SARNIA, Ontario — The SAIT Trojans have reigned supreme in the ACAC in each of the last two seasons, and they will look to complete the trifecta in 2018-19.
In each of the last two seasons, the Trojans have won the ACAC Championship and have advanced to the CCAA National Championships. While they have come up empty-handed each time, this year’s team may be the most talented group that they have had in recent years. They went out and added a former CCAA All-Canadian guard to the mix, and they have several key contributors back from last year’s team. SAIT has started the year with a 4-0 record, and they are the top-ranked team in Canada.
Nipping at their heels in the ACAC is an undefeated team from the North Division. The CUE Thunder are sitting at 6-0 through the first three weeks of the season, and are four points clear of second-place in the division. They look like the top contenders to the Trojans to this point in the season, but fans won’t get to see how the teams stack up against one another until the post-season comes along.
With that said, there have been several impressive performances so far this season. The conference is chalked full of talent, and several teams can make a run at the conference title as the standings will surely change between now and February.
This past week, we saw several standout performances from across the league. Here are five players who stood out among the rest, and they make up this week’s edition of the Starting Five.
Starting Five: Oct. 29 – Nov. 4, 2018
Ryan McLaren – CUE Thunder
21 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal in 86-79 win at Lakeland
31 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals in 93-67 win vs. Lakeland
If you look at the top of the ACAC North Division standings, you’ll see the CUE Thunder reigning supreme as the lone unbeaten team in the division. At 6-0 through the first three weeks of the season, they are four points clear of the second-place NAIT Ooks. A big reason for the hot start by the Thunder has been the play of Ryan McLaren, the top scorer in the ACAC. Through six games, McLaren is averaging 24.7 points on 40.7% shooting from the floor. This past week, McLaren led the Thunder to a pair of wins over the Lakeland College Rustlers to push their record to 6-0.
To start the week, the Thunder were on the road to open their home-and-home series with the Rustlers. McLaren went for 21 points, four rebounds, and one steal to guide the Thunder to the 86-79 win to keep their winning streak intact. Then, the Thunder returned to their home court with the goal of sweeping the weekend series. Behind 31 points and five rebounds from McLaren, the Thunder swept Lakeland College with a 93-67 win to push their record to 6-0 through three weeks.
For the week, McLaren averaged 26.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game.
Ian Tevis – SAIT Trojans
25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal in 94-82 win vs. Ambrose
As if the SAIT Trojans weren’t a talented group already, they added former CCAA All-Canadian guard Ian Tevis this off-season to bolster their roster as they look to make another title run in 2018-19. The two-time defending ACAC champions are now the top ranked team in the CCAA rankings, and they plan on staying there as long as possible. They are one of just two unbeaten teams left in the conference, and they are the lone unbeaten team in the South Division. This past week, Tevis and company took on the Ambrose Lions in their only game of the week, and they passed their toughest test to date this year.
The Lions are technically in first-place in the South Division with 10 points, but they have played two more games than the Trojans. This week, the two met inside Trojans Gymnasium for the first time this season. SAIT held down their home court with a 94-82 win, and Tevis put together a strong performance to lead the way for the Trojans. He recorded 25 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and one steal to keep the winning streak for SAIT alive. The Trojans moved to 4-0 on the year with the win.
Isaac Gray – Ambrose Lions
23 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist in 94-82 loss at SAIT
30 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals in 101-85 win vs. St. Mary’s University
The 2018-19 edition of the Ambrose Lions are a veteran group who are ready to take the ACAC by storm. Through their first six games of the season, the Lions are sitting atop the South Division with a 5-1 record, two points ahead of SAIT, the two-time defending conference champions. Ambrose and SAIT squared off this week in the first of two games for the Lions, and while the Trojans would come away with the win, Isaac Gray put together an impressive performance on the road. He followed that up by flirting with a triple-double as Ambrose closed the week with a win to move to 5-1 on the year.
Against the Trojans, the Lions were in tough on the road. Gray posted 23 points and four rebounds, but Ambrose came out on the wrong side of the decision as SAIT held down their home court with a 94-82 win. From there, Ambrose returned home for a date with the St. Mary’s University Lightning. Gray flirted with a triple-double to lead the Lions to the 101-85 victory to split the week’s games. In the 16-point win, Gray posted 30 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, and two steals to cap off his strong week.
Over the two games, Gray averaged 26.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game.
Orin Porter Jr. – Lethbridge Kodiaks
19 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals in 90-64 win vs. Olds
This past week, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks took to the court just once, but they made sure that they came away with a win on their home court. The Kodiaks came into the week with a 1-2 record, but were riding a boost of positive momentum after picking up a win in their previous outing. Lethbridge dropped their first two games of the season, one each to SAIT and Ambrose, kicking their season off on the wrong foot. The Kodiaks played host to the Olds College Broncos this week, and guard Orin Porter Jr. put together a strong two-way performance to ensure the home side came away with a win.
Porter Jr. has been a consistent force on offense all year-long for the Kodiaks to this point, recording double-figures in every game he has played, which includes exhibition play. Against the Broncos, Porter Jr. put together a strong performance on both ends of the floor to lead Lethbridge to the 90-64 win over Olds College at home. Porter Jr. went for 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and four steals in the win to stuff the stat sheet yet again in 2018-19.
For the year, Porter Jr. is averaging 22.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game.
Samson Cleare – NAIT Ooks
27 points, 14 rebounds, 1 block in 83-69 win at King’s
12 points, 13 rebounds, 1 block in 77-68 win vs. King’s
Through their first four games of the season, the NAIT Ooks had split their weekend series with both the GPRC Wolves and Lakeland College Rustlers. They entered their weekend series with The King’s University Eagles this past week with a 2-2 record, but were coming off a loss to the Wolves that brought an end to their modest two-game winning streak. Samson Cleare had two double-doubles to his name over the first four games before the week began. He doubled that total when all was said and done.
The Ooks and Eagles had a home-and-home weekend, and the series opened with King’s University hosting NAIT. The visitors came away with the 83-69 win, and Cleare recorded his third double-double of the season. Cleare went for 27 points, 14 rebounds, and one block in the win. In the second game of the series, Cleare continued his strong play, posting another double-double to guide the Ooks to the 77-68 win. This time out, Cleare went for 12 points, 13 rebounds, and one block.
For the week, the fourth-year forward averaged 19.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game while helping the Ooks improve their record to 4-2.
– T. Bennett