Energy, Volcanoes rolling into collision

DEREK VANDIEST

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

Heading into their second International Basketball League season, the Edmonton Energy were confident in their ability to compete in the shoot-first, let-the-scorekeeper-sort-it-out circuit.

Now 14 games in and 12 wins later, the local squad has their sights set on a league championships.

This weekend will go a long way in determining whether that's feasible, as they play host to the Vancouver Volcanoes starting tonight (7:15 p.m.) at Grant MacEwan in the first of a two-game set. The clubs will face each other again tomorrow.

"I'm really excited and I know the guys are too," said Energy head coach Paul Sir. "These guys want challenges and we know with Vancouver exactly what we're going to get.

"This is a very good team, they're good at all positions, they have arguably the best big-man in the league, so we're looking forward to the weekend."

The Volcanoes, based in Vancouver, Washington, are currently first in the IBL South Division with a 12-3 record. The Energy, meanwhile, are tops in the West Division with a 12-2 record.

They're coming off a four-game sweep of the Yamhill Highflyers in a showcase series played throughout the province. The Energy had little trouble dispatching the visitors, out-scoring them 608-380 in the process.

The Volcanoes, however, represent an entire different challenge.

"They're right in there with teams like Bellingham and us," Sir said.

"They're right in there with the elite teams in the league. I know they really want to play us. Everyone really wants to play us, because they don't like this Canadian team doing what it's doing, so Vancouver is going to come in to play us with something to prove."

Lead offensively by six-foot-11 centre Bryson McKenzie, who is averaging 18.4 points and 15.3 rebounds per game, the Volcanoes come into the weekend on a four-game wining streak.

They've dominated opponents this season especially on the defensive end.

Last week, they limited the Central Oregon Hotshots to 69 points, which is unheard of in the fast-paced league.

"We're playing really well right now and I think that's the biggest thing for us" said Energy forward Steve Sir. "We're more familiar with each other, we're clicking, we're playing well as a group, we're healthy and we're a fun team to watch.

"We're also tough. We're 12-2 and that's not because we've played patsies so far."

While the team has been successful on the floor, they have only managed to make modest strides at the gate.

They're hoping this weekend's matchup between two of the top teams in the league will bring out basketball fans in the city.

"What we hope is that Edmontonians will make the effort to come out and watch us play," coach Sir said.

"The feedback we get consistently is that if they haven't been out before, people are really surprised at the calibre of basketball that we play. They don't understand how good this team is.

"What we want to keep doing is earning people's business. All we ask is that they come to watch us play and let us try and earn your business.

"We're here for the long-term, so it's a building process. We want to compete for a championship this year and keep building for bigger and better things in the future."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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