The men’s B-ball Tigers had a thrilling 75-74 victory over the SMU Huskies in the semifinals of the 2016 AUS championships Saturday night at the Scotiabank Centre.
“We didn’t shoot the ball great tonight but we played so hard defencively,” said Rick Plato, the Tigers head coach and 2015-16 AUS coach of the year. “The game comes down to foul shooting and I thought today we did a really good job from the foul line.”
The Tigers only shot 39.2 per cent from the field on 29 of 74 including an uncharacteristic 1 of 13 from downtown, compared to the Huskies 58.8 per cent on 30 of 51.
The Tigers outshot the Huskies on the line though, hitting 72.7 per cent on 16 of 22 from the line versus the Huskies 57.1 per cent on 8 of 14. The Tigers scored 19 points off 20 forced turnovers. They also hauled in 20 offensive rebounds creating 18 second chance points.
Last years AUS championships MVP and 2015-16 AUS second team all-star Kashrell Lawrence led the Tigers with 31 points on 13 of 21 shooting. Osman Barrie led the Huskie with 19 points.
The game was played in front of a lively crowd. The student section for the Tigers was pumping noise from the get go with thundersticks, a Tigers logo snare drum, and numerous chants of: ‘Lets go Tigers’, ‘D-fence’ and counting down every Tigers shot clock from ten.
The Huskies section started making noise in the fourth quarter as the game went down the stretch but the Tigers had a clear advantage in crowd energy throughout.
The teams exchanged baskets early on in the first quarter. The Huskies were able to build a six point lead when Marquis Clayton hit a three to make it 22-16 after one.
Barrie was unstoppable down low in the first quarter scoring 10 points on 5 of 5 shooting. The Tigers were able to do a better job of containing him for the rest of the game and this was an integral part of their victory.
The Tigers used a balanced attack in the first.
The Tigers were able to eliminate the Huskies lead in the second tying the game at 26-26 on a Sven Stammberger put-back of a missed free-throw. Lawrence tied the game up again at 32-32 with a filthy finish off the window falling to his left before hitting the court.
The Huskies pulled away again after an old fashioned three-point play by Brian Rouse and an Achuil Lual baseline jumper at the buzzer, from just inside the three-point line in the right corner to send the game to half at 37-32 Huskies.
The Tigers came out of the break at a much higher level in the third quarter going on an 8-2 run.
2015-16 first team AUS all-star Ritchie Kanza Mata created a steal and fed Stammberger in transition, he was fouled and hit both free-throws to make it a 37-34 game.
After Rouse made it 39-34, Stammberger hit a floater for 39-36.
The Tigers forced a turnover and Kanza Mata hit a jumper for 39-38.
Jarred Reid came up with a steal and was fouled going for a layup in transition, he hit both free-throws to give the Tigers the lead at 40-39, their first since a 14-13 lead in the first.
The Huskies responded with a 9-4 run of their own to make it 48-44 after Theon Reefer had a big block, he was able to finish at the other end with a strong spin-move to his right hand. The Tigers fought back again to take a 55-54 lead into the fourth.
The fourth frame was electric. Both teams made tremendous plays answering each other nearly blow for blow.
Stammberger dropped a beautiful dime on Kanza Mata for an easy layup and a 59-56 lead.
Lawrence nabbed a steal and fed Cedric Sanogo in transition for an easy layup and a 65-61 score.
Reefer answered right back with a strong move to his right hand plus the harm to make it 65-64.
Lawrence came up with another steal and paused underneath the basket to draw a foul on his layup before hitting his shot plus the and-one opportunity to make it 73-69. Rouse fouled out of the game on the play with 1:11 left.
Reefer answered for the Huskies again with a wide open three from the left elbow for 73-72.
The energy in the crowd was turned up to 11 for the final minute.
Kanza Mata was fouled and hit two clutch free-throws to make it a three point game at 75-72.
The Huskies Kemar Alleyne was fouled on a drive with 3.7 seconds left in the game. He hit the first and intentionally missed the second. Reefer grabbed the board but missed on the put-back twice.
The game was seemingly over before a late foul call on Stammberger put Reefer on the line with a chance to send the game to overtime with no time left on the clock. He missed the first shot sealing the win for the Tigers.
After the refs gave the final signal the Tigers ran to centre court in jubilation to celebrate the big ‘W’.
“At the end there I just about swallowed my heart,” said Plato of Reefer’s opportunity to send the game to overtime. “I feel for Saint Mary’s. They played their hearts out and they’re a really solid team too.”
Lawrence finished with 6REB, 1AST and 2STL to go with his 31PTS. Stammberger recorded a double-double with 15PTS and 11REB along with 5STL and 1AST. Kanza Mata added 9PTS, 9AST, 5REB and 2STL. 2015-16 AUS rookie of the year Jordan Aquino-Serjue chipped in with 6PTS, 4AST, 3REB and 1STL.
For the Huskies Barrie had 13REB to go with his 19PTS for a double-double. Rouse had 18PTS, 5AST, Reefer added 15PTS and 5REB, while Alleyne dropped 13PTS and picked up 4AST.
The Tigers are back on the court Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m against the UPEI Panthers for the championship.