New life for Stevens' squad: Trojans earn right to play roundball playoff qualifier

CALGARY (February 18, 2012) -- Figuratively speaking, they stumbled in through the back door.

All that matters to Mike Stevens and his SAIT Trojans men's basketball squad, though, is that tiny, beautiful word - "in."

The Trojans have earned the right to square off in an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference post-season qualifier, or "play-in game," on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The Men of Troy (5-13, .278 winning percentage) grabbed the ACAC's third and final wild-card spot after the Augustana Vikings (5-15, .250) - the only team that could catch them - lost 99-82 to the NAIT Ooks in Camrose on Saturday night.

Unofficially, the Trojans will now face the North Division's fourth-place Concordia Thunder (10-8) in one of two play-in games on Wednesday. They'll face the Thunder at Mount Royal University at 7 p.m. - with the winner earning the North's No. 4 seed and a provincial quarterfinal berth against the South Division-winning MRU Cougars (15-3).

"Everyone's 0-0 now. It's a fresh start, and it's a case of what you do with it now," said Stevens, the Trojans' fifth-year head coach. "The guys will be excited. I think it should be a competitive game, and we definitely stand a chance.

"If we can take the performance I saw from the guys on Friday night (in an 82-70 loss to the Cougars at MRU) and make a couple of tweaks, I like our chances to be real competitive."

Technically, Stevens' group is on a nine-game losing streak, including the forfeiture of a Jan. 13 win over the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves because of a player eligibility issue.

The play-in game process was established last season by the ACAC to account for an unbalanced schedule, and the fact that the eight North Division teams play 20 regular-season games while the six South Division squads play 18.

Unofficially, Wednesday's other play-in game will see the ACAC's first wild-card team, the Grant MacEwan University Griffins (9-11), take on the second wild-card entry, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks (6-12). The winner becomes the South's No. 4 seed and will play the North Division pennant-winning Lakeland College Rustlers (20-0) of Lloydminster.

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