CLINTON — Home-court advantage is never a bad thing. Ashford men’s basketball coach Oliver Drake is hoping it has a little extra significance this weekend.
The Saints serve as hosts for the Association of Independent Institutions men’s and women’s tournaments Friday and Saturday at Kehl Arena, and, as the top seed on the men’s side, Drake’s squad is hoping to use it as a springboard to the NAIA national tournament.
“We get home games with our conference tournament, so that’s really exciting,” Drake said recently. “We control our own destiny having that at home.
“It’s huge, knowing going in that you’re playing at home. It’s a pretty unique setup, and one that we certainly hope our guys will understand how fortunate they are to have and certainly take full advantage of it.”
Kehl Arena has been quite friendly to Ashford men. They are 15-2 on their home floor this winter.
Adding to the advantage is the fact that none of the other three teams have played in Clinton.
“They don’t have a comfort level with our gym, whereas when you’re in a traditional league — even though you’re on the road — you have a comfort level, you’ve been there, you’ve played there, you’ve made the trip before,” Drake said. “These teams will be making the trip to our place for the first time. Certainly I think that’s huge.
“But, basketball is basketball, and you’ve got to win it on the court.”
The first test for the Saints is Fisher (Mass.) in the second semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday.
Fisher brings a 13-17 record into the tournament and is led by sophomore guard-forward Tyler Shular (17.2 points a game). Junior Orlando Zayas averages 11.1, and Ernest McNeil adds 9.6 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds a game.