatness could be easily predicted, right? Not exactly.

When Carvery arrived, the Huskies hadn't won an AUS title since 1977. And that was the only one.

Colley and Langille were established. Coward hadn't arrived yet.

"It came as a bit of a shocker," she said of the team's immediate success. "I didn't expect it all. I honestly didn't know what to expect. I just knew that was a program I wanted to go to and help them get an AUS championship. Fortunately I was able to do that."

She started all 20 games in her rookie year and hasn't left the court much since.

The thread through five years?

"I think it always just comes down to hard work and our defence," she said. "It doesn't matter about the individual players. Our main goal is always to win the AUS championship and then move on to the nationals. No one on the team is really focused on the individual awards. Our motto is we would rather be champions than be all-stars."

If the Huskies are rolling on a given night, Carvery is getting others players involved. She's coming off screens and finding shooters, says Munro. She's getting to the basket and knocking down some deep shots.

"When we are going well, she's doing a bit of everything," Munro said. "We need that from her to be a really good team."

Carvery took on a leadership role early, but didn't say much with so many veterans around her.
Now that she's the leader, she stays in contact with Colley, Langille and Coward to ask how they handled certain situations they encountered.

"It's helped me grow so much," she said.

"She's done a great job leading us this year," said Munro. "She's had to be more vocal than in the past. She's been a great blender throughout her career. Other people tended to get the limelight some nights, but that never seemed to bother her. You couldn't ask for any more."

A perfect run through her AUS careerfive banners in five trieswould be great, she concedes.

"But I don't see it as going five-for-five. I look at each year as its own individual season. So it is about going one-for-one."

The Huskies will have to prevail at Scotiabank Centre to get the nationals. It's a hard league to win with Cape Breton, Acadia, UNB, Memorial and UPEI ready to pounce.

That would give Carvery a last shot at an elusive USports gold medal. "That will always be the goal."

"That's a testament to her," said Munro. "She won at high school and she won here. She expects to win and it's been that way for her here for four years. She's comfortable with that pressure and that expectation."

The year will be sweet no matter what. Carvery got to share it with younger sister Jasmine Cain, an 18-year-old rookie. They grew up on the courts at Uniacke Square.

"I'd say it is what makes this year the most special over everything," said Carvery, who will graduate with a psychology degree this spring.

"Even if we weren't to win the AUS, this would probably still be my most special year being able to play with her."




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