The 2014-15 AUS championship took place this past weekend at Scotiabank (Metro) Centre in Halifax. For the first time ever 12 teams participated, 6 Men’s and 6 Women’s.
With double the action the show was twice as exciting. The tournament gave us upsets, great team performances, players’ stars rising to historical measures and an unlikely champion.
#3 Saint Mary’s played #5 Dalhousie, two campuses that are separated by a few blocks, so to say this is a rivalry is an understatement.
The Dalhousie Tigers showed how much fight they have by clawing for the third game in a row to take home the 2015 Championship Banner and a ticket to Nationals.
MVP Kashrell Lawrence lead the way for the Tigers with a monstrous games–31 points and 17 rebounds.
“I always try to give as much energy and effort as I can and the boys feed off it,” Lawrence told North Pole Hoops.
This is exactly what happened as Kashrell and fellow teammate and All Star Sven Stammberger set the tone.
Entering the second half, the Tigers were down 41-28 mostly due to the strong play of 6-8 forward Osman Barrie and Brian Rouse as they’re dominant athletic ability dictated the game. To slow things down, the Tigers came out in a zone formation with a one player front and a chaser in behind to change the flow of the game.
It worked well as SMU froze the ball on one side of the floor and struggled to get shots until Jeremy MacAvoy nailed three triples late in the third and maintained a 60-52 lead. As MacAvoy (he did return in the fourth) left the game with a hand injury and Barrie got into foul trouble Dalhousie was able to pick away at the lead through strong play from PG Ritchie Kanza Matta, Kashrell Lawrence and Jared Reid who gave Dal the lead 68-67 on the and-1 with 3:57 remaining.
The teams battled back and forth with Brian Rouse making huge plays for SMU and Ritchie Kanza Matta making a jumper with 22 seconds remaining off the assist from Lawrence to knot it at 73 and send it to OT.
The extra frame started with Lawrence powering inside for the and-one bucket which drew Barrie’s 5th and disqualifying foul. Dal’s defensive rotations were sharp and they outscored the Huskies 15-5 in the OT for a 88-78 W.
Coach Plato speaks on the season goal, “we played in Toronto in the preseason, and played Ryerson tough and beat U of T, and our goal was to get back there for Nationals”.
The Tigers travel to Toronto for the National Championship March 12-15 and Lawrence simply said “I promised my family I would be home before the summer break”.
The Dalhousie Tigers have played hard, worked hard and exemplifies what TEAM is. They were 10-10 to finish the regular season and most, including this analyst saw them as a non playoff team after the preseason with a record prediction of 6-14.
— Juan Cuadrado (@KashDiesel) March 1, 2015
It was inspiring to watch the Tigers come back from double digit deficits in each of their three playoff games and see what a defensive minded coach and team can do when focused.
Lawrence reaffirmed his team’s commitment to getting stops.
“We know that defense wins championships and we focused on our rotations through hard work and got it done.”
AUS Women’s Championship
The women’s side of the bracket almost stayed true to form and the one “upset” wasn’t a reach by any stretch of the imagination.
The #1 Saint Mary’s lady Huskies grabbed their third consecutive AUS championship with a 59-51 win over the #3 UPEI Panthers.
This was one of the most intense games I have seen and these two teams went at it with the mentality of UFC fighters, neither backing down. At the half UPEI sat at 3/30 from the field and were down 21-16.
With 6:05 remaining in the third quarter All Star Laura Langille cashed a three to get SMU rolling as they showed the dominance of a #1 seed over the first 7 minutes of the Q and opened a 38-24 lead. The Panthers “ground their teeth” and showed their resilience as they continued to defend hard and started making shots, closing the Q on a 10-0 run behind strong play from All Star Amy Gough.
The teams continued to battle hard through the fourth quarter with tournament MVP Angelina Carvery and Emmma Valikoski doing most of the damage for SMU, guiding the Huskies to the eight point victory.
Coach Munro states of his team “you can’t do it without competitive kids, it all goes back to them, they refused to allow injuries to slow them down, they were determined and they did it.”
Angelina Carvery on the championship, “It’s so great winning championships with your best friends, and doing it at home in Halifax in the Metro (Scotiabank) Centre makes it that much more amazing”.
The Saint Mary’s Huskies travel to compete at the University of Laval for Nationals, March 12-15.