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CIS Final 8: early Sunday recap

For full coverage of the CIS gold medal game, click here.

Bronze medal recap: St. FX squeaks by for national bronze

St. FX forward Jeremy Dunn, at the quarterfinal game, lays it in. | He had a team-high 28 points in the bronze medal game. | Photo by Shauna Brown

While it was not the game they hoped to play in, the St. FX X-Men were still determined to end their season with a victory. The X-Men did exactly that, weathering a late comeback from the Fraser Valley Cascades.

St. FX’s 89 – 86 victory over UFV gave the sixth-seeded X-Men the bronze medal in the CIS Final 8 Mar. 11. Forward and team captain Jeremy Dunn, who scored 28 points and added eight rebounds, led the X-Men.

Terry Thomas and Shane Coupland chipped in with 13 points each for the X-Men.

“We’re really happy,” Coupland said. “We stuck together and got 30 wins for the season.

“We just executed the game plan really well.”

Before they could celebrate, however, they had to survive a furious last-minute comeback from UFV, led by fourth-year forward Kyle Grewal.

The Cascades were down by as many as 18 in the second half and were down by 11 to start the fourth quarter, but they clawed back and didn’t stop fighting until the final buzzer sounded.

Grewal was dominant for the Cascades. He scored 35 points and added 14 rebounds, hitting five of six attempted three pointers. He willed away his team’s deficit, whether by ripping away rebounds or yelling instructions until his voice turned hoarse, with beads of sweat dripping onto his bushy ponytail.

He was, however, unable to corral an inbounds pass with three seconds left in the game to attempt a game-tying three pointer. St. FX guard Tyrell Vernon tipped the ball away to Dunn, ending the comeback.

Grewal was devastated at the way Fraser Valley’s first ever appearance in the CIS Final 8 ended.

“[Sometimes] you have a big game. But when it’s in a loss? I feel like it doesn’t mean anything,” Grewal said.

“I couldn’t catch a ball at the end. Couldn’t even get a shot off.”

The X-Men were appearing in their first Final 8 since 2009, where they were knocked out in the consolation semifinals. While they were pleased with winning the bronze medal, several X-Men admitted they had their eyes on a larger prize.

“Nobody really wants to be third,” Thomas said. “Everyone wants to be first.

“We couldn’t be first, but top three? I’ll take it.”

To reach the bronze medal game, the X-Men beat the RSEQ champion Concordia Stingers in the quarterfinals thanks to a 39-point performance from Thomas, but fell to the Alberta Golden Bears, eventual silver medalists, in the semifinals.

Next season, St. FX returns each of their players. According to Vernon, they should be serious contenders for the gold medal at next year’s nationals.

“We have to practice a little bit harder next season, be a little more serious throughout the season. We can take care of business and be back here next year,” he said.

“We have to stay focused and try and stay healthy.”

The game started slowly for both teams. Both hit fewer than 20 per cent of their three pointers in the first quarter, and they combined for 11 turnovers and 13 fouls. The quarter ended with the teams tied, 16 – 16.

The discord was punctuated by a gaffe from St. FX’s Rodrigo Madera, when he allowed a pass to slip through his fingers and out of bounds.

In the second quarter, St. FX began pulling away. They took the lead with three consecutive three-pointers, and converted several steals into lightly contested baskets. By halftime, they were up by 11 points, and their lead continued climbing as they kept hitting baskets.

Grewal and UFV refused to give in, however. At the end of the third quarter, the deficit had been narrowed to 11, and Grewal hit shot after shot and grabbed rebound after rebound to put UFV down by only one basket.

Unfortunately for Fraser Valley, they could not complete the comeback, and St. FX will return to Antigonish with a bronze medal around their necks and the status as the third best university basketball program in Canada.

–Ethan Calof, Sports Contributor

 

Consolation game recap: Acadia axes Rams in consolation final

Ryerson senior Luke Staniscia, No. 22, holds back tears | as he leaves the court after his final CIS game. | Photo by Dasha Zolota via The Eyeopener

The only overtime game of the CIS championships took place Mar. 11 in the consolation final between the Acadia Axemen and the Ryerson Rams. It was a thriller that went down to the wire, with Acadia pulling it out in the end 90 – 83 at the Halifax Metro Centre.

Acadia never hung their heads despite facing adversity the whole tournament. The AUS champions were written off from the start because of a heavily debated placement as the tournament’s last seed, despite winning their own conference.

To perform well at nationals, AUS defensive player of the year Owen Klassen said they had to move past their unfortunate seeding, which matched the Axemen in the quarterfinals with perennial national favourites, and eventual champions, Carleton.

“The day we found out, we were all frustrated. We thought it was stupid; we asked the coach why,” he said. “We were all confused, but we dealt with. We played Carleton, that’s what we dealt with.”

Although they didn’t win their opener, the Axemen made sure to end their season on the right note after overcoming Lakehead in the consolation semifinal. They were down by double digits early in this one, but never gave up.

Despite some great games from Ryerson’s Aaron Best and Jahmal Jones with 30 and 20 points, respectively, Acadia hung around all game, never letting it get out of hand. Led by Klassen’s 21 points and 12 rebounds, the Axemen overcame a rough shooting afternoon with great free throw shooting and an outstanding effort on the offensive boards.

AUS second team all-star Anthony Sears also came up with a big performance before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter, finishing with 20 points and six rebounds.

CIS player of the year Philip Scrubb, in white, | was a threat all weekend. Photo by Shauna Brown

Clutch free throws with three seconds left by Anthony Ashe sent the game to overtime, where the Axemen came out firing and never let up, leading to the 90 – 83 final score.

Ryerson’s building program has a lot to be proud of. They were the surprise entry in the tournament, yet still did well, winning their first ever game at nationals and nearly their second. The Rams’ only other Final 8 appearance was in 1999.

“We’re taking it one step at a time. We’re building a culture, we’re building the program. Hopefully we’ll be here a lot more in the future.”

Similar to Ryerson, the future is bright for Acadia, as the Axemen are returning all of their players next year, and only have four players entering their fourth year. They should be optimistic as they showed the Canadian basketball world they can compete with the best.

–Rob Mills, Sports Contributor, with files from Ian Froese, Sports Editor

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