Only one point came between the Dalhousie men’s basketball and a birth in the semi-finals of the CIS Arcelormittal Dofasco men’s basketball semi-finals.
Instead, the Tigers fell 57-56 to the Victoria Vikes in the first round of the final 8, leaving them to fight for the consolation prize. They lost to the Saskatchewan Huskies 90-79 the next day to eliminate them from the national championship.
The Tigers entered the tournament as the fifth-ranked team in the country following their Cinderella run in the AUS basketball championships that saw them rally for three come from behind wins in a row.
Dal jumped out to an early 15-11 lead after the first quarter with five Tigers finding the scoreboard. Third-year forward Kashrell Lawrence hit an early three, followed by buckets from Cedric Sonogo and Jarred Reid to give the Tigers an early seven-point lead. Dal kept up their intensity into the second frame, passing the ball along smoothly along the floor, spreading the scoring among the starting rotation. They went into the half with a slight 28-24 lead.
But the third was different story, with Vikes’ Marcus Tibbs leading the comeback for his team with a three-point play, followed by made jump shots on the next two possessions. Victoria completed the third frame with their first lead since the first minute of the first quarter, up 46-42.
After Dal’s Sven Stammberger put the Tigers within two to open the frame, the score sheet went blank, with neither team scoring for almost six minutes. The Vikes then outlasted the Tigers in the final minutes of the game to catapult them to the semis.
Lawrence had a game-high 21 points in the game. Grant Sitton came off the bench to score a team-high 19 points for the Vikes. The story of the game was the Tigers’ abysmal free throw shooting percentage. They only went 35 per cent on the line, converting on just six of 17 attempts. This compared to the Vikes who hit eight of nine.
Though Dal’s free throw shooting percentage increased against the University of Saskatchewan, their heavily relied upon defence crumbled, resulting in them giving up 90 points in the loss.
The Tigers kept pace through two quarters, only down seven going into the third. If the AUS championships were any indication, a second half comeback could very well be achieved. But the Huskies exploded in the second half, scoring 28 points in the third quarter and 25 in the fourth to put the game well out of reach. Stammberger’s 34-point performance wasn’t enough to give the Tigers an opportunity to fight to be fifth in the country.
The losses bring the Tigers’ tremendous 2015 season to an end. With a nearly identical roster moving into next year, look for the Tigers to pick up right where they left off in 2016