Follow Lawrence Dushenski on Twitter @LD10
GAME 1: NAIT OOKS vs. VANIER CHEETAHS
The second ranked NAIT Ooks were upset by Vanier College in the first game of the CCAA Nationals. In a back and forth battle, Vanier held off a late charge to win 75-73.
Vanier had a tough time dealing with the athleticism of NAIT, but once they made some defensive adjustments, especially concerning NAIT star Bol Kong, they gained control of the game.
Kong was the star of the game, as the former Gonzaga Bulldog poured in 26 points in the game, but just 6 of them came in the second half. He did it from everywhere. Dropping threes, driving to the lane and pulling up, spinning and fading away. Bol was able to effortlessly drive to the cup and take the game over.
In second quarter action when Vanier went on a run, Kong took over at point and made his way to the cup with ease. But when the ball didn’t come his way, he didn’t try to get it. The knock on him has always been his effort, and he showcased it today, when the ball wasn’t in his hands, he simply stood there and waited.
No cuts, no screens. He just waited. He regularly walked up the court while the rest of his team was running the fast break. But when he wanted it, he could either score or draw a foul with ease.
A furious second quarter comeback for Vanier gave them the lead heading into the break 42-37, and they never looked back. Their composed team play made up for the fact that they had no answer to Bol Kong.
Vanier killed it on the offensive glass in the first half, picking up 18 boards from their own missed shots.
NAIT’s offence was stagnant when Kong did not have the ball in his hands. No screens or cuts or even anything resembling a set play. Simply throwing up shots and trying to get the board. Vanier ran a disciplined team game and wore NAIT down.
NAIT lived and died by the performance of Kong. When he wanted it, they seemed unstoppable. But when Vanier keyed on him and shut him down, the rest of the squad was left clueless. Early in the first half Vanier made some defensive adjustments after getting burned from all over the court early by Kong. Once they figured out how to frustrate him, they were able to control the momentum of the game.
Despite a valiant comeback effort at the end, NAIT was not able to get the steal late and Vanier pulled out a huge upset to start the tournament.
Entering the game, Vanier felt disrespected by their low seed, and they took out their frustration on the NAIT.
NAIT had a chance to win it on a three pointer at the buzzer, but it clanged off the rim and fell short for the team from Alberta.
Bol Kong had the ball with time ticking down but he dished it off to the man in the corner, and ended his season with a failed dime.
NAIT guard Bol Kong: “You can’t do it on your own. In the second half we focused on getting the other guys involved.”
Vanier coach Andy Hertzog: “Usually we make the right plays down the stretch. Today it looked like we were doing everything possible to mess it up.”
NPH PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Vanier: Jerome Blake – 19 points, 5 rebounds
NAIT: Bol Kong – 26 points, 4 three pointers
GAME 2: HUMBER HAWKS vs. MOUNT SAINT VINCENT MYSTICS
The Humber Hawks were overmatched by the size of the Mount Saint Vincent Mystics and fell to the team from Halifax in the first round of the CCAA Championships.
The OCAA Champion Hawks fell to the Mystics by a score of 65-56 in a hard fought game. The third ranked Hawks were unable to make shots down the stretch, and they fell short of the national title once again.
Humber jumped out to an early 13-1 lead, but the Mystics roared back late in the first quarter to make it a 16-15 game in favour of the Mystics.
The Hawks had a difficult time matching up with the size of the Mystics, as they fell behind by as many as 12 in the first half.
Humber went ice cold after jumping out to an early double digit lead, as the tide turned and the Mystics pulled ahead by a dozen. The Hawks are used to going small but they were forced to put some of their less experienced big men on the floor in an attempt to deal with the Mystics presence inside.
The frustration was apparent in the first half, and the Hawks started off the second half on a tear. They fought hard all of the third quarter to cut the lead, and they finally pulled ahead on a huge three pointer by guard Mike Dvorak in just over a minute remaining in the third quarter.
The Hawks came out with much higher pressure in the second half, and it paid off as they cut their first half deficit all the way down to take the lead.
The Hawks were able to calm the game down in the second half thanks to their veteran leadership, including Dvorak and third year guard Mike Acheampong. Both teams had been to nationals before, and it came down to making shots down the stretch.
After struggling for most of the third quarter, the Mystics took a one point lead into the fourth.
A contingent of twenty Humber fans made the trip down the 401 to cheer on the Ontario provincial champions. They provided solid support for the Hawks as they battled back in the second half.
Raymond Munier had a big second half for Humber, as the Montreal native battled down low and finished off several times inside.
Humber had to make up for forward Akeem Sween fouling out with 8 minutes to play, and they turned to to a small lineup to try to run the Mystics out of the gym. Sween was influential in the Hawks OCAA championship, and his mid-range game was sorely missed down the stretch.
Mystics big man Luke Reynolds had his way with the Hawks defenders on the inside, continually grabbing boards and getting the put back.
MSVU continually worked the shot clock down to single digits in the fourth quarter, and on more than one occasion they were bailed out by a generous whistle.
The Hawks brought some full-court pressure late in the game, but it was too little too late for Humber. The Mystics turned it on the fourth quarter, and the Hawks could not take the lead back. The Ontario champions will now face NAIT tomorrow after the Alberta and Ontario champions were both upset in the first two games of the tournament.
MSVU forward Luke Reynolds: “We forced them to take shots that we knew they didn’t want to take.“
Humber guard Mike Dvorak: “We became complacent.”
NPH PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Humber: Raymond Munier – 11 points, 12 rebounds
MSVU: Luke Reynolds – 17 points, 10 rebounds
GAME 3: UNBC TIMBERWOLVES vs. LETHBRIDGE KODIAKS
Lethbridge College were simply too much to handle for the UNBC Timberwolves. The Kodiaks took down the wild-card team from BC by score of 81-66, and move on to the semi-finals tomorrow.
In a matchup between two of the stronger teams in the tournament, both Lethbridge and UNBC came out firing as they tried to earn a spot in the next round.
The intensity level was high for this game, with both teams going full bore, and leaving nothing on the floor, but UNBC was not able to keep up with the depth of the Kodiaks.
Lethbridge was led by big man Dominyc Coward,who dominated the first half with 12 points and 6 rebounds, and finished with 26 and 12
Lethbridge jumped out to an early 7-0 lead thanks to hard work inside from Coward. But the T-Wolves battled back in the first quarter to tie up the game at 11.
The first half was a back and forth affair, but Lethbridge was able to take a three point lead into the break.
The Kodiaks were able to shut down national player of the year, Inderbir Gill, as they held him without a point in the first half, and he finished with just 13. He didn’t hit his first shot until the final minutes of the third quarter when he drained a three from the wing. The Timberwolves did their best to make up for their top player being shut down, but it was difficult to overcome their star player being shut out of the game.
Lethbridge stretched their lead in the second half to double digits, and their presence inside was simply too much for the Timberwolves to overcome. After three quarters, the Kodiaks led by thirteen, and never looked back.
The highlight of the game came on a play that didn’t end up counting, but it was impressive nonetheless. A UNBC player soared to the rim on a missed shot, grabbed the rim with one hand, and slammed the ball down with the other. He was called for grabbing the rim, but it got the fans out of their seats as he threw it down emphatically.
UNBC made a drive late in an attempt to get back into the game, but the mixture of the Kodiaks outside shooting and their inside presence was too much to overcome.
The Kodiaks make multiple circus shots in the second half, including star guard Morgan Duce, who crossed over his defender and finished an acrobatic and-one with just two minutes to play.
Lethbridge moves on to the semi’s tomorrow where they will face VIU.
Lethbridge forward Dom Coward: “It would be nice to play VIU tomorrow. “
UNBC guard Inderbir Gill: “They just wanted it more.”
NPH PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Lethbridge: Dom Coward – 21 points, 15 rebounds
UNBC: Sebastien-Kevin Louis – 17 points, 6 rebounds
GAME 4: DURHAM LORDS vs. VIU MARINERS
It was too little too late for the Durham Lords. Despite a valiant effort against the top ranked team in the country, the hometown Lords were unable to hold on late in the game to pull out the upset, as they fell 70-61.
The hometown crowd gave Durham a significant emotional advantage, as each Lords basket resulted in a joyous cheer from the packed house.
Durham came out early and played inspired basketball. The crowd got behind them from the opening tip and made the game much closer than most would have expected.
The Lords did not even make it out of the quarterfinals at the OCAA Championships, but playing in front of their fans gave them a chance, despite having to face the top ranked team in the nation.
VIU looked rattled by the atmosphere early in the game, and after the perimeter dependent Mariners were unable to get some early shots to drop, it became much tougher of a game then anyone imagined.
But the experience and shooting of VIU came back to help them pull away in the second quarter. It was highlighted by a beautiful bounce pass that led to a one-handed throw down by Mariners star Jacob Thom.
The story of the first half was VIU pulling away, and then Durham chipping away at the lead. Back and forth. Back and forth.
Durham could not keep up the momentum in the second half, and VIU was allowed to get too many easy layups. It was a strong effort from the overmatched Lords, but in the end the better team prevailed.
The Mariners now move on to face Lethbridge tomorrow in what should be one of the best games of the tournament. Lethbridge could have a size advantage, but the Mariners strong guard play and outside shooting could be a test for the Kodiaks.
Durham forward Eric Smith – “We tried to do it for the hometown.”
VIU guard Jacob Thom – “It was a hectic atmosphere out there.”
NPH PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Humber: Eric Smith – 24 points, 14 rebounds
VIU: Andrew Kaban – 24 points, 8 rebounds
Day 2 Schedule
1pm: NAIT vs. Humber —Consolation Semi-Final
3pm: UNBC vs. Durham—Consolation Semi-Final
6pm: Vanier vs. MSVU—Championship semi-Final
8pm: Lethbridge vs. VIU—Championship Semi-Final