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The Tigers are AUS Champions once again

The Dalhousie Tigers defeated their rivals the Saint Mary’s Huskies 65-55 to claim their fourth AUS men’s basketball championship in five years on Sunday afternoon.

“It feels great to show that we won it and it also shows everyone that we belong in the final 8,” says Sascha Kappos, fourth-year forward for the Tigers.

Kappos was named the Subway Player of the game. He led Dal with 20 points, six rebounds and six blocks in the game.

Dalhousie knew at the beginning of the season that they’d host the U Sports final 8 men’s basketball national championship, but they wanted to qualify as champions and not as hosts.

“We proved that we deserve the spot and not just walk in,” said Kappos.

Standing in their way was the dominant Huskies. They only lost one during the regular season and were the favourites to win the championship.

Slow burn

After a slow first half, Dal was up 21-19.

Despite the slow start, the Tigers took care of business on defence as they held the Huskies to hitting only 21 per cent of shots from the two-point range in the first half.

“It might have been slow scoring, but I got to tell you, it has been very intense and tough on defence for both teams,” said Dal’s Head Coach, Rick Plato. “Offence wins games, but defence wins championships, and we take that to heart.”

Both the Tigers and the Huskies are the top two defensive teams in the AUS this year. Saint Mary’s allowed a league-low 72 points per game, narrowly edging out Dal who allowed 72.1 points per game.

The Tigers held the Huskies to 26.1 per cent from the two-point range in the game. Saint Mary’s was the highest scoring team in the league this year scoring 87.5 points per game, but they couldn’t get their offence going.

Jordan Brathwaite looks to pass the ball to Mike Shoveller as he is guarded by Andre Ntivumbura and Nevell Provo. (Photo by Ellery Platts)

Kappos played great early in the third quarter. He hit two shots in a row and put Dal up 28-23.

“I will always have confidence in my shot, and today I was hitting it,” said Kappos.

With 2:48 left in the game, the score was 53-52 for Dalhousie. Then Alex Carson took over and hit three 3-point shots to lead Dal to victory.

Second time

Carson won the AUS championship as a rookie in 2017, but was injured during tournament.

“I was just a young guy, when I came here and won it,” said Carson. “I think I didn’t appreciate it enough because I was hurt; but this year, we all worked so hard, and I’m just so proud of everyone. And we really deserved to win this one.”

Second-year guard Keevan Veinot is the AUS Championship MVP. He averaged 10 points and four assists during the tournament. His twin sister Jayda won the AUS championship in women’s basketball for Acadia.

Keevan Veinot is guarded by UNB’s Mina Ogot during Dal’s semi-final game. (Photo by Ellery Platts)

After winning the AUS, the Tigers now have to prepare for the Final 8.

“Every team that will come here has high chances to win it,” says Plato. “Everyone knows about Carleton and the defending National Champion Calgary, but if we keep playing the same basketball, I like our chances.”

The Final 8 will take place once again at the Scotiabank Centre on March 8-10. Dal plays its first game against the University of British Columbia on March 8 at 8:00 p.m.

–– With files from Maya Palacio.

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