Brody Greig hadn’t practiced all week.
According to Greig’s coach, Paul Eberhardt, the point guard’s knee was the “size of a blimp” on Wednesday, and that he had to have it drained and then take antibiotics.
When his Langara College Falcons hosted the Camosun College Chargers on Friday November 29, Greig sat the game out and watched his teammates cruise to a 110-78 victory.
Eberhardt tweeted later that night that Greig was “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Island University Mariners.
So what did Greig end up doing on Saturday afternoon, you wonder?
Not much… except play all 40 minutes, drop 21 points, grab 10 rebounds and dish out 16 assists – leading his team to a 102-85 win over VIU – handing the Mariners’ their first loss of the season.
“I really wasn’t sure if he’d play until game time, but then he just said ‘Don’t worry about it, I’m good to go,’” said Eberhardt.
VIU’s plan was to slow down Greig and the high-octane offense that he runs, and they actually did a really good job at impeding the Falcons’ transition opportunities in the first quarter. The Mariners hit three three-pointers to start the game, and jumped out to a 14-5 lead in the first four minutes.
“I thought that we were over-stimulated,” said Eberhardt. “You know, sometimes you can get a little too fired up, and then you kind of flatten out. But I wasn’t really overly concerned – I mean they banged three threes to start the game, and good for them, but they’re probably not going to do that all game.
“I knew that as long as we were patient, that we’d chip away at it.”
Langara didn’t get a fast break bucket until a minute later, only to have it answered by a four-point play from fifth-year Mariner guard Clayton Billett. The crowd at Langara, made up of about 50 per cent pro-islanders, had their cowbells clanging and cheered riotously as the defending national champs built a quick advantage.
But VIU soon lost control of the tempo. They started to give up offensive rebounds, and their communication in transition began to break down, allowing Greig to go into showtime-mode. Langara rallied back in a hurry, and finished the first frame on a 15-2 run.
“We were trying to get better with transition defense and communication, but it just didn’t happen,” said VIU head coach Matt Kuzminski. “There were just too many times where Brody would push it up the floor and they’d hit open threes because we were either not sprinting back or not communicating.”
In the second quarter, Mariner point guard Brandon Jones scored his team’s first five points, but then lost his footing on the next possession – which resulted in an Elliot Mason triple in transition on the other end.
Langara went on a run midway through the quarter, which included back-to-back threes from Greig. But VIU began to pound the ball inside and stayed within single-digits. Third-year Mariner workhorse Harrison Stupich traded bombs with Langara rookie Max Neumann, then VIU surged back and tied the contest up at 42 with a pull-up trey from Jones.
Once again, the Falcons closed out the quarter on another timely run and then began to pour on the points in third. The odd part about the Falcons second-half dominance is that they didn’t do it by pushing the pace. VIU managed to slow things down, but Langara continued to get one high-percentage shot after another. The first 17 of home team’s 25 third-quarter points all came from inside – free-throws, offensive rebounds that led to simple putbacks, and easy bunnies in the paint.
The Falcons reached their first double-digit advantage at the conclusion of the third quarter, as VIU desperately stayed within striking distance – anchored by a huge 22-point and 17-rebound game from third-year forward Seth Goodman.
But early in the fourth, Falcons sharpshooting forward Elliot Mason decided to completely take over. The fourth-year swingman went white-hot, drilling mid-range jumpers, threes and stepbacks. Name any way to score and Mason did it.
Jones – a threatening offensive force in his own right – couldn’t connect on any of his heat-check threes, and Langara cruised down the stretch.
Mason scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the second half alone, finishing with 27 and 12 on the night. Jitt Lohcham added 15 points and four boards for the Falcons, and Garrett Ling-Lee chipped in 14 and 7.
Jones ended the game with 15 points on 4-19 shooting, but added eight boards and five assists. Stupich connected on four threes, and finished with 17 points.
“We weren’t nervous, we just had a bad weekend,” said Jones, alluding to VIU’s close call against Douglas College the night before. “We didn’t think we were going to win every single game anyways, so we’re just looking to get better as a team each and every day.”
Both squads are arguably the two best teams in the PacWest, but Langara has now gotten the best of VIU in each of their last two matchups – this past game, and in last season’s provincial championship final.
“You can tell them that every game is important and not to look past a team, but you can tell that they’ve been waiting for this, probably since they saw VIU celebrate the national championship. Those guys [Brody and Elliot] were going to be fired up for it, and they were. They were brilliant today,” said Eberhardt.
Apart from Langara’s ability to dictate the pace and flow after weathering VIU’s hot start, two stats stand out in this one: the Mariners missed 17 free-throws, and were outrebounded 59-37.
“I noticed that in the beginning of the game, we were hustling back and getting set up in our defense, and that’s when they had trouble scoring. But when we let them get going, we can’t stop them,” said Kuzminksi.
“We’ll have to get better at rebounding,” he added. “We’re not as big as last year, but we just need to get better at team rebounding. And defensively – we gave up good individual performances to both Greig and Mason. I mean obviously they’re good players, but it shouldn’t happen.”
The Mariners are a better team than they showed on Saturday, and despite ending the first semester with a pair of rather rough outings, Kuzminski isn’t too worried.
“We’re 7-1. We weren’t going to go undefeated. We were going to lose a game, but you got to learn from those mistakes. The positive is that we’re healthy, we’re going to get some rest, and when we come back we’re going to try and get better.”
“It’s going to be an entirely different story when we play them in their place,” he said. “Brandon Jones was a little bit off today – he didn’t have as big a game as he normally does. Their frontline is not quite as strong as they were last year, but those guys are just going to get better. And Goodman had a great game today. But they are what I thought they were – they’re a very good team.”
- Eberhardt on Greig’s performance so far this season:
“I’ve never coached a better point guard, and I’ve coached the best in B.C. He’s just that good.”
- Jones’ thoughts on being taken out of the game with just under four minutes left in regulation, as Langara led by 15:
“I really don’t look at the scoreboard. Whether you lose by 1 or 20 or 30 – a loss is a loss.”
- Eberhardt on what he told his players when they found themselves in a big hole during the first few minutes of the match:
“The reason that I was upset was that it was [VIU’s] game. It was a slow, slow halfcourt game, and we had to open it up. I said ‘Guys, if you don’t open it up, you won’t win.’”
- Jones didn’t post his usual prolific offensive performances this past weekend, but Kuzminski is confident that won’t be a lasting trend:
“Brandon will get better over Christmas and he’ll be better in the New Year.”
- Langara’s win, which helped them improve to 7-1, has Eberhardt shedding rare praise:
“I don’t give my team praise very often, but I thought that for the final three quarters, that it was the best we’ve played all year.”