THE semifinals are set as it is down to the Final Four at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball National Championship.
The first will pit the RSEQ champion Vanier Cheetahs (Montreal, QC) against the PACWEST champion VIU Mariners (Nanaimo, BC) at 5:30 p.m. and that will be followed the OCAA champion Sheridan Bruins (Oakville, ON) and the ACAA champ Holland Hurricanes (Charlottetown, PEI) at 7:30 p.m. The games are at Langley Events Centre, the venue for the host school Langara College, on Friday (March 15) for the second of the three-day, eight-team tournament.
Here’s a look at Thursday’s quarter-final action:
Vanier Cheetahs 102 Humber Hawks 94
Every time the Humber Hawks tried to make a move, the Vanier Cheetahs had an answer.
The Cheetahs trailed for the first few minutes but led the rest of the way as they opened with a 102-94 victory over the Hawks, a wild-card entry from the OCAA.
After a slow start saw them go scoreless on their first few offensive possessions, the Cheetahs buried a pair of three-pointers and were off and running and it was their propensity for hitting from beyond the arc which played a big difference as Vanier sank 16 three-pointers on the game.
Vanier was up 21-16 after one quarter and extended the lead to 10, 49-39 at the half. Humber would cut the lead to three points with 3:20 to go in the third quarter and down to four points with 88 seconds to play in the contest. But each time, the Cheetahs had an answer, most often from beyond the arc as they scored nearly half their points (48) from the three-point line.
Vanier coach Andrew Hertzog admitted his young team may have had some early jitters with this being the first appearance at nationals for many of the players. But every time they were challenged, they stepped up and responded.
“They have been doing it all year. We have had a lot of close games, our conference is a very tough conference and we played against some top U.S. teams as well,” the coach said. “It seems to be a theme where we take a lead and then let the other team back in it. But we find a way to close it out in the end.”
The coach was also very complimentary of a tough Humber opponent, as the traditional powerhouse came into the Championship in search of building on their CCAA record of six national titles. They also have four silver and three bronze medals.
“I give all the credit in the world to Humber, there were about five times in the game I thought we were on the verge of blowing them out and each time, they made some big plays,” Hertzog said. “Some if it was them making really good plays but some of it was our lack of defensive effort when it was needed. Hopefully the kids learn from it and build off it.”
Abdou Karim Maine, the conference player of the year and an All-Canadian, had a game-high 25 points, including five three-pointers for the Cheetahs. He was also one of five Vanier players to reach double digits as Nginyu Ngala had 24 and Christopher Biekeu and Joshua Koulamallah had 15 points apiece. And Khalifa Koulamalla came off the bench to score 17.
DeQuon Cascart led Humber with 19 points while Curwin Elvis had 18 and Fowzi Mohamoud had 15.
Maine and Curwin Elvis earned the 4 Imprint Player of the Game awards for their respective teams.
VIU Mariners 102 SAIT Trojans 84
It was a tale of two halves.
Trailing by 15 points when the teams went to the locker room, the VIU Mariners pulled off a stunning comeback, pulling even after three quarters and pulling away in the fourth as they knocked off the SAIT Trojans 102-84.
The Mariners outscored the Trojans by a two-to-one margin in the second half, 65-32, going from down 15 to winning by 18, a swing of 33 points in 20 minutes.
The Mariners had a solid start to the game, scoring 10 of the first 16 points before an 11-0 run late in the first quarter gave the Trojans a lead they held until the latter stages of the third quarter. VIU closed the quarter with a 6-0 spurt and carried that momentum into the fourth as they opened on a 12-5 run and never looked back, outscoring SAIT 34-16 over the final 10 minutes.
What exactly did VIU coach Matt Kuzminski say to his troops to turn the game 180 degrees? Did he tear into his squad or reach into a book of motivational tricks?
“Honestly, it was just to stay composed. I thought we were very tentative in the first half, some nerves,” he explained. “It’s the first time in the national tournament for a lot of these guys. Coming into the halftime, I have been down like this at nationals before and weirdly, we felt confident.”
“The big message was change your demeanor; play aggressive, play to win and we will see what happens. We have to come out and play aggressive and get after the ball, drive the gaps and the guys did exactly that.”
Shooting-wise, the Mariners were decent the first 20 minutes, hitting on 37.5 per cent of their field goals. The problem was the Trojans were clicking at a 46.3 per cent rate. And while both teams shot the ball well in the third quarter (45 per cent for VIU and 41.2 per cent for SAIT), the Mariners were able to carve into the deficit from the charity stripe, knocking down 12 of 15 free throws.
And when the fourth quarter rolled around, VIU shot a blistering 70 per cent from the field while the Trojans could not buy a bucket, with their shots continuously rimming out as they attempted more field goals (27 to 20) but watched as VIU converted 14 to their six.
Four Mariners starters had 21 or more points as Harry Fayle led the way with 25 while the trio of Landon Radcliff, Tyus Barfoot and Cameron Gay had 21 points apiece. Barfoot also had 17 rebounds and Gay had seven assists.
The Trojans were led by John Smith’s 23 points while Ian Tevis (18), Nicholas Molina (15) and Rashaan Chambers (14) also reached double figures.
Radcliff and Smith earned the 4 Imprint Player of the Game awards for their respective teams.
Sheridan Bruins 105 Nomades de Montmorency 83
It was an impressive offensive display for the Sheridan Bruins.
Aside from an early 3-3 tie, the Bruins led from start to finish thanks to a blistering 56.9 per cent from the field to defeat Nomades de Montmorency (Vanier, QC) 105-83.
The Bruins put up 34 points in the opening quarter and led by 11 before taking a 53-39 lead to the locker room at the half.
Sheridan was led by the dynamic duo of Nick Campbell (28 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Kahleek Bakari-Whyte (27 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals). The duo went a combined 23-for-32 from the field. Stefan Simpson chipped in 15 and AJ Thompson came off the bench to score 10 for the Bruins.
Campbell and Cousin earned the 4 Imprint Player of the Game awards for their respective teams.
Holland Hurricanes 120 Langara Falcons 77
The Langara Falcons hung tough for the opening quarter against the No. 1 ranked Holland Hurricanes, but just like their team moniker, the Hurricanes kept pounding and overtook the quarter-final game.
The Hurricanes up just five points after one quarter. But a 12-0 run in the second quarter stretched the lead to double digits and Holland never looked back, coasting to the 120-77 victory.
Holland, which is riding a perfect season, shot nearly 48 per cent for the game and 17-for-20 from the free throw line.
Hurricanes coach Josh Whitty admitted the coaching staff was curious if nerves might be a problem.
“Especially being the late game, playing the host and (Langara coach) Paul (Eberhardt) is such a good coach, someone I have admitted for a lot of years, and he is a national championship coach so when you are playing a really good coach in their city in an unfamiliar venue, last game of the day, sure you are worried about nerves,” Whitty said. “But they are a pretty tight-knit bunch and not much we have to do to keep them loose, that is their default setting, so to speak.”
The Hurricanes shooting improved as the game progressed, hitting on 42.3 per cent in the opening quarter and all the way up to 60 per cent by the fourth quarter.
All five Holland starters reached double digits, led by Jordan Holness’ 24 points and another 20 from Connor Therrien. Travis Adams, who earned the 4 Imprint Player of the Game Award, came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 12 rebounds in just 22 minutes of work.
“He has played just like this since he stepped on campus three years ago. A terrific player who maybe flies under the radar a little bit with this group,” Whitty said.
Sargeant, who was Langara’s 4 Imprint Player of the Game, led the Falcons with 22 points, eight assists and three rebounds. Moeiz Athaya and Drake Downer each had 15 while Tyler Anderson came off the bench to score 14 for Langara.
1 p.m. Humber Hawks vs. SAIT Trojans
3 p.m. Nomades de Montmorency vs. Langara Falcons
For more on the tournament, visit www.ccaa/sports/mbkb/championships/index