Basketball bronze for Manitoba

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

When Howard Kitchen took the job as coach of the Manitoba men's softball team, he thought he would be able to recruit a strong core of his team from Winnipeg.

Why not?

Winnipeg has a population of roughly 700,000 residents, making it the largest city in the province of Manitoba.

He quickly found out that wouldn't be the case, but that suits him just fine, because yesterday his team captured the bronze medal after a 10-8 win over Saskatchwan at the 2007 Western Canada Summer Games in Sherwood Park.

"I probably put on 4,000, 5,000 kilometres in my car looking for the right combination of players and I couldn't be more happy with the way our team came together," said Kitchen yesterday afternoon.

The team had players from Cross Lake and Flin Flon, which are eight and seven hours away from Winnipeg respectively, but Kitchen was determined to put the best team together he possibly could.

Kitchen was looking for a couple of things when he was out at the ballpark searching for players.

"He wanted kids who obviously had the skill to play at a high level, but he also wanted no attitudes, because the team didn't have much time together to make it work.

"We went to one tournament together in Saskatoon and other than that we hadn't had much experience together," said Kitchen.

"I recently had 14 of them stay out at my place (in Winnipeg).

"I put up an army tent in the backyard and we had to learn to be with one another and trust each other."

Kitchen's plan heading into the tournament was to play everyone and give each player a chance to contribute. With an 0-6 round-robin, it was a learning experience for the Manitoba team, but they were determined to improve over their rough start.

"We knew that each team would make the playoffs, and I wanted to give everyone a shot, but when the playoffs came around we would go with our best lineup and it got us a bronze medal," Kitchen said.

The Manitoba team almost had a shot at the gold medal, narrowly losing to B.C. earlier in the day. B.C. moved onto the final against Alberta.

"The boys were proud of how they played knowing the calibre of competition they were up against. In normal cases like that, there may be a tear shed, but not today," said Kitchen.

"Besides I may have to put on another 1,000 kilometres if I want to beat those teams."


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