HALIFAX (CUP) â€” Coming into the CIS men’s basketball Final 8 as the number-seven seed, the Concordia Stingers wanted to buck their assigned ranking, and demonstrate the same resolve on a national stage that helped them win consecutive games to end the season and propelled them to become this year’s RSEQ champions.
While that seemed to be the case on their first night of the tournament, the Stingers failed to advance to the winner’s bracket and showed a dichotomous performance the following day, as they left Halifax both early and empty-handed.
The tournament kicked off Friday afternoon on a day where close battles and surprising efforts from underdogs became a running theme. And perhaps none of the day’s games better demonstrated that point than the last of the quarterfinals between Concordia and the second-seeded Carleton Ravens.
Despite nearly losing the lead several times in the second half, Carleton managed to prevail against the number-seven Stingers in a 73â€“66 victory that was much closer than even a seven-point deficit would suggest.
Carleton took a slim 34â€“33 lead into the half by virtue of a last-second layup from first-year forward Thomas Scrubb, but finished the second quarter in a dead heat with the Stingers in shooting percentage, clicking at an even 40 per cent.
The trend of poor shooting continued for both teams with Carleton hitting just 28 of 67 shots all game, and Concordia not far off, nailing 23 of 59.
From a technical standpoint, it’s hard to pinpoint what, if anything, went wrong for the Stingers. However, an incident in the fourth quarter â€” one that head coach John Dore believes was a missed call on the part of the referees â€” may have in fact been the turning point that kept Concordia out of range.
With the Ravens failing to move the ball past half-court due to a relentless Stingers attack, and nine seconds having already expired from the shot clock, it appeared that Carleton had committed an eight-second violation, which should’ve resulted in a loss of possession.
Instead, the referees called for a jump-ball, which Carleton won â€” and subsequently scored on, giving them a four-point lead â€”Â thus depriving Concordia of an opportunity to narrow the deficit.
Dore was visibly upset with the call out on the court, shaking his head endlessly at the officials’ decision. After the loss, his words were few, but poignant.
“Let the TV cameras be the judge if it was good or not,” Dore said. “It was there for everybody to see.”
Despite the controversy, however, the Stingers coach commended the effort his team put up against an opponent that was otherwise expected to run amok on them.
“I have to say I’m really proud of what this team has accomplished this year,” Dore said. “We finished first in our conference â€” this is a team that people picked to finish fourth in our conference. Nobody thought we’d get out of our conference â€” not only did we get out, we got better and better as the year went on.”
Stingers guard Decee Krah led all scorers with 21 points, while CIS Player of the Year and second-year forward Tyson Hinz chipped in 19 for the Ravens.
After giving the Ravens all they could handle in Friday night’s quarter-final matchup, the Stingers turned their attention to the sixth-seeded Dalhousie Tigers on Saturday afternoon for an opportunity to play in Sunday’s fifth-place game.
Instead of feeding off of the momentum from their surprising effort against Carleton, the team instead came out looking slow and, at times, lifeless as they dropped their consolation semifinal 76â€“65, officially ending their season in the process.
While both teams gave sloppy, noncommittal performances throughout the first two quarters, and even with Concordia managing the better shooting percentage in the first-half, the hometown Tigers were able to captialize on nine Stingers turnovers and consistently maintain leads all the way to the half.
The game turned on a dime, however, when Dalhousie opened up a 12â€“2 run to start the third quarter, establishing a 19-point cushion with a 50â€“31 lead. The Stingers would trail by as much as 20 points before the end of the quarter.
“It’s a combination of things: foul trouble, Evens Laroche sitting out, they took a [nine-point] lead at the half,” Dore said of his team’s second-half start against Dalhousie. “We were just breaking down a little bit, offensively and defensively â€” especially defensively.”
The coach also attributed the Stingers’ lacklustre performance on Saturday to the team having used up the majority of its energy attempting to knock off the number-two Ravens.
“I think we expended a lot of energy [Friday] night and we didn’t get a lot of production out of our bench [Friday] night, and the gas tank was half-empty today,” Dore said. “But you’ve gotta give Dal credit â€” [Tigers guard] Simon Farine’s a good player and they have four fifth-year guys who wanted to go out on a high.”
Adding injury to insult, Stingers centre Zach Brisebois went down with an injury midway through the fourth quarter after landing awkwardly on a rebound attempt.
“It’s an ankle sprain, but it’s the last game of the year, so he’ll have lots of time to recover,” Dore said. “He’s only gonna get bigger and stronger and better.”
Prior to exiting the match, Brisebois finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Krah led the charge yet again for Concordia, dropping 20 points. Farine, a second-team All-Canadian, led all players with 21 points and 10 boards for Dalhousie.