The Saint Mary’s Huskies entered their quarterfinal clash with the Memorial Seahawks on the heels of a Jekyll and Hyde regular season, but the good side came to play Friday in the form of a 99-91 victory in front of a packed house at the Scotiabank Centre.
In a back-and-forth affair, the reigning champion Huskies came through big when it counted. With the score sitting at 94-91 and 57 seconds on the clock in the fourth quarter, Saint Mary’s guard Marquis Clayton missed on a tough layup but grabbed his own rebound while drawing a foul – a play that sealed the game for SMU once the Halifax native cashed in on both of his free throws.
As a result of the win, Saint Mary’s earned a trip to the semifinals and a date with second-seeded UPEI Saturday evening. The Panthers split their season series with SMU at one game a piece and will be fully rested in the wake of the team’s bye through the quarterfinals due to a solid 15-5 record. UNB and Dalhousie will collide in the other semifinal contest.
Clayton’s steady presence was clearly evident on the floor but it showed up in the box score, too. The guard finished with a game-high 28 points, 10 assists and five rebounds including five three-pointers. Teammate Jeremy McAvoy also caught fire from beyond the arc, with 15 of his 19 points coming from long range. For MUN, forwards Caleb Gould and Vasilije Curcic each dropped 22 points on top of Gould’s impressive 15 rebounds.
Despite the loss, Friday’s matchup was big for Memorial in multiple ways. The matchup marked the end of a nine year playoff drought for the sole Newfoundland-based school in the loop. The underdog Seahawks finished the year on a four-game slide en route to a 6-14 record, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by their performance. By pushing the powerhouse Huskies to the brink in the spirited effort, it’s safe to say the future looks bright in St. John’s for years to come.
In an unusual twist for the perennially dominant Huskies, it was not all smooth sailing on Robie St. this season. The maroon and white took some time to gel this year, starting the 2014-15 campaign with a 1-3 record and were just 5-6 as of Jan. 23. But the club finished off the year strong, winning seven out of the remaining eight games heading into the playoffs.
The 2014-15 AUS campaign has been a unique one due to the rare parity of the league, something head coach Jonah Taussig eluded to when asked about his team’s chances of raising the AUS banner once again.
“I’d say we have a one in four shot,” he said with a grin. “I think we have a chance, I think Dal has a chance and I think UNB and UPEI have a great shot at it as well. We’ll be ready to go and will expect to have a great game tomorrow.”
The Huskies will take on the second-seeded UPEI Panthers Saturday at 8:15 p.m.