By John Matisz/London Community News
Sitting cushy at a province-best 12-1 through three-quarters of the 2011-12 Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) season, the Fanshawe Falcons are in line for a considerable post-season push.
With them, Algoma University and Sheridan College boasting the best in the West Region of the OCAA women's basketball circuit, head coach Matt White is fully aware of what the near future may bear.
"It's a group that I think can come away with a medal," the fourth-year bench boss said. "We've got a good mix of veterans and rookies, kids that are committed to doing the right things."
A collective allegiance to White's defence-first teachings has worked wonders for the Falcons. In holding their opponent to an average of under 50 points per game, and focusing most of their energy on protecting the hoop, a scoring-by-committee strategy has emerged on the other side of the court.
"For the most part, up until the last three games, we've gone five-on, five-off," said White, a former OCAA player himself at Lambton College in the late 1990s. "Some people might say that's a little silly at this level. But, what it has done is given our bench some playing time, and our success has come from our depth."
On top of ever-feisty forward Natasha Amo and fifth-year leader Kaitlind Dutrizac, a total of six players have managed to contribute at least five points per contest this season. As a group, they make up the fourth-ranked offence in Ontario.
Individually, only Amo cracks the top 10. Whenever they've required a clutch performance, the 5-foot-10 Toronto native — and her team-leading 16 points and 6.1 rebounds per game — has come through.
"I would say she's the toughest kid in the league," he said of the ferocious power forward's willingness to go to the dirty areas of the court with reckless abandon. "She's a bull in a china shop."
The most seasoned veteran on the squad, Dutrizac, produces at a less impressionable rate (9.9 points, 2.8 rebounds per game). Yet, the London resident is looked upon as a leader, a continuous voice of reason. After all, she does have a half-decade of OCAA experience under her belt, which includes court time as a member of the last successful Falcons group, the bronze medal-winning 2008-09 team.
"We have to stay hungry, focus on defence and rebounding," Dutrizac, a 24-year-old financial services major, said of the remaining five games of the regular season. "We won't hit our shots every single game so we have to make sure we are solid in other areas."
White, a St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School alumnus and past coach within the London Ramblers organization, is one of the area's strongest supporters of local female talent. A quick glance at Fanshawe's roster shows he makes sure his bases are covered in the Forest City before venturing out further during recruitment season.
To be exact, four out the Falcons' 12 players — all in different years of eligibility — call London their hometown.
"You don't have to go the Greater Toronto Area and beyond to find kids," he said. "My recruiting philosophy has always been to search in your backyard first, and then afterwards go looking for what you don't have."