Following a thrilling win on March 6, the Huskies moved on to the Canada West final and more importantly, booked themselves a ticket to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball Final 8 tournament.
In the conference semifinal, the Dogs were in tough against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, a team they failed to defeat in the regular season. Down by two at the beginning of the fourth, Saskatchewan rallied in front of its biggest crowd of the season and knocked the T-Birds off 81–75. Led by fifth-year Dadrian Collins, who had 11 of his team-high 20 points in the final stanza, the Huskies advanced to the conference final and for the second straight year, earned a berth at nationals.
Collins was cool under pressure as he hit two long range jumpers early in the fourth to get his team going. However, he was more focused on winning.
“This was our goal for the whole season and we wanted to host this game,” Collins said. “We took advantage of our opportunities and were successful. It feels great right now.”
On March 7, the Huskies and the University of Victoria Vikes would do battle, with the winner taking the conference title. It would be a slow start to the game in front of a nervous crowd of 1,802 as the Dogs couldn’t get anything to fall early on. Vikes guard Marcus Tibbs was putting on a show early and he finished with 25 points and seven assists. At the half, Victoria had a 41–32 lead.
After trailing by as many as 14, the Dogs made a second-half push sparked by a new defensive strategy that denied Tibbs the ball on offence. It was a great plan by head coach Barry Rawlyk that gave the Dogs momentum as they opened the third quarter on a 19–4 run and took back the lead. The rest of the game would be back-and-forth before the Huskies found themselves down three with just eight seconds to play. Ben Baker put up a three, but it wouldn’t fall and the Vikes stole the championship on the Dogs’ homecourt.
“It was so close and it came down to the smallest details and at the end of the game they just executed better than we did and that’s what made the difference,” Baker said.
Moving forward, the Dogs will face their toughest test of the season as the CIS Final 8 schedule was announced on March 8 and the Huskies drew the number one seeded Carleton University Ravens in the first round.
“They’re a team that has a lot of great strengths and we just have to play to ours,” Rawlyk said. “They are very mechanical in the way they play. It’s disciplined and they don’t vary too much on what they do, however in that there [are] some things that we know they’re going to do and we have to try and take advantage of that.”
Carleton enters the national championships as the number one team in the country, fresh off of an Ontario University Athletics championship, in which they hammered the University of Windsor Lancers in the final 103–59. The Ravens have won the tournament for four straight years, but their last loss at nationals came in 2010 at the hands of the Showron Glover led Saskatchewan Huskies.
Using great shooting, the Ravens average 91.1 points per game and sit with a record of 20–2 heading into nationals. Not allowing open looks and easy shots for Carleton will be a huge factor in determining the outcome of the game. Not only do they score in bunches, but their defence is incredibly strong, holding opponents to a CIS-best 56.4 points per game. Thomas Scrubb was their leading scorer with 17 points per game as well as 7.6 rebounds.
A big loss for the Huskies is the injury to Shane Osayande. The second-year forward from Toronto injured his ankle in the final day of preparation before the CanWest Final Four and will miss the next seven weeks of action due to the injury. He had provided Saskatchewan with great energy and athleticism off the bench.
The tournament opens on March 12 in Toronto with Ryerson University acting as hosts. All four quarter-final matchups will take place then, with the semis set for March 14 and the final on March 15. With a victory, the Dogs would advance to the semifinals and face the winner of Victoria and the Dalhousie University Tigers matchup.
The Huskies will face Carleton at 11 a.m. EST on March 12 with a live stream being broadcasted on www.CIS-SIC.tv. A loss would end their chance at being crowned national champions.
Photo: Caitlin Taylor