MEDICINE HAT, Alberta — In 2018-19, the Medicine Hat Rattlers will be hoping that their regular season success translates to the post-season.
Last year, the Rattlers picked up a pair of wins in their final two games to earn themselves a share of first place in the ACAC South Division with the SAIT Trojans. Due to a tie-breaker, the Rattlers were the second seed from the division at the ACAC Championships. After posting a record of 16-5 in the regular season, Medicine Hat had a great chance at advancing to the CCAA National Championships.
However, it wasn’t meant to be.
The Rattlers dropped their quarter-final game to the Lakeland College Rustlers, the third seed from the North Division. Then, in the consolation semi-finals, Medicine Hat saw their season come to an end at the hands of the host Lethbridge College Kodiaks, who were the fourth seed from the South Division.
Medicine Hat performed well down the stretch of the regular season to earn themselves a share of the division title, but they weren’t able to carry that momentum into the post-season. As a result, their post-season run came to a premature end.
In 2018-19, the Rattlers will look to buck the trend and turn regular season results into post-season success. Led by a trio of fifth-year players, Medicine Hat will look to contend for another South Division title and make a run at the league championship when all is said and done.
Two years ago, the Rattlers hosted the 2016-17 ACAC Men’s Basketball Championships. Medicine Hat closed the regular season on a 10-game winning streak and entered the post-season as the top seed from the South Division.
They were unable to turn their regular season results into a league championship, as SAIT would enter nationals as the ACAC tournament champions.
In 2017-18, Medicine Hat won their last two games of the season to earn a share of the South Division title with the Trojans. They knocked off the Trojans on February 17th to split the home-and-home series with SAIT, and they closed out the season with a road win over the Ambrose Lions to match the Trojans at 16-5.
The Rattlers entered the post-season as the second seed in the South Division, but fell short once again in their quest for a league tournament title. Consecutive losses at the event sent Medicine Hat home for the year after knocking on the door of another league title.
In 2018-19, the Rattlers will lean on their veterans to help guide the team on their quest for a league title. Three fifth-year players will take on starring roles, while third-year guard Jon Sappleton will step into a starring role with the personnel losses from last year’s roster.
As a second-year player in 2017-18, Sappleton appeared in 20 of the Rattlers’ 21 regular season games, making 19 starts along the way. Sappleton finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 17.6 points per game on 53.0% shooting from the floor. He trailed only Aaron Cameron (19.9 ppg) for the team lead in terms of scoring.
Sappleton averaged 10.4 rebounds per game, and was one of two players for the Rattlers to pull down double-digit rebounds per contest (Osato Obaseki). Sappleton’s 4.0 assists per game were a team-high, and he record an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.2:1 for the year. His ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor is what makes him a special talent, and he will become a household name in the ACAC as the season moves along.
The aforementioned Obaseki is one of the three fifth-year players for Medicine Hat back in the mix this season. He led the team in rebounding last year, pulling down 12.0 rebounds per game over his 21 regular season appearances. Add in his 10.0 points per game on the offensive end, and Obaseki was a consistent threat on both ends of the court.
Obaseki posted nine double-double performances over the regular season. He posted three straight to close out the regular season, and Obaseki pulled down 18 rebounds in three of the Rattlers’ final four games before the post-season kicked off. He is one of the ACAC’s top rebounders, and he will be a focal point of the team’s attack on both offense and defense in 2018-19.
In the back court, fifth-year guard DeAngelo Ashley will step into a bigger role with the departure of Cameron. Ashley started just six games last season while appearing in 20 contests, but that number should increase this season. Ashley averaged 8.0 points per game while averaging just 12.8 minutes per night out.
Veteran wing Jaamel Slack rounds out the contingent of fifth-year players for head coach Richard Humphrey and his staff. The veterans will be looked upon to provide leadership for the Rattlers’ six first-year players.
After falling short of their ACAC Championship aspirations in each of the last two seasons, the Rattlers will be looking to cut down the nets themselves this season and enter the CCAA National Championships as the ACAC Champions.
After their two championships in a row, the South Division and the ACAC titles seemingly go through SAIT. However, the Rattlers have the track record of regular season success that will contend with the Trojans, and they will be looking to turn that into post-season results in 2018-19.
– T. Bennett