The Dalhousie University Tigers are on their way to another Atlantic University Sport (AUS) final following a last-minute comeback win over the Memorial University Sea-Hawks. The Tigers won 87-85.
The Tigers struggled to hit shots early on and the Sea-Hawks seemed like they couldn’t miss all night, resulting in a 16 point MUN lead near the end of the third quarter.
“They’re a good team. They’re an experienced team. They’re big. They’re well-coached. But you just wear them down,” said Dalhousie coach Rick Plato, who was named AUS coach of the year earlier this week.
That’s exactly what Dalhousie did in the fourth quarter. In the final period, the Tigers out-rebounded the Seahawks 11 to six and forced five MUN turnovers, which helped Dal narrow the lead in the final minutes of the game.
The team also got some much-needed help from their star point guard Keevan Veinot, who scored 10 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter.
His go-ahead three-pointer with under two minutes to play in the fourth sent the Scotiabank Centre into hysterics.
“When our back’s against the wall, we got some fight in us.” 2020 AUS MVP Veinot said.
“He’s the best player in the country. I don’t care what anybody says,” Plato said.
The Tigers also received some huge contributions from fourth-year guard Shamar Burrows and first-year forward Alex Ruiz.
Burrows’ two layups late in the fourth quarter helped keep Dal in the fight when MUN threatened to pull away.
“We believe in each other and we do this every day, so I knew we would fight back because that’s Dalhousie basketball,” said Burrows.
Ruiz came into today’s game after not playing at all in Thursday’s quarter-final matchup against Acadia. He grabbed six offensive rebounds, more than the entire MUN team combined, to help keep possession for the Tigers.
“He just told me, ‘Coach, don’t worry about it. I’ll be ready.’ And I called on him today, and he played like a horse,” said Plato about what Ruiz told him after not playing on Thursday.
The Seahawks were led by fifth-year forward Cole Long who registered 27 points of his own. Despite the loss, he was proud of his team for the improvements they’ve made over the years.
“I’m proud of everyone. We were [in the championships] the last few times and we had disappointing results. We lost by 20 ourselves in 2019 [against Dalhousie]. We battled and really showed what this program can do this year,” said Long.
Dalhousie will face the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers in the championship game Sunday afternoon at the Scotiabank Centre. The Panthers, led by AUS first-team all-star Elijah Miller, have found their groove in this year’s tournament. In their first two games, they’ve won by a combined score of 32 points.
Miller has led the tournament in scoring, averaging 35.5 points per game and at times has looked unstoppable. Plato knows that the Tigers will have to come prepared if they want to win their sixth championship in eight years.
“We’ve just got to play our game and it’s gonna be a tough game, he said. “We’ve got to play 40 minutes of Dalhousie basketball.”