Thunderbird’s dynamic duo carries them to nationals, Shiddo and Sow redefine what it means to be clutch and the RSEQ and Atlantic gear up for playoffs

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It’s safe to say the playoffs have delivered for U Sports fans so far. Upsets across the nation, dynamic performances in the dying moments, it seems each game is a must watch for the amazing thing that will inevitably happen next. Before we get to the games upcoming, let’s find out how we got here:

Canada West- Thunderbird’s dynamic duo carries them to nationals while Golden Bears need overtime heroics to survive Bison’s

Despite being the number three seed in the conference, UBC had a disappointing regular season. Losses to UFV, Victoria and an early season sweep at the hands of Calgary had the team feeling like one of the teams loaded with talent that never lives up to its true potential. That is, until this weekend. With seniors Jadon Cohee and Manroop Clair leading the team, the Thunderbirds came up with their two best fourth quarters of the season en-route to a trip to the Canada West finals and a spot at nationals. In the quarterfinals against Saskatchewan, JT Robinson was superb with 29-points for the Huskies but, to go along with Cohee and Clair, Grant Audu, Grant Shephard and Zack Moore all finished in double figure scoring to carry the team to the semifinals where they’d play the hosts of the weekend, Calgary. For eight straight games over the course of five seasons, the Dinos hadn’t lost a game to UBC. Ending a streak like that often times takes a herculean effort and Cohee and Clair were up to the task. Clair put the team on his back in the first half while Cohee brought them home as the senior dropped 14-points in the fourth to complete the upset of the Dinos. Calgary’s season comes down to the AUS this weekend and whether or not Dalhousie wins. If the Tigers do, then Calgary heads to Ottawa. If not, the Dinos season ended Saturday night. In the other semifinals, Alberta played host and massive favourite to Manitoba. With a spot at nationals on the line, the Bisons gave the Golden Bears everything they had. Senior Rashawn Browne poured in a game high 33-points while Keiran Zziwa had 19, forcing the game to overtime. In the extra frame is where the home team showed their true championship mettle. Brody Clarke may have been the best player in regulation for Alberta, but Adam Paige was the best in overtime, scoring 8 points to lead his team to the conference championship game and, nationals. With the loss, the Bison’s season is likely over. Alberta’s win sets up a game against UBC next week for the conference title. Last time the two met was the consolation side of last season’s nationals in Halifax. With more than enough star power on either side to emerge victorious, it should be an outstanding game on Saturday in Edmonton.

OUA- Shiddo and Sow redefine what it means to be clutch while the Capital City’s schools deliver playoff beatdowns

Photo Courtesy: Jarron Childs/Superior Images

Just forty minutes separate the Laurier Golden Hawks from the OUA championship game and a trip to Ottawa for nationals. They came in as the number ten seed in the conference and yet, after wins against Queen’s and Lakehead, the Golden Hawks are oh so close to doing something truly remarkable. With guard Ali Sow leading the charge, Laurier has dominated in the second half of post season games in Kingston and Thunder Bay on way to where they are now. The second game was the one that truly has everyone talking. Tight from start to finish, each team was desperately looking for a star to make a game defining play and it was Sow who came through. Sow ran an iso and then stepped back, fading to his left, and drilled a three to put Laurier up by four with just over a minute to play. Laurier’s opponent in the semifinals also needed an electric performance from a star guard. With the game very much hanging in the balance to start the fourth quarter, Western needed someone to step up. Omar Shiddo was the man for the job. The fourth-year guard, in what will go down as one of the great clutch performances in OUA playoff history, dropped 20 of his 41-points in the fourth quarter alone to carry the Mustangs one win from a birth in the OUA championship game and a spot in nationals. Adding even more to the performance for Shiddo is the fact it came against Laurentian’s Kadre Gray who had 39-points of his own in potentially the final game of his illustrious career. On the other side of the bracket, a Capital Hoops classic rematch is in order after Ottawa and Carleton each demolished their competition this weekend. The Gee-Gees had a hungry Ryerson team coming in, desperate for a win to keep their chances at nationals alive. Despite a blowout win for the Rams just a few short weeks ago, this game was over after a quarter. In what was a clear revenge game for the home side, the Gee-Gees flat-out blew the doors off a Ryerson team that wasn’t ready to play. Across town, the story was much the same for Carleton against McMaster as the number one team in the country laid a beat down on the Marauders to set up another shot at the only team to beat them this season. There really isn’t much better than a rivalry game in the postseason and it goes down Wednesday in the nation’s capital.

AUS- Roker’s X-Men secure second place while the final playoff spots come down to the bitter end

Photo Courtesy: Paul Hurford/StFX X-Men Athletics

 Although it came down to the final weekend of the regular season, StFX was able to clinch the second seed in the Atlantic’s playoff bracket. Azaro Roker was once again the star, scoring 24-points in a four point home victory for the only team who beat Dalhousie this season. Those one loss Tigers finished up their regular season by knocking off UNB. The loss had to hurt for UNB as the Varsity Reds came up short of the second-place spot that gets a bye this weekend in Halifax. The top wasn’t the only part of the AUS that needed deciding as the final few spots were completely up for grabs to close 2019-20. With Cole Long’s heroics once again leading the way, the Memorial Seahawks were able to find a way into the AUS playoffs. The need to win both games against UPEI came after Marcus Upshaw put up 25-points in a win for an Acadia team trying to save their season against Saint Mary’s. Luck was not on the Axemen’s side though as Memorial wasn’t the only team to contribute to their final weekend elimination. Cape Breton may not have won this week but, their 3-1 record this season against Acadia was more than enough to secure the tiebreaker that put them in this weekend’s AUS playoffs instead of the Axemen. For a preview of the entire AUS tournament, keep it locked in here at NPH as I’ll have an article dropping later this week!

RSEQ- Demosthene does Demosthene things while the conference’s playoff bracket finalizes itself

Photo Courtesy: Clare Webb/Bishop’s Gaiters Athletics

 Surprise surprise, Nervens Demosthene had another absurd weekend for the Bishop’s Gaiters. At this point, 39-points, six rebounds and five assists is almost the stat line you’d expect for a guy who flirts with a triple-double every time he touches the floor. Demosthene followed up that performance against Concordia with a 22-point game against UQAM which meant the Gaiters would be third in the conference by the end of the weekend. For the Citadins, who blew their opportunity at a top three seed, it has to hurt as they now must place first place McGill in round one. The game will be a rematch of Thursday where Jamal Mayali and McGill came out on top. Following a loss to the Citadins to open the season, McGill has beaten them in both other games. For the other semi-final, Concordia will get another chance to try and stop Demosthene. With the game this time being in Montreal as opposed to Sherbrooke, the Stingers have to like their chances of getting back to the RSEQ championship game. For a preview of the entire RSEQ playoffs, CLICK HERE!

Upset Special- Laurier proves in a one game setting, seeding doesn’t matter

Lakehead did everything right all season. They won their division, earned a first round bye and even gained the second overall seed in the OUA playoffs. Laurier on the other hand basically did the opposite. Their best player missed games due to suspension and injury and all season, it felt like one step forward and two steps back for the group. Keeping all that in mind, what happened Saturday at the Thunderdome is truly insane. All season long it was the Thunderwolves who made clutch plays while it was the Golden Hawks who faltered. The beauty of a one game playoff though, is all it takes is a little magic in the moments that matter most for something crazy to happen. With just over a minute to go, Ali Sow drilled a step back bucket that was the kind of shot 2011 Kemba Walker would be proud of. One more game separates Laurier from a shot at a conference title and nationals. Normally I’d rule out the ten seed, but the way things are going, anything is possible.

Player of the Week- Omar Shiddo (Western) who put up 41-points and three steals in a win over Laurentian

Saturday’s forty piece for Western’s Omar Shiddo wasn’t just any scoring barrage. Shiddo’s forty piece was legendary: outdueling one of the league’s stars; 20-points in the 4th quarter and in the biggest game of the year…truly special! It will go down as one of the best performances in OUA playoff history and certainly enough for our player of the week award. 

Runners up: Canada West- Brody Clarke (Alberta) / AUS- Azaro Roker (StFX) / RSEQ- Nervens Demosthene (Bishop’s)

Why we love USPORTS- UBC steals a championship game berth from Calgary

 Since November of 2015, when the UBC Thunderbirds and Calgary Dinos got together, calling the results decisive would be an understatement. For eight straight games, the Dinos defeated the Thunderbirds including twice earlier this season in Vancouver. That’s why as the final seconds ticked away on the Thunderbirds victory in the Dinos home gym on Saturday night, it was another reminder why we love U Sports basketball. The previous results didn’t matter at all, all that did was on this day, T-Bird seniors Manroop Clair and Jadon Cohee were the best players on the floor. With little hope of reaching the Final 8 as a wild card also on the line, UBC’s entire season road on a game that very few gave them a chance to win. Yet, as we stand here today, they are heading to Edmonton next week and Ottawa the week after. I guess that’s why we play the games.

USPORTS National Top 10

Even though they fell in the rankings, Calgary remains in the drivers seat for the wild card spot at nationals. The only team in their way would be Dalhousie if they fail to bring home the AUS title this weekend. Otherwise of note, Western picked a good time to debut in the national rankings. The Mustangs are one home win from nationals, a pretty good place to be. If the rankings are any indicator, the Canada West championship game and OUA semifinals in Ottawa should be two of the games of the season.

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