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Acadia Axewomen basketball coach reflects on AUS title, nationals

Len Harvey talking to Paloma Anderson in AUS semifinal game vs SMU. - Peter Oleskvich
Coach Len Harvey talking to Paloma Anderson. - Peter Oleskvich

REGINA, Sask. - Acadia Axewomen head coach Len Harvey has nothing but praise for the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) champion team that, in his own words, “swung for the fences” all season.

The Axewomen finished at their top of the conference with a near-flawless 18-2 record at the close of season play, then proceeded to defeat Saint Mary’s and UPEI to win Acadia’s third AUS title in 66 years.

“It’s amazing just to sit back and watch them run on to the floor and celebrate and raise the trophy and grab the banner. That’s what you dream of as a coach,” said Harvey in a brief phone interview March 10.

With a roster boasting a number of standout players, including U SPORTS Nan Copp women’s basketball Player of the Year award winner Paloma Anderson, Harvey said the group focused on forming positive habits that called upon every player to contribute.

“Our team performances on most nights were just too much for most teams to handle.”

The Axewomen’s continued success propelled the Wolfville-based squad to the national U SPORTS Women’s Basketball Final 8 showdown in Regina, Sask. No. 3 ranked Acadia faced some tough competitors from the get-go at nationals, starting off with a 72-67 quarter-final loss at the hands of the No. 6-seeded Saskatchewan Huskies.

“It hasn’t gone exactly how we wanted, obviously. Saskatchewan was an extraordinarily difficult sixth seed for us to play so they matched up well against us,” said Harvey.

“We took them to the wire but having Katie Ross go down in the first quarter was a pretty big blow for us, a little tough to rally back from. The girls played really well. We battled back and forth with them the whole game.”

In consolation play March 9, Laval topped Acadia 74-63.

Harvey sees the U Sports trip as an experience that will fuel a fire within the returning Axewomen determined to have their second shot at nationals next season.

“Sometimes you have to lose here to win here,” he said.

“We tried our best and they worked hard, but it just wasn’t in the cards.”

The Axewomen are losing some important contributors with the close of the season, but Harvey stressed that now is a time to celebrate the 2017-18 squad’s shared achievements.

“We want to get back here. We’ve got our work to do… we’re losing some key pieces for sure but we’ve got other people stepping into those roles and ready to make contributions,” he said.

Harvey said Anderson’s national MVP nod in her fifth year of eligibility is the direct result of good, old-fashioned hard work.

“She lays it all out on the floor. The award is a bit sweeter just because of how much she’s grown and worked on herself as a teammate,” he said.

“It’s quite sweet because of how much she enjoys the community and how much the community enjoys her.”

The Axewomen take pride in being good role models for up and coming basketball players in their community, Harvey said.

“It’s just neat to have all of the kids in the stands at our games and they know our girls personally.”

To the kids dreaming of draining shots for the Acadia Axewomen in the future, Harvey said it all comes down to putting the time in. There is no fast lane, he stressed.

“It takes a long time and it’s not always going to be fun. It’s a lot of exciting moments, it’s a lot of lonely moments, it’s a lot of moments just by yourself in the gym working on your skills and working on your toughness.”

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