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Dal men’s basketball wins AUS championship for the third time in four years

Tigers come out on top in a close final game with a strong overtime finish

As Dolu Johnson closed the game out with a rebound, the Dalhousie University Tigers clinched their fourth Atlantic University Sport (AUS) Championship in the past five seasons with a 77-67 win over the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men. 

It took going into overtime for Dal to finish the job after Dondre Reddick, a StFX guard, hit a fade-away-three to send the game to extra time. The Tigers only allowed two points during the extra period and Sam Maillet took over, scoring six of Dal’s 12 points. 

“This team has been so resilient all year,” Maillet said. “We came out ready to fight.”

Maillet was awarded player of the game while Malcolm Christie, a fellow New Brunswick native and the 2023/24 AUS MVP, added another trophy to his collection, winning MVP of the tournament

“These guys, they worked for it,” said Rick Plato, the team’s head coach, who added he was happy to be back on top of the AUS.

Spencer Riar, a first-year Tigers forward, logged 35 minutes in the game and racked up three three-pointers, each coming at timely moments. 

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Riar said. “We put in the hard work and we accomplished what our goal was at the start of the year.”

A back and forth start

To start the game, the X-Men rocketed out to a 7-0 run, highlighted by AUS first team all-star Dondre Reddick, who knocked down a three-pointer and drove to the basket for  a layup. He then followed it up by calling Dal’s Jayden Parker, his defender, too small for him.

The Tigers settled down on the defensive side after, allowing no points in the last two minutes and holding a 14-9 lead going into the second quarter.

In the second, Christie extended the lead when he took the ball into contact for a layup, but Antoine Vernon swished a three on the next possession. 

The quarter also featured strong plays from Gatluak James, Marcus Upshaw and Koat Thomas, who was AUS Rookie of the Year

Thomas got the StFX student section out of their seats when he postered both Christie and Parker with an emphatic two-hand slam.

Going into halftime, StFX had a 33-30 lead. 

A hard second half

Spencer Riar heated up early in the second half when he drained a corner three and knocked down two free throw shots after being fouled behind the arc. 

Dal took a small four-point lead, but couldn’t hold it all the way through. The X-Men headed into the final quarter with a 52-45 lead.

After James banked in a layup over three Tigers defenders, Maillet hit his second three of the night, and Riar his third, to reduce the lead to three points.

Christie evened the game at 54 all when he knocked down three free throw shots, and Riar raced from behind to deny Reddick’s layup attempt. 

After Riar’s massive block, with the shot clock just about to hit zero, Johnson found Maillet in the corner, who swished a three with a StFX defender all over him.

James responded when he backed down his defender and banked down a floater, but Christie came right back when he adjusted in the air to put in a layup.

StFX scooped in two layups to bring the lead down to two, but Johnson cut into the lane and banked home two points.

Dal forced a jump ball with 52 seconds remaining, but couldn’t add to their lead, and Vernon drove the lane, finding Reddick on the left side of the court. Reddick splashed a clutch three to narrow the lead to one. 

Overtime glory

Christie was fouled intentionally and knocked down both his free throws giving the X-Men a chance to tie the game with 7.5 seconds remaining. 

Grumbach missed a three, but James kept the ball inbounds and Upshaw found Reddick who, with two seconds left, sent the game to overtime when he faded away for a three, tying the game up at 65.

Plato said he almost had a heart attack when Reddick made the shot.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said the coach.

In overtime, after Maillet knocked down a foul shot, 6-5 James raced to the rim, but 5-11 Ngala skied in the air and met him at the rim to turn the shot away.

Maillet rewarded Ngala’s hustle when he banked in a layup plus the foul and faded away to knock down a mid-range bucket.

Ngala brought the lead to eight, putting daggers in the hearts of his opponents.

As the AUS champions, Dal will move on to the U Sports Men’s Basketball Championship, playing schools from across Canada with hopes of bringing home another trophy.

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