The Dalhousie Tigers men’s basketball team lost to the first-ranked Ryerson Rams in yesterday’s semifinal game of the U SPORTS (formerly the CIS) Final 8 tournament.
Dalhousie, ranked fifth out of the eight participating teams, won their first game against the fourth-ranked University of Alberta (UAl) Golden Bears on the game heroics of Kashrell Lawrence, a senior power-forward from Brampton, Ont., who scored the game-winning layup with 1.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter. With arguably the most potent offense in the country, the Rams came in representing a considerable challenge for the tournament hosts.
In the first quarter, Lawrence was quick to pick up where he left off after his dominant performance against UAl, scoring four points early and dominating the offensive glass. Dalhousie looked to be rolling, exploiting a bout of sloppy ball handling by Ryerson to jump out to a seven-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
Ryerson’s volatile offense was not to be stifled for long, as in the second quarter they went on a 16-5 run to claim a one-point lead.
The Dalhousie offense struggled as their star point-guard Ritchie Kanza Mata was sidelined with foul trouble. The Rams also did an effective job of shutting down Lawrence, who after a hot start, was held to just six points in the first half.
Despite their offensive woes, the Tigers did a solid job of weathering the Ryerson onslaught, holding the highest scoring team in the country to just 27 first-half points, and clinging to a two-point lead at the half.
The Rams opened the second half on a 7-2 run putting them up 34-31 on a flat-footed Tiger squad. The senior forward Sven Stammberger responded with a series of buckets, culminating in an emphatic fast-break dunk that had the Black and Yellow-clad crowd on its feet. The score after the third quarter was 42-40 in favor of Dal.
Ryerson had yet another hot-start to the fourth quarter, scoring six unanswered points in what seemed an uncharacteristic defensive breakdown by the Tigers. Lawrence was dominant in the fourth quarter, using his size to get deep in the paint and score some key buckets to get Dal back within striking distance.
With three minutes left, a major blow was dealt to Dal when Kanza Mata was removed from play with his fifth and final foul.
Ryerson forward Filip Vujadinovic went on a tear towards the end of the fourth quarter, responding to every Dalhousie score with a bucket of his own. He finished with a team high 16 points. With 17 seconds left, Stammberger was fouled going up for a dunk and made both free throws to bring the Tigers within one. The Tigers got the ball back with nine seconds left, on a gutsy call by Coach Rick Plato that saw them forgo a foul in place of a well executed double-team.
Unfortunately, a last second three-point attempt by Lawrence was unsuccessful as the Tigers fell to the Rams 59-58.
On the heartbreaking loss, coach Plato said this: “It’s gonna take a long time to get over this one, I tell ya.”