By Chris Jaster
Emerick Ravier felt confident enough to play basketball without his knee brace for the first time this semester, and he feels like a brand new player.
The fifth-year guard from Ottawa missed a season and a half with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and came back this season sporting a brace. He played with it during the first semester of the Canada West season, but he was more of a force on the Healthy Living Centre court without it on Saturday night as he put up 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Brandon University Bobcats to a 74-66 victory over the University of British Columbia Okanagan Heat.
"I won’t say it was holding me down, but it was time," said Ravier. "I feel like I have confidence in myself, confidence in my knee and it was time to show it. I feel more free on the court."
Ravier’s play was a huge part of the Bobcats starting off the second half of their season on the right foot. After going 2-8 before the Christmas break, they knew they had to come together and find ways to win games in order to make the playoffs.
They controlled most of the game on Saturday and, although they let the scrappy Heat (2-10) close the gap, the Bobcats (4-8) led most of the way. Brandon had its second-best shooting performance of the season, making 46.9 per cent of its shots, and won the battle on the glass. The team also distributed the ball well, recording 20 assists.
Bobcats coach Gil Cheung feels the opening weekend was important for his team, and that his vision for the team is starting to become reality.
"I think you see it on the offensive end," he said. "We’re getting better possessions, we’re not scoring a ton ... (but) we’re getting the shots we want. Things are starting to turn around."
Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak led the Bobcats with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Jordan Reaves added 17 points and Ilarion Bonhomme had seven assists. Stuart Wallensteen paced the Heat with 15 points.
The Bobcats have now won their last three conference games and hope to extend that streak when the Manitoba Bisons (1-11) come to town Friday.
The Bobcats are also enjoying the chance to have back-to-back weekends at home as well after spending most of the first semester on the road.
"It’s perfect," Ravier said. "That’s how we started the year. We had those long trips and had to go to other peoples’ courts and had to worry about the crowd and everything and it was really tough. For once, we’re at home and comfortable and sleeping in our own beds and they have to come to us."