The Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) got their first look at a brand new Lakeland Rustlers men’s basketball team, one that is capable of playing a shootout style basketball game, while also being able to lock down under pressure.
In their season debut against the Augustana Vikings, the Rustlers put up 110 points in a 110-61 victory, limiting the Vikings to under 20 points in each quarter. In the follow up game on Saturday night at Lakeland’s home opener, the Rustlers came away with their second victory of the season with a 69-53 performance, marking the first time Lakeland has started the season 2-0 since 2011.
“Our team has never won a game by that many points before, so it is a brand new experience for them and myself,” said head coach Sheray Thomas. “My guys battled, and at the end of the day we still won. It is early in the season, so there is a lot to do, but I am happy to be 2-0, that’s for sure.”
Prentice Gardner started his ACAC career off with 25 points on Friday night to lead the Rustlers to victory, and followed it up on Saturday with another team leading 15 point effort. Gardner is shooting 50 per cent from the floor so far, and led the team with 59 minutes of court time between the two games.
Lloydminster native David Salus counted 15- and 14-points in the season openers to give the Rustlers secondary scoring, while combined, six different Rustler players scored double-digit points in the 110-61 victory, while four had over 10 in Saturday night’s win as well.
“It’s just about gelling together right now,” said Salus. “Definitely a team win. That is the thing with this team, pretty unselfish guys. For most of the season we are going to be an unselfish team. At the end of the day, to be 2-0, we are pretty happy with that.”
Thomas noted that Lakeland will have to continue to keep their composure if another team goes on a scoring run. Rather than trying to do it all themselves, Thomas wants to see the Rustlers slow down the pace and work as a five-man unit, rather than trying to go at it alone. But with so many new names in the lineup still working on coming together, that will be a constant work in progress. And for now, starting 2-0 is the best confidence booster the Rustlers could ask for as they plan to take on Concordia this weekend.
“I’m definitely happy to be 2-0, rather than 0-2,” said Thomas. “But at the same time there is a lot to work on. Concordia is one of the better teams on our side. On the (North) side, there are probably four teams that are pretty even. So next weekend we will see how good we really are.”