It was the last game of the season. The stands were sparsely filled and Dal’s playoff ticket had already been punched. It seemed as if the men’s basketball team had nothing to play for, except for a bit of pride and retribution. Turns out, that was all the motivation they needed.
The Tigers closed out their regular season Feb. 25 at the Dalplex with a nail-biting victory over the UNB Varsity Reds, 78 – 75.
The win was a bounce back game for the Tigers after letting a close one slip away the night before against the same Varsity Reds. The season-ending win also gives the home squad a modicum of momentum going into the AUS championships starting Mar. 2 at the Halifax Metro Centre. The fifth-seeded Tigers will take on the No. 4 Cape Breton Capers in the quarterfinal at 6 p.m.
As for UNB, the loss officially ended their season.
A tight game throughout, it was not until the fourth quarter when the drama hit a crescendo. In that quarter, the two teams tied or exchanged the lead 11 times. Neither team was able to expand their edge to more than five points as both sides played solid defence.
It was within those tight margins, though, that Tigers’ fourth-year guard Stephen Lopez was able to shine. With no one else scoring more than three points in the fourth, it was Lopez who took the team on his back, scoring 11 of his 17 points in the final quarter. It was Lopez who hit four of five shots from the foul line to keep his team within shooting distance. And, again, it was Lopez who, with 11 seconds left on the clock, drained a three-pointer with a hand in his face to give his team their last and ultimate lead.
It required a full team effort, however, to allow Lopez to be the hero in the fourth quarter. Dal’s player of the game was third-year guard William Yengue, who put up a game-high 23 points, including a perfect three-for-three from behind the arc, and added eight boards. Fellow third-year guard Casey Fox chipped in 21 points.
Special note should also be given to Dal’s Robert Nortmann. While it certainly was not his best game of the season—only eight points and three rebounds—the team’s sole graduating senior played his last game at the Dalplex. He was presented with a ceremonial plaque before the game by head coach John Campbell, and received a well-earned round of applause from the crowd when he fouled out late in the fourth.
The Varisty Reds were led in scoring by second-year guard William McFee. He had 17 points.